The English parish has been a source of spiritual consolation, and a certain amount of social comedy, for more than 1,000 years. So it's very old – and, it turns out, frighteningly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Countless parish churches, both Anglican and Catholic, will quietly shut their doors forever over the next few months. Bishops will blame Covid-19, but they bear a heavy responsibility for the fragile state of parish life before it was hit by the epidemic. In this episode of Holy Smoke, former Church of England vicar Dr Gavin Ashenden tells us what it was like running a parish, and reveals his strategies for dealing with difficult personalities in the congregation, some of whom really did resemble the stereotypes of British sitcoms.