Thousands flock to Reverend Chris Lee’s Instagram page – for his sex appeal as much as his 60-second sermons. Julia Llewellyn Smith meets the heart-throb vicar on a multimedia mission
With Reverend Chris Lee receiving 100-odd direct messages daily on Instagram, you might expect it to be questions about the church, flower rota or Christmas service. Instead, what Chris often finds is explicit selfies from ardent female followers.
‘I have been sent some dodgy stuff,’ confirms Chris, 36. ‘I just yell for my wife, “Jenny!” and she goes “Block! Report!”’
When it comes to sexy men of the cloth, until recently the only candidate was the tormented ‘hot priest’ in the BBC hit Fleabag, played by Andrew Scott. But with 176,000 Instagram followers – more than twice that of the Church of England and Archbishop of Canterbury combined – there’s no doubt that Chris is our first real ‘hot’ (not to mention viral) vicar. His YouTube videos have been viewed 400 million times and he has appeared on This Morning, where Holly Willoughby described him as ‘the nation’s favourite vicar’.
But this year, Rev Chris has really struck a chord with the nation – particularly through his wildly popular, always uplifting 60-second sermons. As our spirits plummeted, his follower count soared by some 60,000, and in April this year he announced he’d signed his first writing deal, a self-help book called The OMG Effect based around the inspirational videos he shares online.
Chris discovered the power of social media six years ago when his brother-in-law Ollie, who runs two popular South Korean YouTube sites, asked him to film some videos called British Priest Reacts. Wearing his dog collar, he tried Korean food and discussed music videos – with the clip of his reflections on Ariana Grande’s song ‘God Is A Woman’ being viewed nine million times.
As Chris’s Instagram following exploded, he realised he had a vast audience for his messages, ‘The average young person spends four hours a day on social media so you have to meet them where they are.’
Of his heart-throb status, he simply says: ‘Sex sells. People found a young vicar online and were like “Ooh!” You hear weird stuff about me being “naughty” and a “hot vicar” – but I don’t see that. It’s more that vicars have the image of being a bit heavy and old and I’m neither of those things.’
Before lockdown Chris’s fans (he’s particularly big in South Korea, the Philippines and Australia) would travel to his church – St Saviour’s in Acton, West London – to demand selfies. One even accosted him when he was conducting a funeral. Now parishioners guard the doors, reminding visitors that church is a sacred space. ‘I’m happy to do selfies outside, but not in the church,’ Chris says.
When lockdown hit, Chris moved his services online but hackers gate-crashed one Zoom congregation – something that happened to many other churches all…
Read More: One real hot priest | Daily Mail Online