It sounds like the plot from an episode of Midsomer Murders.
Bickering and squabbling at two churches in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside leads to the director of music storming out and resigning.
But this real-life drama was played out at a Birmingham employment tribunal and, like all the best TV shows, ended on a cliff-hanger with no resolution expected for months.
Mark Checkley, director of music for Holy Trinity, in the village of Belbroughton, and St Mark’s, in neighbouring Fairfield, took the governing church council to court, claiming unfair dismissal.
He alleged he was ousted from his job because of a “power struggle” and the church’s desire to replace him. Mr Checkley’s job was to produce music for services and the tribunal heard there had been talk of one choir serving two churches, plus the formation of a village choral society.
Mr Checkley admitted he had several altercations with an unidentified colleague and said they “did not get on and did not like each other”.
The tribunal heard Mr Checkley was suspended and eventually dismissed following internal issues, which his lawyer Charles Crowe described as a “power struggle”.
The Parochial Church Council of Belbroughton argued he could not claim unfair dismissal as he had worked in an honorary capacity and had not been an employee. But Mr Crowe insisted Mr Checkley’s office came under the clergy, he was paid under contract and donated half his salary to the church.
At a preliminary hearing, Mr Checkley, who was also the churches’ organist and choirmaster, was allowed to pursue compensation claims for unfair dismissal and the unauthorised deduction of wages.
He refused to comment on the wrangle ahead of the full hearing, expected to take place later this year or early next year.
A Diocese of Worcester spokesman said: “We are aware Mark Checkley is taking action against Belbroughton Parochial Church Council.
“We are confident a reasonable process was followed and appropriate action was taken, but while the matter is in the hands of the tribunal we feel it would be improper to comment further.”