Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I don't think so

My friend Jane sent me this article entitled, A Service for Joseph Grimaldi: Send in the Clowns.

It's all about clown ministry (in general) and a clown memorial service for the aforementioned Joseph Grimaldi (in particular).

I understand people enjoy clowns and clown ministry. I like clowns. But I rank clown ministry right up there with liturgical dancing -- it's not my thing. But I'm getting off track here.

The article closed with this:

As they left, one of my friends, who is a devout atheist, leaned over to me and whispered: “If church was always like this, I’d come every week.” Perhaps it’s something empty churches should consider.

In a few words . . . No, it isn't.

Can church be fun? Sure.

Can church be entertaining? At times.

Should churches package their liturgy to simply be fun and entertaining every Sunday to attract people? No.

Church is a place where we enter into the mystery, experience the holy, participate in something beyond ourselves and encounter God. If church were like the above mentioned service every week, well then, it wouldn't be church.

It would be a circus.


DaYouthGuy | 10:18 AM, February 18, 2009  

I like clown services.

Every once in a while.

They offer a different way of looking at things and can be especially approachable by younger children. All good. Especially since our regular worship can be unapproachable for many people who don't understand what's going on. This can be because of lack of experience (a young person) or experience from a different place (non-believers, new believers, believers who started in another tradition).

I believe we need to be constantly aware of what can make us a "closed society". Our worship should be (and when it's well done IS) open and approachable. We need to understand what the purpose and function of the liturgy is in our lives. If this sounds like I'm saying it should be all about us that's not what I mean. But it does need to be an expression of who WE are in our drawing nigh to the divine.

But weekly clown ministry?
Even the DaYouthGuy would be somewhere else (and so would the youth)

Music at Bethany | 11:27 AM, February 18, 2009  

I'd never heard of "clown ministry." It's an interesting dilemma - anything to fill the pews but still a need to stand firm on matters of theology and worship. There must be a middle ground, but in my opinion too many churches do too little outreach and ministry. Part of my music ministry is a new blog and an attempt to make connections to like-minded folks in the community. If everyone did something small, perhaps the pews would fill even without clowns or liturgical dance.

ultraspy | 3:20 PM, February 18, 2009  

I find clowns, & anyone else in a costume that hides their face, terrifying. Yeah, even the characters at Disneyland are creepy. I also have issues with church when it is performance oriented. I don't like masks ... I'm looking for truth.

Reverend Ref + | 6:02 PM, February 18, 2009  

DYG: Yes, every once in awhile, variation can be okay. Although, I'm still recovering from the liturgical dance service at seminary about six years ago. I would agree that our liturgy needs to be an expression of who we are. We can do variations, certainly (the St. Francis pet blessing being the big one), but at the core of it, we need to ask, "Why are we doing this?"

MaB: I've tried to compose an answer to you several times, but it just keeps sounding like my answer to DYG above. Is there a place for varying types of liturgy? Sure. A clown ministry? Probably. Liturgical dancing? Oh . . . I suppose . . . Pet blessings? Yes. Drama? Yes. And sometimes these can be great ways to reach out to the surrounding area. We have people who attend our annual pet blessing every year, but never show up for another service. We also have gained one family as members because of this service. But the overriding thing within all those services are, "Why are we doing it? Can we do it well? What's the theology behind this?"

ultraspy: You hit on probably my number one issue about church -- is it performance oriented or is it worship oriented? Granted, that definition may be in the eye of the beholder and we each need to sort that out. Here's a hint from me -- if there's a stage, lights, drum set and and audio/visual system, it's probably a performance. "I don't like masks ... I'm looking for truth." Great quote; might even find its way into my sermon this week.

Father John | 4:46 PM, February 19, 2009  

"liturgy needs to be an expression of who we are"... and we are a people that have to do the dishes, so does this MUST mean that the resetting of the table is the correct form of liturgy. I knew you would begin to see things my way. HA!

The young fogey | 8:23 PM, February 20, 2009  

'Clown Masses' are a sort of urban legend and overused (by conservatives) rhetorical device to refer to liturgical abuses. I think 30 years ago even the most enthusiastic innovator realised clowns scare the cr*p out of many people.

Can't go to sleep; liturgist will eat me.

James Thomas Calhoun | 9:47 PM, February 20, 2009  

I can't wipe the smile from my face. There have been plenty of times that I thought that the clowns were in charge. And this despite our best intentions. (I think Annie Dillard touches on this in one of her little essays.) Pet parades, fancy dancing and clowning really are part of who we are and so it finds its way into the service.

Church need not be market driven to fill the pews. Maybe the trick is to just smile and acknowledge all the little bits of our humanity that show up, unexpectly and uninvited. The little dances, the masks, everything. Starting with and welcoming what really is there and watching for each person's mask, dance and parade. Watching and welcoming and confessing our own contributions for better and worse. From there we can grow in grace and encounter God. We can encounter the Mystery without still being mystified.

And so I laughed out loud, first at the article and then at the blog, remembering all ot the clown services that I already attended. Then I laughed at myself for a bit, just remembering. No doubt there will be many more opportunites to laugh yet.

ultraspy | 12:48 AM, February 21, 2009  

Wow Rev, you made me feel all smart in the head. of course, i've had several laughs at the idea that you'd quote someone who refers to themselves as "ultraspy" ... rofl!

J. Fred Muggs | 5:58 PM, February 21, 2009  

I don't know that I would advise clown liturgies for inter-generational events. I know far too many kids who are clown-phobic. And that's the least of what can go wrong (https://www.sjmpbooks.com/baritone.html ).

Walking away from it, humming "Crown Him, Ye Many Clowns"


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