Anomalies From the Rooftop

Theology from Anomalies. One story a day from the world of Christianity that is just a little off-beat. Sometimes, in shouting the good news from the rooftop, Christians do some strange things.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The 'Church of Laughter'

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that English cleric Ian Gregory is starting a new church plant in an unused chapel in Cheadle, Staffs. Rev. Gregory believes that much of his work in ministry over the last twenty years has "missed the point." Thus, in his new church, he is going replace traditional Sunday service with a showing of classic comedy films, accompanied by coffee and newspapers. This should help people laugh, for "laughter is as important as prayer." He will offer one-on-one counseling, healing prayers and special sessions on basic life skills. On Sunday afternoons he will offer the most traditional of his services, a worship service with songs, prayers, and discussions.

Apparently, Rev. Gregory cites Dietrich Bonhoeffer as his inspiration for this "religion-free Christianity," which I guess just goes to show how imaginative Rev. Gregory's critical reading skills are. Undoubtedly, this appears to be spirituality focused on the fulfillment of the individual rather than upon the worship of God.

Perhaps the real lesson to be taken from Rev. Gregory's endeavor is his identification of the current weaknesses of Christian institutions. Most obviously, it is apparent that he thinks Christians need to laugh more--probably true. In my experience, the more institutional a church, the more solemn and the less laughter. And a lack of laughter certainly seems to indicate a lack of joy. Institutional churches could also do a better job of providing instruction in basic life skills, such as "The Art of Conversation" (to use Rev. Gregory's example). One of the great lessons to be learned by traditional churches from the rise of mega-churches is that people want religion to have an impact on their daily lives. The hard part is to acknowledge the truth of this desire and reality of its fulfillment without compromising the primary focus on the worship of God.

Finally, I don't see where the ultimate attraction of this new program lies. I can watch classic comedies, read the newspaper and drink coffee from the comfort of my own home on Sunday morning. Then again, maybe I just underestimate other people's desire to engage in these activities as a group on the weekend.


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