Thursday 12 February 2015
Vicars told to stand up for Jesus by getting lessons in how to swap the good book for the joke book
Church leaders hope it will have congregations rolling in the aisles as their priests deliver punchlines with their sermons from the pulpit
Why didn’t Jesus need swimming lessons? Because he could walk on water!
Vicars across the south-west of England are getting comedy tips on how to deliver punchlines with their sermons from the pulpit.
Church leaders hope it will have them rolling in the aisles and pack more punters into the pews.
With congregations dwindling, senior Church of England figures are saying parsons and priests must move with the times to keep numbers up.
So in a bid to put a smile on flocks’ faces, a comedy workshop in Exeter entitled “Stand Up For Jesus – obviously” has been held to give clerics a few tips.
The priests even had to perform live on a stage in front of their fellow learners.
The course is being run as part of the South West Christian Resources Exhibition, often dubbed “the ideal church show”, at Westpoint Arena.
One curate, the Rev Alison Hardy, admitted: “I can’t tell jokes. I’m absolutely hopeless – I either forget the punchline or I can get every single word right… but nobody laughs.
“I don’t know what I do wrong – it would be fantastic to be able to take a story and then apply it to the gospel message in a way that’s fun and interesting.”
The Rev Julie Birkett, from Weston-super-Mare, said: “I hope it will give me fresh ideas on delivery and techniques.
“I preach regularly and write the occasional comedy sketch.
“Humour can break down barriers and enable truths to be expressed and understood in a fresh way.”
The Rev John Monaghan, curate at Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire said: “There’s a lot more colourful rhetoric and humour in the Bible than most give credit for, and for good reason.
“It’s a wonderful tool in communicating any message, and as preachers and communicators of the Bible, something that we should be developing as part of our craft.
“I’m not particularly good at stand-up, but I do love trying to make people laugh, and would love to be able to learn a few tricks of the trade to help me communicate more effectively as a church leader and preacher.”
Comedian Bentley Browning, who is running the course, said he reckoned Jesus himself was partial to a few gags.
“He was a master communicator and storyteller.
“Many suggest his allusion to a camel going through the eye of a needle would have been construed as a quip by those listening.”
Organisers said that, while most vicars already know that a few good jokes dropped into a sermon will help keep their congregation engaged in an otherwise serious message, some could do with a little help when it comes to the delivery.
Event organiser Bill Allen said he hoped the exhibition would provide “inspiration for leaders and ordinary members of every local church”.
He added: “Helping clergy put over the Christian message creatively is just one of our many aims.
“Imagine thousands of people on a Monday morning saying ‘I heard this really good joke in church yesterday’
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