Related to this section ...

Oct 10 Bishop James: Faith and fun

Radio Cumbria recently ran a feature on their Sunday breakfast programme about churchgoing and ‘fun’. Should church be a ‘fun experience’ they asked, and was Jesus a ‘fun guy’?

If nothing else, that made me reach for the dictionary – and my initial findings were not encouraging. The first definition of ‘fun’ is ‘a hoax, or trick’ – which is how atheistic secularists in our society regard Christianity, but hardly a Christian viewpoint. In fact, as St Paul himself observes, if Christ was not raised from the dead, we of all people are most to be pitied. Our whole faith relies on the historical reality of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. If the New Testament revolves around an elaborate hoax, church may be ‘fun’ in this pejorative sense, but it is also a complete waste of everyone’s time. But ‘fun’ is also defined as ‘merriment, a source of amusement’ – and although that wouldn’t be most people’s immediate take on going to church, perhaps there is something here which deserves our attention. Not, of course, if that merriment is sheer frivolity. Woe betide us if our worship ever becomes shallow, flippant and shoddy in a misguided attempt to dumb down the great mystery of faith and ape the culture of our day. Not if we are ‘merry’ in order to escape from the realities of daily life and avoid the issues and problems of the world. Not if our ‘amusement’ consists merely of a selfish pursuit of pleasure and allows us to revel in familiar words or inspiring music without engaging with Christ and his call on our lives. There should be no place in our churches for frivolous, escapist or hedonistic services. But at the same time there should be no place for worship that is dull, sanctimonious and irrelevant. One of the few things that all growing churches throughout the world have in common is laughter, and happily the apocryphal eleventh commandment (‘Thou shalt not laugh in church’) has been firmly ditched by most congregations in Cumbria. Perhaps that is part of what Jesus meant when he said we must become like children if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Children laugh naturally and easily – and they are also a constant source of amusement, like one six year old called Peter whose mother was baking a delicious chocolate cake. Peter and his younger brother Simon were arguing over who should have the first piece when it came out of the oven, and their mother was quick to seize the opportunity to teach a moral lesson. “I’m sure� she said, “that if Jesus were sitting here he would say ‘let my brother have the first piece – I can wait’�. Peter immediately turned to his brother and said “Simon, you can be Jesus�. So ‘fun’ includes laughter – and also suggests a degree of enjoyment. Of course there is an element of sacrifice in ‘going to church’. We could be elsewhere, doing other things (including catching up on sleep). But as well as being our duty, it should also be our joy. Most of us have endured lacklustre liturgy, tedious sermons and rambling, poorly prepared notices. There is no excuse for any of those. But before we start criticising others, we may like to remember that the key to really good worship lies in our own attitude and in the way we relate to our fellow worshippers. If we go to church as consumers, demanding to be entertained, nothing will ever be good enough. That is why some ‘church-hoppers’ are endlessly disgruntled. But if we go to give we will find ourselves being frequently amused – and hopefully surprised to discover that ‘faith’ and ‘fun’ can, do and really should belong together.

  • The Rev'd Walter Wade Posted Monday 16 July 2018 It is with sadness we inform you ...