The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“I doubt the value of priests being stand-up comics”

“I do not believe we are there just to entertain, and attempts for church services to be informal for their own sake end up being trite and embarrassing.

I also doubt the value of priests or ministers being stand-up comics. The Empire Theatre, just opposite the Minster, where I’m based, does it so much better.

pulpit.jpgI also believe passionately that what we say, especially in the sermon slot, should be up-to date and in the language of the people, not theological fossilry, and humour can be used to clarify a deep spiritual truth. “I once knew a vicar in Northern Ireland who only ever had two sermons.


One was against the people who never came to church, which was the majority of the parish, so his sermon was a waste of words anyway.

The other sermon was against the Communists, who were not exactly thick on the ground in that part of County Armagh, so likewise he was expending excess vocal energy. “I also think God Himself has a sense of humour. Take the wonderful biblical account of the prophet Jonah and the whale.

Sceptics say they have difficulty believing he was swallowed by so great a mammal. I have no such problem.

Whales have been known to chew up small boats. My real problem is with his returning home. You can just imagine him standing there soaking wet outside number 62 Olive Mews, Ninevah, to be greeted by arms-folded, foot-stamping Mrs Jonah, ‘and where have you been these forty days and forty nights?’


‘Sorry dear, I was in the belly of a whale…..’

Maybe it’s as well the bible does not record her reply.”

Father Stephen Hazlett, from Great Britain,
musing on a survey showing people there actually like sermons.

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posted January 28, 2010 at 11:17 am

When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth. George Bernard Shaw.

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posted January 28, 2010 at 11:52 am

A homily is not an end but a means to another end. So the rule should be “whatever it takes.” If humor works to deliver that particular message, then there you go. If humor would work, but the particular homilist can’t deliver humor, then he’ll have to find some other tool.
A key part of the catholicity (small-c) and sacramentality that characterizes us as Catholics is a certain practicality. If something works to help make us holy, then it’s holy.

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