23 April 2007

Godly Fun

I've been thinking about 'Godly fun', thanks to two things that happened this weekend. (In case you think I've given the wrong term to 'Godly Play', I haven't but here’s a link to it if you're interested.)

The first thing that happened - believe it or not - was going to the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District synod. Yes, don't all fall down, interesting things can happen at synod! At We were privileged and inspired and motived in hearing two talks from
Ann Morisy. Ann is a speaker, author, theologian and a sociologist by training. She looks at the church using a very helpful sociological lens.

I won't summerise here everything that Ann said, but she did point out that groups that grow are groups where people have fun and where they are not overly anxious. She said that she wondered what it was about early Methodism that was 'fun' as that must have been part of the reason why it was so successful.

The second thing that 'happened' on Saturday was reading Turbulant Cleric's excellent sermon:
God Hates the World – Not!. In it, TC writes:
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury....refers to an evening when he was at birthday party of a mutual friend at which [Archbishop Desmond] Tutu was speaking. Reflecting on how his mind couldn’t wander in Tutu’s company, Williams goes on to write of “an unprompted insight that Desmond Tutu enjoys being Desmond Tutu.”
Now, I've never met Tutu, but this quality certainly appears to come across when one sees him in the news. He really gives the impression being thankful and enjoying life.

So, both of these events have made me think about 'Godly fun'. Can 'fun' be Godly or is fun always and necessarily selfish? If Christians are called to love their neighbours, is having fun antithetical? I think that 'fun' and loving our neighbour aren't contradictions in terms, but I think that Christians often act like they are! I have to admit that even thinking about the idea of 'fun in church' came as a bit of a surprise to me.

It seems to me that 'Godly fun' and thankfulness and praise to God are somehow connected. That 'Godly fun' isn't about 'me trying to amuse myself' but about sharing together our experiences of thankfulness and praise. If we agree that part of our mission as Christians is to proclaim and bring the love of God to those who don't know of it - isn't there an element of fun in that?

I'm reminded of a Rabbinic idea that when we get to heaven, the first thing that God will ask us is 'did you enjoy my creation?'

I have one niggle about Godly fun. It seems to me that if a church tries too hard to be a 'fun' place, that it might become a place where people who are struggling with pain, illness, fear or doubts don't feel that they can express the experiences they are going through. Many Christians probably have some experience of Christian fellowships where they felt that they 'had to be' happy, joyful, smiling, etc. and that they could never say how they really felt.

So how can a congregation be a safe place for those who are going through trials yet still also be a place of thankfulness and praise and fun?


Mrs. M said...

Love this post, and wanted to add that Bishop Tutu gave the sermon at our current bishop's consecration. I absolutely got the impression that the dear man enjoys being Desmond Tutu.

(Confession: he was so darling and so joyful that I left desperately wanting there to be Desmond Tutu dolls...)

PamBG said...

Mrs. M - I love that idea!

You know, since I read Rowan Williams' comment about Tutu, I keep trying to call to mind how Tutu expresses his enjoyment of life. I would really like to be like that; it's not quite my style but I think it's a really wonderful attitude. :-)

Bruce Leiter the Writer said...

Hi! Thanks for your blog. I've been thinking about this topic a long time. For the first 37 years of my life, the fun part of my was controlled by the idol of pleasure, specifically sports and TV. When I became a pastor at that age, I preached a message based on 1 Corinthians 10:31 (Do all to honor God). He used that text to convict me about my idolatry, about which I thought all day long. I discovered that when I began praising him with my mind, as I watched sports, for his creative power in making the amazing human body with all its athletic skills and his justice revealed in "justice dramas," he got my focus off of my selfish pleasure and onto him. He then broke me free from pleasure's control, and sports and TV became my hobby instead of my obsession. I'm very thankful for his change in my life. By the way, I'm now researching my next book, which presently has the title Pray and Play, a devotional Bible study.