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?