Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Something in the water?

So, Pig's last comment has me thinking about laughter. She writes: " . . . you look at pictures of those hats and think, oh my--stodgy, solemn, maybe even a little scary. You mean you are allowed to laugh in that Church??? snort."

To be fair, there is a certain stodge-factor in some places--which shall remain nameless. Certainly, there are those--like my dad--who have had bad experiences in those Episcopal churches who take themselves entirely too seriously. And while there are times of great reverence and poignancy at Trinity, we laugh a LOT.

Kids wander the aisles or sprawl on the floor. Sometimes our priest Paul's youngest boy, (Owen) will just run up and throw his arms around Paul's legs in the middle of it all. I've seen Paul preach with Owen on one hip. If we goof up the liturgy, we laugh and keep going.

This does have a fair amount to do with the context at Holy Trinity. I mean, when the congregation is salted with chemically-enhanced folks who assume every sermon is conversational, when at any moment a homeless guy might wander in through the sacristy and down past the high altar to join you in worship, when people strolling by with beer stuffed in their pockets are drawn in by the music . . . well, a natural flexibility develops.

But I'd like to think Trinity is not alone in our appreciation of humor. Once I was a lector at a service composed solely of the mucky-mucks of the diocese. I was reading that bit where the guy falls asleep and tumbles out the window because Paul (the apostle) won't shut up. Everyone about rolled on the floor laughing through the whole reading--all at Holy Trinity Paul's expense. Come to think of it, that service was at Holy Trinity when we hosted diocesan council. Hmm, maybe there's something in the water . . .

On Maundy Thursday, I was one of the foot-washers. Paul had just given a brief sermon on foot-washing, how it forces us to reveal our most vulnerable selves, a part of us we'd prefer to hide. Paul's son, Owen, had already had his feet washed by his father, but he came to my station and hopped up in the chair ready for round two. And as I washed his little feet, he laughed. Nonstop. And pretty soon I was laughing, and it spread like a ripple. I thought: This is IT! Stripped down to our most human, no hiding in shoes and socks, being vulnerable enough to be served, and LAUGHING!

Episcopalians (and other liturgical denominations) have this thing called an aspergillium. It picks up holy water from a bucket called the aspersory and allows the flinger to fling it. Here, Pope Benedict wields the aspergillium (a.k.a. "the stick of doom").

What has this to do with laughter? It started with a toddler who dissolved into a wave of uncontrollable giggles every time a drop of holy water hit her. Now, everytime we use the thing people start laughing. We can't help it. And when Paul passes the stick of doom around and we bless each other it nearly dissolves into joyous chaos--a holy water fight. And to me, that's golden. To remember our baptism and respond with pure delight--well, that's something.


  1. Oh, tell me more, tell me more! I'm smiling to the tips of my toes. If that ain't worship I don't know what is. I love seeing the world through your eyes. More, please.

  2. "Stick of doom"--loved that.

    As I read this post, I tried to think if I have ever been to a church where the chemically-enhanced, the homeless, and people off the street felt comfortable and welcomed enough to just drop in on a service. Sadly, not a one. You have had to clean up first before attending any of my churches. And I have tried a good number of different denominations. The fact that your church has that speaks volumes. It must be all that laughter and the genuine joy of the Lord pulling them in. (Because seriously, I don't think it is the hats. snort)