Friday, June 29, 2007

My funny church

From an article in today's Hartford Courant

MANCHESTER - A comedy club is a place to find a few laughs ... and God?

So say the leaders of St. Paul's Collegiate Church, a post-denominational congregation in Storrs. So, starting in August, the church will hold Monday night services at The Hartford Funny Bone, a comedy club in The Shoppes at Buckland Hills.

"Faith just got funnier" reads a press release about the new service. And a church leader is quoted as saying, "We sense that a Monday night service in a comedy club at the mall might be just the thing for people who like Jesus but don't like the church."

Ashley Capozzoli, director of membership and connections for the church, called the idea refreshing.

"A lot of times, churches are off the beaten path for people," she said. "I think it's exciting for it to be in the midst of a really bustling area where people are going anyway."

Ben Dubow, the church's lead pastor, said he was attracted to the comedy club's seating in a third-quarter round. The Storrs chapel also has seating in the round.

"We just feel like it really has the opportunity to build some sense of community, create a more informal feel for church, one that emphasizes dialogue and discussion in ways that are really positive," he said.

And besides, having services in a comedy club is part of the makings of his church, created by a group of UConn alumni and former faculty in 2004. Dubow, a founding pastor, said the church was created to reach people who felt disconnected from traditional churches. St. Paul's has a 40-person membership and averages about 150 people on a Sunday, he said. About 60 percent of the membership is younger than 30.

"We have a real commitment to the idea that the never-changing message has to be relevant today. How we live it out and how we apply it to our lives has to change with every generation," Dubow said.

So envision a comedy club with restaurant-style seating slanted toward a small stage with a spotlight and a microphone. Instead of a comic standing there, there will be a pastor delivering the same service that would be heard at the Storrs church.

Dubow said that those who consider the comedy club services to be controversial have a "fundamental misunderstanding about what is church."

"Church is not a building. It's not an institution," he said. "It's a people who are together trying to seek after and follow Jesus."


Knumb said...

Does this open the door to heckling? That would make church really interesting.

Brad Wright said...

I hadn't thought about that... could add an interesting element.

Instead of shouting "amen" or "preach it" (not that we really do that now), we could shout challenges or jokes.

I like it!

Knumb said...

I was going to crack wise about open mike night and it occured to me that I'd like to see a church where, once or twice a month, a "normal" congregant gave the sermon. With assistance and coaching on public speaking, I'd find these a breath of fresh air.

S.S.Stone said...

This is a different approach to church...and i'm sure it would bring out a different crowd.