Clown Communion (Coulrophobia Alert)

For those of you that know my father's profession...this video is really funny. 

WARNING: Those of you with coulrophobia (yes, I know the term by heart and can spell it) may want to pass to keep the nightmares away during service.

The end of the video's spouting of scripture betrays the video poster's beliefs, that Communion is too holy and dignified to be done with clowns.  I've also witnessed this tension as parishioners complain when the tempo of the music in the receiving line is too upbeat, causing people to sway and sing and...well...celebrate!

To me, this is a humor.hack, one that uses humor (or humorous characters) to tell a story and bring new perspective to a situation.

What do you think?

  • Can Communion be given this irreverent (and yet, solemn) treatment and presentation?  
  • Or is communion a dignifiedand ancient ritual that deserves to be set-apart?



Matt Algren September 14, 2009 at 10:55 AM  

Five minutes seems a bit much to me, but I guess I'd have to see the rest of the service and know the congregation. I don't think there's anything inherently bad about clowns offering communion, but I'm also wary of communion stunts.

Years ago one of the mega-churches around here used Coke instead of grape juice because it's "the real thing" (GEDDIT?!?). I thought that was a bit much (so did many in the congregation, from what I remember), and it smacked of an attempt to be hip and with it in a Dr-Evil-doing-the-Macarena kind of way.

Anonymous,  September 14, 2009 at 11:04 AM  

That was offensive, and would have been equally offensive if it was a Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim ceremony.

Clowns represent humor and mockery, but not just those things. They also represent reversal. Reversal of social norms, behaviors and expectations. Having them participate in a solemn occasion is such an inversion of symbols as to boggle the mind.

Martin Ryan September 15, 2009 at 12:30 PM  

Not sure that something can be both irreverant and solemn at the same time. Solemnity in my mind requires reverence.

Warren September 15, 2009 at 10:15 PM  

I would have to see the liturgy to know what I think about this.

I am all for liturgical incluturation, and if clowning is part of this community, or part of the identity of members of its community, I am all for its incorporation into the community's liturgical life.

I am not sure that the Eucharist is intended to be "solemn". I think it should be full of joy and celebration. It is in the sharing of the bread and cup that we become one with each other and one with Christ. Why should we honour such an occasion with liturgical drudgery?

I always hate when I am walking forward to receive the elements and it feels like I am in some sort of funeral procession. That is not eucharistía to me.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge September 18, 2009 at 12:52 PM  

I'm not sure if I'd call it offensive. BUT there is a time and a place for illustrative parodies. I don't think remembering the painful and horrible death of our Lord and Savior is a time to use clowns as an illustration. I think it should be more reverent.

Basically, I think it should be respectful to God. Also, the time should be respectful to people who do want it as a time of quiet reflection and solemn prayer. I'd say, don't force people who want communion to sit through a circus act.

I think the church newsletter or the bulletin or even spoken announcements before or after church is a fine time to make a secular illustration. But anything - and I do mean ANYTHING - that pulls our attention away from giving glory to God is not appropriate for church.

That's just my 2 cents. Have a great day!

pastorbecca September 30, 2009 at 3:01 PM  

I can't tell if that elevator jazz was the sound in the church or added for the video. I don't like the music.

I've seen clown communion, done by a single clown. More of a mime. In that context, the humor came from his dress, and his confusion in his search for meaning in his life, portrayed in silent mime, and his childlike exuberance at finding direction and purpose in his bible. And as the clown 'read' the story he began to enact it in his imagination. He cradled the bread; he poured the grape juice across a cross and into a bowl. He wept-- literally streamed tears-- as he broke the bread. The range of emotion, from bumbling confusion to joyful purpose, to brokenhearted solemnity that the clown displayed invited the congregation to enter into the emotional story as well. it was very powerful.

All that is to say, without seeing how this was set up, how the congregation was prepared, and how the rest of the ceremony flowed together (it cut out right before what I presume would have been the Lord's Prayer), I can't say if that particular communion was offensive. There are times to take communion with joy, with celebration, with humility, with contrition, with brokenness, with healing, with tears, and with laughter. And of course these times are different for everyone. Done well, presented in context, and given respect for what is going on, I'm up for just about anything in a communion liturgy. As you say, hacking the sacrament opens it up to being experienced in another way by another person, and I am all for that.

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