CoE advise: make someone laugh this Lent

 The Church of England is encouraging people to take a fresh look at Lent with a number of initiatives designed to raise a smile. They include the launch of a Christian comedy club, a training course for vicars in stand-up-style performance skills, and a website sharing the best clean jokes in the country. Organisers hope to highlight that doing something positive can be as transforming as giving something up, and can help people reflect on their relationship with each other and with God. 'The Laughing Sole' comedy club, in Birmingham, will provide an alternative to the coarse humour of regular comedy clubs with a unique blend of acts that will encourage the audience to reflect on the deeper themes of life. Helen Tomblin, founder of the club that opens for the first time next Tuesday 27th February, says: "I believe there is a gap in the market for a club with a 'cleaner' ethos. If you cut out the swearing and crude material you actually get a higher standard of comedy. Humour breaks down barriers, relaxes people, builds community and often prompts conversations about life, meaning, morals and maybe even God!" In Leicester, Andy Kind, a comedian from Stoke, leads a special training course for clergy to help them communicate the Gospel message in an engaging, relevant way. Commenting on the course, which ran as part of this week's Leicester Comedy Festival, he says: "Christianity can be seen as something terribly serious, but Jesus must have been a great laugh to have had such a following. He used humour and so can we." The course tackles issues such as body language, voice modulation and overall performance skills, and is aimed at building confidence and self-awareness. Andy's top tips for making sermons more engaging are: 1. Keep it simple, keep it short 2. Start strong, end strong 3. Play to the whole room, not just the front row 4. Relax! A nervous speaker means a nervous audience 5. Look happy - if you're not enthusiastic, why should the audience be? The Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, says that comedy is an important ingredient in a Christian lifestyle: "Laughter is essential for our life together as the Body of Christ and I am convinced that the first disciples and apostles would not have stuck together through those years of intense joy and intense suffering without a good deal of fun and laughter. Bishop David said he plans to try to make someone laugh every day. He said: I recently read a statistic that stuck in my mind - it said that a child at nursery school laughs about 300 times a day. Adults laugh an average of 17 times a day. Perhaps that is another reason Jesus urged us to become like little children!" For more information see: Source: CoE Communications

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