Holy fools

What better place than a church sanctuary to celebrate the serious matter of vocation?

Mr Bain was followed by a white-face, the classic circus clown, like Grimaldi himself, reading from the Gospel of St Mark. His eyebrows, one a smile, the other a frown, formed a sharp, black contrast to the pallor of his face and the red of his ears. The gold, pink and blue sequinned glory of his harlequin coat sparkled as he meandered up and down the aisle playing a tiny saxophone.

Cheerful though his appearance was, the melody was melancholy, as clowns themselves often are. Sadder still was the recitation of names of clowns who died in the past year. As the poignant litany of departed jesters was recited—Bozo, Boxcar, Uncle Dippy and the Unknown Clown—beaming children placed a thick cream candle for each clown at the back of the church.

The clowns then joined together in the Clown’s Prayer. They gave thanks for the gift of laughter… The final words of the prayer offered a gentle alternative to the financial hubris with which the world has been confronted: “As your children are rebuked in their self-importance and cheered in their sadness, help me to remember that your foolishness is wiser than our wisdom.”…

At the end of the service, a organist who resembled Groucho Marx bashed out Grimaldi’s favourite song, the Hot Codlings polka, on the church’s squeaky instrument. Mr Bain led a prancing procession of clowns down the aisle and out the door where they put on a proper show in the church hall. As they left, one of my friends, who is a devout atheist, leaned over to me and whispered: “If church was always like this, I’d come every week.”


from “Clowning Around in Church,” Economist.com correspondent’s diary, More Intelligent Life, 19 February 2009

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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