Laughing in Church: Holy Humor Sunday Resources

By April 28, 2014My Thoughts

Last year I first learned about Holy Humor Sunday when colleagues of mine began sharing pictures of the fun things their congregations had done to celebrate. Even though I think most Christians would agree that joy and laughter are important things, many people grow up worshiping in sanctuaries where laughter is frowned upon. For some reason, many of us have equated devout spirituality with seriousness, which is tragic. Joy and laughter can lead us to healing. Sometimes God’s grace comes to us in the form of humor that helps us make it through another day.

And so, we decided to bring Holy Humor Sunday to our congregation this year. There are all kinds of resources online for planning a Holy Humor service. For liturgical resources, I found the re:Worship listing of Holy Humor Resources to be very helpful. For jokes and for stories of how other congregations have done Holy Humor Sunday, the Joyful Noiseletter has great things, too.

So much planning and creativity goes into Easter Sunday that very little energy is left for the Sunday after. This lack of energy and typically lower attendance has led many pastors to call the Sunday after Easter “Low Sunday.” I found that having Holy Humor Sunday to look forward to after Easter has helped me keep the momentum going, and it works well as a way to teach the joy and excitement of a 50-day period of Easteride.

I wanted to share some of what we did in our congregation for Holy Humor Sunday for anyone who might be interested in doing Holy Humor in their churches as well. The resources and ideas provided here are free for you to use. When possible and appropriate, please make mention of where you found the ideas.

We introduced each piece of the worship service with a joke. We tried to play into things that our congregation could relate to. For example, it’s a running  joke that the guitar is always too loud. No matter how far down we try to turn it, it’s still too loud. Anyway, my husband (co-pastor, and guitar player) started the opening songs with:

J: Hey, April, how do you get a guitar player to play softer?
Me: How?
J: Hand him some sheet music.

In the sermon, I preached on Acts 2:14, 22-32 (from the lectionary for this Sunday) – a portion of Peter’s sermon. I focused on verse 32: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.” The message centered on the mystery of the resurrection, and how it defied logic. This first sermon probably sounded crazy to people who were hearing it for the first time. I also taught three of the main atonement theories and lifted up how these theories can actually work together to give us a fuller picture. Interspersed throughout the sermon, I worked in humorous illustrations that went along with the passage.

For the prayers of the people/congregational prayer, I wrote this prayer:

O Lord, giver of joy and laughter, we thank you for giving us these gifts.

For the moments of laughter and unbridled joy you give to us:
  for opportunities to laugh at ourselves,
  for the belly laughs of children,
  for friends and family who love us because of our quirks,
    and not just in spite of them,
  for artists who give us the opportunity to see the world
    through the surreal,
  for the courage to smile even when difficulties arise,
  for those who have hope even when others think there is
    no hope,
  for saints in the Lord who overflow with laughter and
    spread your joy to all of us.

For the words of Jesus that defy our logical minds;
  for teaching us that we can be born again,
  for the woman who finds a lost coin and calls her
    friends and neighbors to celebrate,
  for the absurdity of a camel trying to fit through the eye
    of a needle,
  for the father of the Prodigal Son who is willing to look
    like a fool as he runs to greet his son,
  for the generosity of the landowner who will pay
    workers a whole day’s wage when they only worked one hour,
  for tiny bits of faith that can move entire mountains,
  for the reality that nothing can live unless it first dies.

For the great reversal of the Gospel:
  that the last shall be made first,
  that the rejected stone became the cornerstone,
  that those who wish to become great must serve,
  that the lost will be found,
  that the small will become great,
  that though you are Wisdom, you choose to forget our
    sins,
  that when we are weak, your strength shines through us.

O Lord, giver of joy and laughter, we thank you for giving us
these gifts.

Thank you for the gift you give us that allows us to enjoy these
things to the full.

We can laugh because of the most amazing thing of all – that
you conquered death, that the tomb is empty, that light shone
so bright that it overcame the darkness.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Amen.

Our closing hymn was an Easter Carol (Easter lyrics, Christmas carol tune). We chose “God Bless You, Merry Sinner,” which went over really well. The only snag we ran into with this one was locating the sheet music for the song. It can be found in many Christmas Carol song books, but it was not in any of the hymnals we had access to.

Following the benediction, as worshipers made their way out of the sanctuary, I offered them a noisemaker. The adults loved that they got to have a noisemaker, too.
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Butterflies are often used in decorating for Holy Humor Sunday because butterflies have often been used as a symbol of the resurrection. We made 16 paper butterflies using pictures from old magazines, and we hung them up all over the sanctuary and narthex. We invited anyone who was interested to find 15 butterflies (the 16th was a bonus) and write down their locations. Anyone who found them all got a smiley face hackey sack.

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We had excellent participation in the hunt for the butterflies. Kids and adults loved it. Plus, they were really pretty to look at.

In the bulletin, we had Holy Humor Sunday at the top of the order for worship. Using the wingdings font, we replaced the Os with smiley faces.

At the top of the order for worship:

Holy Humor Bulletin Funny 1
And right after the closing hymn:

Holy Humor Bulletin Funny 2
Holy Humor Sunday was a lot of fun! And…it ended up being a very dreary day outside. I had to laugh when we sang “There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today.” The unintentional humor of it was as funny as the things we had planned. 🙂

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.