Jokes and men: a sense of proportion needed

09 December 2009


From Mr Peter LeRoy

Sir, — The letter from Fiona Gardner of Wells (4 December) leaves me wondering what the content of this well-meaning vicar’s joke was. Would everyone in that typically Anglican congregation (i.e., predominantly female) have shared her concern? How many women “dutifully laughed”, seeing themselves “as victims and oppressed”? Perhaps some; but maybe others had retained a sense of proportion along with their sense of humour.

Many an engaging sermon has captured attention by starting with a humorous observation about human nature. Would some have been delighted to find humour and joy in church, in contrast with the dreary dullness of too many of our services?

Other residents of Wells, a man and his wife in their 30s, looked in vain in the city area for a gospel-focused Anglican church where there were others like them. They hoped for one where there was an effective children’s ministry, men of his age in any number, and where they both felt engaged. I asked them what appealed to them about the growing Baptist church ten miles away to which they had moved — in sad­ness at the state of local Anglican­ism.

In addition to the engaging worship, clear and relevant Bible teach­ing, and good provision for children and young people, they both said how attractive it was to be with people who not only wor­shipped with reverence, but also enjoyed jokes and laughter — even during the services. Not surprisingly it is much more inclusive, bursting with younger men and women.

Unless we devote as much attention and as many resources to mission and ministry to younger men as we do to the important but bureaucratic overload of “safe­guard­ing”, then many of our churches will before long become man-free zones. The three-quarters (not-so-young) female congrega­tions that Ms Gardner describes are already upon us. But where are the episcopal and other voices alerting us to action about this often-denied “climate change”?

8 Brook Cottages, Corston
Bath BA2 9BA

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