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Rolling in the aisles

12 July 2013

A stand-up comedian's witty look at church customs entertains Leigh Hatts

So a Comedian Walks Into a Church . . . Confessions of a kneel-down stand-up
Paul Kerensa
DLT £8.99
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THE stand-up comedian Paul Kerensa is often away from home and in an unfamiliar town on a Saturday night. On Sunday morning, he needs to find a church, but this Anglican is unusual in deliberately opting for the church nearest to his budget hotel, whatever its denomination. In this wittily written book, the author describes life on the "stand-up and kneel-down circuits".

In a Church of Scotland sermon, he is surprised to hear a call for wives to obey their husbands. This is before his fiancée joins him on the road. Maybe most interesting are his experiences of being a stranger in church. He feels that after-service coffee has now become part of the liturgy, although one church offered him a cup on arrival. Another had a comfort break in the middle of morning worship.

He finds that a thinly scattered congregation makes shaking hands at the Peace almost impossible. In one URC church, the youngest members were in their 60s. His worst experience was on a cruise ship, where, on enquiring about the advertised worship, he was handed a video to watch in his cabin.

Some churches are packed with people dancing in the aisles with their shoes off, and there he feels self-conscious trying to raise his hands in the air. Attending a Roman Catholic mass, he suddenly makes the serious observation that there are good people present who do not deserve the Church's bad press.

As a Christian who writes radio and television comedy scripts, besides facing live audiences, he tells of his need to avoid easy religious jokes, which colleagues, even on the same bill, have no compunction in using.

There is a brief explanation of each denomination he encounters. But by the end of the book Paul is a married father; and one suspects that he may settle down again with Anglicanism.

Leigh Hatts is editor of In SE1, a South Bank arts magazine.

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