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Working magic

23 January 2015

by Vic Van Den Bergh

ONE of the most enjoyable pastimes I engage in is "gospel magic".

When I announced that I was going to do some magic at a parade service early on in my curacy, there were more than a few raised eyebrows, and yet the owners of them proved the most receptive of my audience. Couple this with the fact that, some 11 years on, I can be stopped and reminded of the message I gave that day, and you can see why I am hooked.

Magic is always fun, and provides an opportunity to make things vanish, transform things, or appear to possess amazing powers, to delight those who are watching. Couple this with the opportunity to capture people's attention, and render them speechless, and you have raised your reputation to new levels - and the beauty is that it is a most accessible hobby.

In school assemblies, a magic trick wins approval, and ensures that every eye is firmly fixed on you until you have finished. It is a wonderful way of capturing and keeping the children's attention. With older people, it is an invitation for applause, and a discussion, during the act, of how they "know how you did it" (but rarely do).

I have done tricks in a garden with bored children after funerals; and during a wedding service, where the bride and groom left with a piece of rope with three knots and the words "Faith", "Hope", and "Love" from the sermon. The tricks have worked on the streets, in bars, and in the Sunday service.

The good news is that you can learn magic on your own, or in the company of others; for there are magic clubs everywhere. The Fellowship of Christian Magicians (www.fcmuk.co.uk/index.html) is a Christian group for those with an interest in magic, too. You can, of course, learn magic on your own, and there are many videos, books, and magic dealers just waiting to help you to extend your skills.

You can begin to engage (and confuse) your audience with little more than an instruction book, a pack of cards, and a few "self working" tricks. They require little practice to look like a professional (move over, Dynamo), and all for about £40. Magic sets and books can often be found in remainder bookshops and supermarkets, and these can help you to be a competent performer.

One source of tricks is the website www.missionmagic.co.uk; but be warned: magic is addictive and compelling, and many who enter into it become infected with compulsive unnecessary-purchasing syndrome, as they just have to have that new trick that they've seen.

At its simplest, magic is a cheap, challenging, and satisfying hobby.

Once, after I had done some magic, one of those present came up and asked me how I did it, receiving the standard response that magicians never disclose their secrets. He continued to press me; so I told him that I could tell him, but then would have to kill him. He walked away, only to reappear a few minutes later with a woman.

"This is my mother-in-law. Tell her," he said. But, of course, I didn't.

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