Laughing in Church

Just yesterday in Sunday Service, as the Cherub Choir began to sing, a few of the singers “got the giggles” after a small mistake was made.  To my delight, as a member of our congregation, no one tried to quiet them, rather we all laughed along in good measure and worship integrated not only the joys of their singing, but also their laughter.  Not more than a few moments later, my daughter and her classmate dropped their hymnal which invited a new round of laughter.  Again, it did not distract, rather it drew them closer and translated into even more boisterous singing.

Growing up, I was often admonished for laughing in church.  Laughter was seen as an “unsacred” emotion. I understand that at points in a worship service laughter could be seen as distracting or even making light of a serious concern being shared.  Yet, I think we have gone much to far in limiting laughter as part of our worship.  Scripture says a good deal about laughter and the joy of sharing emotions.  Science tells us that laughter is a behavior that can bring forth joyous emotion and is deeply relational.  Leaving laughter out of worship can cut off an important and life-giving way we connect with each other.  In fact, I’ll admit, that I’d like to enlist all of you in a movement to free laughter in church from taboo and re-define it as a spiritual practice.  I have three reasons (listed below and described in my sermon at the end of video 1):

  1. Laughter is a universal language.
  2. Laughter is a multi-layered form of communication– it can express multiple emotions at the same time.
  3. Laughter is primarily about relationship (our self, god and others).

Early in October, my desire to bring laughter back into worship was indulged by the Drew Theological School chapel community.  The worship included songs that made us laugh, a responsive reading about you and laughter from the Psalms, an embodied re-telling of “Sarah’s laughter” in Scripture, I outlined my three reasons to make laughter a spiritual practice, and we shared a ritual of laughter by reading and indulging in laffy taffy!  You can join us for that worship by watching the 2 part videos: