For some unknown reason, funny incidents happen a lot at the churches I’ve attended. Once, a bat flew into the room during choir rehearsal and somebody chased it out with a rolled-up newspaper. There was another time when the Advent wreath caught on fire at a country church I attended or the time when a young choir member accidentally dropped a church bulletin over the choir loft railing and it smacked a startled parishioner on the head.
When I was younger, our minister held up a sprig of some three-leafed plant (three leaves to represent the Trinity) during one children’s sermon and asked the kids to identify what it was. One kid hollered “POISON IVY!” and the minister laughed, “Oh, I hope not!”
Then there’s baptisms, which are always fun to watch. Baptisms involve one set of parents, one set of godparents and a baby. Each baby reacts to the baptism differently; some roar and some wail. (I can’t blame ’em; I don’t think I’d like cold water poured on my head from a stranger, either.) One baby I remember appeared comically bemused by the entire process. (“Who ARE all these people and why are they staring at ME?”)
One really funny baptism incident involving an older baby occurred during a church retreat. The baby gazed at the minister, turned her head downward to check out the font containing the baptismal water, looked up at the minister again and said, “Phhbbbt!” as if to say, “If you think you’re putting that cold stuff on ME, buster, you’ve got another think coming!”
But the most comic happenings occur at Christmas, it seems. We have two Christmas Eve services, an early service that happens around dinnertime and a later service that ends at midnight. At the late service, two acolytes carry torches, one carries the small cross and another carries the big cross. One year, a torch-bearing acolyte accidentally inhaled some of the candle smoke from the torch, got woozy and fainted. A young parishioner turned to her mother and said worriedly, “Mom, is he dead?” Her mom hastened to reassure her that the acolyte had only fainted.
Another year, our minister was doing a sermon at the late service. And then we heard it: “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!” Somebody’s watch was sounding an alarm. Our imperturbable minister, used to these kinds of interruptions, calmly kept going while the watch’s owner hastily shut it off.
I remember another service where there was a Christmas pageant. Kids dressed up as the various people from the Nativity, animals and angels. I was sitting and waiting in the parish hall prior to the service and one angel bent her Christmas-tinsel halo into a different shape than the usual circle. She looked at me and explained in a mock-haughty huff, “Circular halos are so last season!” I had to laugh at this fashionista in progress.
But the best Christmas story (so far) involves a children’s sermon. The minister requested the parents to send their kids to the front of the church in order to tell them a Nativity story. The minister asked the kids to explain who was in the stable that night. The kids guessed cows, sheep and other animals. “Who else?” the minister wanted to know. One little girl piped up at the top of her lungs: “AND MARY’S BOYFRIEND!” which caused the entire congregation to erupt with laughter at the way she phrased it.
One day, I’ll have to collate all of these stories from everybody at church and publish them in a small book, I think. It would be a good thing to collect all of these stories before they’re lost and forgotten.