The Church as Amusement Park
I grew up near Santa Cruz, California. The beach and boardwalk was a place I loved. The fun house was a challenge; the giant spinning barrel was the hardest thing. There was always another kid, who got there first and wanted to make it go faster than I could stand. The Big Dipper was the best, an old wooden coaster with an agonizing climb, a heart stopping drop, and then, at last, the sheer joy of speed. It felt like flying. I have been on other roller coasters, but none really compare to that one I discovered as a child. The more modern ones tend to have too much up and down for me, and way too many upside downs. They don’t make me feel like I am flying. They are just scary.
Ministry sometimes feels like flying. There can be a high during a worship service when everything is working well, when the spirit is clearly in the room. Everything seems to take wing, and the music simply makes my heart soar.
The church shouldn’t be like an amusement park , I suppose, but sometimes it feels that way. We don’t charge admission and everyone has a free pass to all the rides they want to try out. Take a class, attend a concert, a book group, or work on a social justice project. We don’t serve fried ice cream or cotton candy, but the potlucks can be pretty great.
I have gone into the haunted house with many congregants over the years as they faced the horrors of illness, death, and losses of all kinds. Sometimes I feel like a carnival barker, asking people to donate time and money for a chance at more meaning in their lives. It is much better odds than tossing pennies on a plate.
Sometimes church feels like a Merry-Go-Round, up and down and going around in circles. It takes a long time to make changes happen, and old problems tend to resurface. Some of them you just have to keep solving over and over again. Then sometimes you catch the ring and make a lucky toss into the clown’s mouth. Hallelujah! The golden ring gets you a free ride.
There are all the challenges of the fun house, including the funny mirrors where it can be difficult to see what someone really needs.
As the minister, I can’t get too carried away at church. If my emotions start going up and down at too rapid of a pace – spinning out of control like I’ve been on a ride on the Octopus, it’s time to sit back and have a snow cone or something. I thought I knew that, but I forget sometimes. I can also get lost in the hall of mirrors and don’t know where I am or which way to go.
Luckily, someone always comes along, and I just follow them awhile until we both find our way. Ministry is not something one can do alone.
Golf would probably be easier. If you lose a ball in the water trap, you can just pull a new one out of your pocket. Nah, Ill take the Big Dipper any day.