Wearing an inflatable orange suit in church creates a variety of reactions in people. In this blog post I talk about how I tried to manage the cringe factor in a Sunday Eucharist.
I was invited this year to pilot some materials inviting people back to church after attending Christmas services called ‘Beyond the Stable‘. This meant I needed to think of a service to invite people to in January so I decided that a christingle service would be a good idea as many people are familiar with christingles and we haven’t had one in my parish since I arrived.
A few friends had posted pictures of their christingle services where they were dressed in a hilarious inflatable orange suit. I decided this would be fun a) for school assemblies at Christmas and b) for my services in January.
Now the thought of this divides people into two groups – those horrified at something like this taking place in church and those delighted by it.
I’m blessed with a high embarrassment threshold and am quite happy to be made to look a bit stupid. I also value the sacred Eucharist so there is a delicate balance to be made with this. In dressing up in such a ridiculous outfit there is always the risk that any meaningful element of the message is lost in the peals of laughter (or shock and derision).
So I carefully planned the service with our placement student Malcolm who was leading the talk at this family Eucharist for Epiphany. Malcolm began with a short talk about epiphany and holding up a ready-made christingle explained what each element represented. Then at the end of this talk he invited me (who had put the orange suit on in the side chapel) to the front to be turned into a christingle. Children were invited to help me put on the candle hat, wrap the ribbon of God’s love round my ample waist and give me the sticks with the fruits of the earth to hold. It was very entertaining, people laughed a lot. Malcolm then finished his sermon by encouraging each of us to grow the fruits of the spirit and shine as a light in the world, closed with a prayer and I returned to the side chapel to change back into my vestments while the creed was being said.
Then I led the congregation in building their christingles in the intercessions – this enabled us to make the christingle an object of prayer. People were given an orange with the red tape and candle already in it and an envelope with 4 cocktail sticks and some sweets. For the intercessions the sticks represented the church, the world, the sick and the departed. We held our sticks and placed sweets on them, naming areas of the world or people as we did so and then at the words ‘Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer’ we put the sticks into our christingles. Then the christingles were set aside for the Eucharist.
In the final hymn (Christ be our light) we lit the christingles and people were dismissed to share the light of Christ with the world.
Here are some things I reflected on after the service:
- Christingles are increasingly important to adults as much as children (the service has been around for long enough now). I know of at least 2 people who took their christingles to the graveside of loved ones. They mean a lot to people.
- Building the christingle as a prayer activity meant that the christingle itself was imbued with meaning for each individual (much better than giving them to people ready-made). This balanced out, I think, the hilarity at my costume.
- The photos of me dressed as a christingle went down very well on social media and showed a different side to the church as being a fun place to be (when a lot of the time we are perceived as dour or boring). We had positive comments from non-church people on Facebook and the pictures were shared widely.
- It’s good to have some hilarity every now and then in church. Obviously this needs to be proportionate and appropriate but laughter really is a gift of God. In January everyone feels a little low (even in church when we’re still celebrating Christmas!) Having a bit of a belly laugh did us all some good.
If you’re interested, this is where I purchased the orange suit. The other items were home-made. The sticks are dowel rods from B&Q, the ‘fruits’ are ball pool balls.