A fool for Christ in Durham (NC)

Durham (NC) priest dons a fool’s costume to be a “fool for Christ”

Cleric plays the fool

From the Durham (NC) Herald-Sun

The Rev. Joe Hensley, an Episcopal priest, was clowning around in the Miami airport, passing the time on a layover to Belize. A fellow traveler asked someone in his group who he was, and upon learning he was clergy, expressed approval that he wasn’t overly serious.

“Church is serious business, but it’s also about wonder and delight,” said Hensley, who serves at assistant to the rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham. He was in seminary when he began to connect clowning and evangelism. Hensley isn’t the first clown priest, and he doesn’t use clowning to tell Biblical stories to bring people to Jesus.

He explores a different theological perspective to it: playing the fool.

“I think it’s good tension theologically not to get too serious as a cleric. In God’s eyes, we’re all fools,” he said. Hensley referenced the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians, in which Paul says to become foolish so you can become wise.

“In some ways, for me to be a clown is exploring being a fool, but in a way that brings laughter and transformation,” he said. “A clown embraces humiliation and is supposed to fall down, get the pie in the face, metaphorically be in the dirt. For the audience of a tramp/hobo clown, the clown is a way of living into that humiliation, that humility. It’s funny because we’ve all been there — we’ve all been in the dirt.”

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