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Punchline preachers set to stand up for Jesus at the NEC's 'ideal church show'

Clergy from across the Midlands are heading for the NEC this Wednesday (7 October) to learn professional comics' tricks of the trade ...

Clergy from across the Midlands are heading for the NEC this Wednesday (7 October) to learn professional comics' tricks of the trade.

It's all part of Stand Up for Jesus – a special, one-day comedy workshop at the Christian Resources Exhibition Midlands (7/8 Oct), often dubbed 'the ideal church show'. More than 160 stands will feature everything from computers to communion wine, printers to puppets, stained glass to sound systems.

Among those taking part in Stand Up for Jesus will be:

Rev Michelle Parton (pictured right) of St Mary's, Wythall in Hollywood, Brimingham, said: "I am passionate about dispelling the assumption that church is dull and boring. This course, which will helps clergy connect with people outside church, has got to be a good thing. I like to imagine Jesus sometimes with a wry smile on his face and I'd love to bring that side of him alive in my preaching."

Retired vicar Rev Chris Turner said: "Laughter has been a key ingredient in my roles as parish priest and hospice chaplain. I have seen humour enable people to take in all sorts of stuff, which otherwise would have gone in one ear and out the other. I want to get better at it. I still have a bit of life left in me!"

Rev Gary Birchall (pictured left) vicar of St Michael's, Boldmere, likes to draw attention to the irony in Bible stories. "In the end the humour has to have a point or it is just about being funny," he said. "I hope to develop some more stand-up techniques. I like the structured improvisation of performers like Ross Noble."

Revd Canon Andrew Hutchinson (pictured right), chaplain at Solihull School and assistant priest St Alphege, Solihull, said: "Preaching can be dull and the use of humour enables us to make spiritual connections. Faith becomes so much more attractive, infectious and credible."

Vicky Longbone is in formation to become a church-related community work minister with the United Reformed Church. She is currently attending Weoley Castle Community Church, Birmingham. "Jesus must have laughed," she said. "All those disciples gave up their lives to follow him. He must have had likeable attributes. And humour is a fantastic attribute."

CRE Midlands (Oct 7/8) will be opened by Dr Joe Aldred, secretary for Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs with Churches Together in England.
Aldred, a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy in Birmingham, will also take the course.

"Humour is a necessary ingredient, growing up in a tough Jamaican culture," he said. "In the most difficult of times, humour is never far away. As preachers, you need anecdotes to take your audience with you. I look forward to learning new skills and utilising these in the future."

Professional comedian Bentley Browning will lead the course. "Many suggest Jesus' allusion to a camel going through the eye of a needle would have been construed as a quip by those listening," said Browning, a regular performer on the stand-up comedy circuit. "The course is a lot of fun and will help anyone wishing to develop communication skills."

Comedians Don Maclean and Bobby Ball will help Bishop Joe open the show. Birmingham-born Maclean hosted BBC Radio 2's Good Morning Sunday from 1990 until 2006. Ball, originally from Oldham, is best known as one half of the double act Cannon and Ball.

NB Inspire editor Russ Bravo will be on the CPO stand at E24 – drop by and say hello – and he is also doing a seminar on Wednesday from 3-4pm along with Gordon Thorn from Church123, entitled 10 things your community needs to hear and how your church can say them well.

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