church of the latter day geeks

Image from Herald Sun

If you’ve missed the story, let me introduce you to the Church of the Latter Day Geeks.

Uniting Church minister Rev Avril Hannah-Jones was in the audience on the opening night of ABC chat/comedy show Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight a few weeks back.  Part of the show focuses on audience engagement, with host Adam Hills chatting to “interesting” audience members.  As a  UCA minister, and a science-fiction fan, Avril definitely qualifies as interesting.

The team from In Gordon Street Tonight took the opportunity to think about the mix of Christianity and science fiction, and for a laugh, put together a video trailer advertising a church that would cater for Sci-Fi fans, called “The Church of the Latter Day Geeks”.  Here’s their ad:

To her credit, Avril took it all well, enjoying the light-hearted comedy and entering into the spirit of things.

Except she also obviously went away thinking more deeply about the opportunity.  A couple of weeks later, In Gordon Street Tonight had Avril back on the show to announce that she (and her congregation) would actually host such a gathering – a church service aimed at being welcoming to sci-fi fans – even going so far as to say “fancy dress is welcome”.  The service takes place at Romsey Uniting Church on Sunday 10th April, kicking off at 4pm.

You’re welcome to come in a costume of your choice, but blasters, stakes and other weapons will have to be left at the church door.

Here’s Avril’s thinking on the matter, in the Herald Sun.

So far, so good.  Light hearted comedy, generous and imaginative response from Avril and her team, continued support from the TV show that started it all, and a real opportunity for sci-fi fans to encounter the Christian story in a way that is genuine, and invitational.

But, we live in the world of a diverse church, and you just know it’s not going to stop there.

So the sniping, criticism and negativity has begun, as reported in this story.

At a time when media stories about Christians are almost universally bad, here is the chance for a good-news story.  A story of a faith community engaging a whole group of people in our society who are often portrayed as weirdos and outcasts.

But just in time to reinforce every stereotype about Christians, we’re in danger of decending into name calling, insults and ‘holier-than-thou’ reprimads.

That’s great. Just great.

From where I sit, I want to wish Avril, and her team the very best. I hope Sunday’s service is filled with light and laughter, with connections between the fantasy world of sci-fi and the real significance of the Christian gospel.  I’d love to be there to see all manner of people, fully dressed up, forming community and encountering Jesus.  How cool to see a Stormtrooper, a Klingon and Harry Potter all singing “How Great thou Art”.

And I want to pay tribue to Adam Hills and the team from his show.  They’ve had a little fun and some laughs along the way, but never in a way that is insulting or degrading.  In fact the opposite is true, watching the show you get the distinct impression that they’re all quite delighted by Avril’s response, and by what will happen this week.

And that is just one element of what makes this a story that really is great.  If only the critics would keep out of it.

Disclaimer: I’m sure they won’t really sing “How Great Thou Art”…..I made that bit up.

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3 Responses to church of the latter day geeks

  1. Caro says:

    Thanks for this, Scott. Avril has copped a lot of media attention over this service, some of which indicates that people just don’t understand what she’s trying to do.

    Many of us who support Avril as a friend and colleague heaved a great sigh of relief when we read this blog post, because finally, someone has really ‘got’ it, and has written insightfully and articulately about what it is that this service on Sunday is hoping to achieve.

    I’m looking forward to attending the service, and Avril has asked me to read (and despite what some of her detractors might think and say, the readings she’s given me actually ARE from the Bible! :-) .

  2. Scott says:

    the only question Caro, is who will you be dressed as? ;)

    I’m looking forward to hearing how it all works out (or at least, how it starts to work out…may this be just the first of many).

  3. Caro says:

    Scott, I was contemplating wearing my alb and stole, to point out the irony of the comment in the Herald Sun article that “church isn’t the place to encourage escapism and fancy dress” ;-) , however, I think I will attempt to dig out an old scarf that is vaguely reminiscent of the sartorial signature of the Tom Baker Dr Who.

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