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Ripples of laughter heard on Holy Humor Sunday

Riverside United Methodist’s bell choir got laughter and applause as they enthusiastically played a version of ‘Chopsticks.’ (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

BY Sarah smith

From the opening notes of the organist, music you’d hear in a Halloween horror movie, to the bell choir’s rendition of Chopsticks, this was no ordinary church service.

Holy Humor Sunday at Riverside United Methodist Church in Park Rapids was a celebration of bad jokes, worse puns and goofy hats.

“I’m so sorry for those of you who thought you were going to get to sleep in,” Pastor Lee Kantonen said of the pending snowstorm slated to hit by church time, which actually descended Sunday evening.

Kantonen wore his slippers to the service.

Children told “Knock, Knock” jokes.

The annual service, timed around April Fools’ Day, featured a packed house, lots of laughter, some groans and an all-out celebration of joy.

The jokes flowed, along with the punch lines and Christmas carols (“Deck the Halls with Easter Lilies,” and “God Bless You Merry Sinner,”) punctuated by applause and laughter.

Underneath was a strong Christian message that “humor sends ripples through the river of death.”

An Affirmation of Humor underscored the notion that there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh.

Midway through the service the bell choir deliberately switched places with different instruments and a cacophony of clanging jolted the laughing parish. But their version of Chopsticks was so harmoniously played, few in the congregation actually recognized it.

A sweet moment was celebrated when Thomas Gary Warmbold was baptized and welcomed into the flock. Parents Nate and Megan Warmbold knew it was Holy Humor Sunday and chose to proceed.

“It’s a good day to celebrate a baptism,” Kantonen said. “Live a life demonstrative of joy,” he told parishioners, after showing baby Thomas off.

“Hold on to hope.”

'Jesus Loves Me'

Dave Keller donned what can only be described as a God-awful wig with floral barrettes and took his place near the pulpit.

“Jesus loves me this I know,” he sang.

“Even though he lets it snow…”

Keller brought down the house. Then organist Linda Szuszitzky broke into a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus.

More than 100 church members, many who invited guests, spilled out into the gloomy day to spread the message of joy.

They affirmed that, “Christianity is a strangely cheery religion.”

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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