Is it possible to be a stand-up comedian and minister simultaneously?
I didn’t think so until I learned about Rev. Susan Sparks, Senior Pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church. Her book, Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor, is a fantastic read and will put you in a good mood before you’ve even turned a page. I was so intrigued with her journey that I wanted to interrogate her a little more, and she accepted the invitation.
1. How did you become an ex-lawyer, turned standup comedian and minister?
Rev. Sparks: After ten years as a trial lawyer, I left the practice to pursue a career in ministry and standup comedy — a job that frankly, didn’t exist. I had felt a call to the ministry for some time, but was unsure how a comedian would ever fit into organized religion. I decided to travel around the world hoping to find some — any kindred spirits.
I traveled for two years doing everything from working for Mother Teresa and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to driving my Jeep Wrangler from NYC to Alaska. Everywhere I went, whether it was the laughter of Buddhist monks or the Sacred Clowns of the Navajo, I found examples of how comedy — joy and laughter — was an integral part of the Holy. Consequently, I returned and entered Union Theological Seminary, graduating with an honor’s thesis on humor and the sacred and eventually became the senior pastor of the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City (and the first women in its 160 history).
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