I recently came across an interesting couple of news items related to a church in Australia that has scheduled a fantasy and science fiction service. The idea is the brainchild of the Uniting Church’s pastor, Avril Hannah-Jones, who is a fan of the fantastic in popular culture. From the Unsettled Christianity website:
What started as a joke on the Australian television program Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight, is now an actual church. Uniting Church minister Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones will be leading the first service of the ‘Church of the Latter-Day Geek‘ at the Romsey Uniting Church, north of Melbourne, at 4:00pm on April 10, 2011. Rev Hannah-Jones is encouraging people to dress-up in sci-fi costumes, and Klinglons are welcome. Very inclusive … as the Uniting Church in Australia most definitely is. One suggestion on the program for a new set of commandments was “Thou shalt forget about The Phantom Menace”.
As might be expected, this has led to criticism and controversy as conservative Christians react to what they see as an inappropriate combination of Christianity and popular culture. According to the Herald Sun:
But traditionalists have slammed the service’s irreverence and lack of emphasis on scripture. Sources close to the church told the Herald Sun the plan had split locals.
“There are some that aren’t very happy about it, especially because it just sort of happened out of the blue,” a parishioner said.
Other church leaders said it was blasphemous and could encourage witchcraft and supernatural ideas.
“I don’t have a problem with people enjoying sci-fi, but church isn’t the place to encourage escapism and fancy dress,” Mentone Baptist minister Murray Campbell said.
This church service, and the resulting controversy, are fascinating on a number of levels, from the impact of fantastic fiction on religion, to reactions of traditional religions to such interactions.
Pastor Hannah-Jones will be interviewed here in the near future.