LILYDALE, MN (September 27, 2012) – Some people might have thought Micah Witham was joking when he said the Evangelical Covenant Church congregation he pastors was going to start meeting in a comedy club, but he was serious.
Two-year-old Awaken Community Church initially met at a park picnic shelter, but switched to the Joke Joint a year ago. Witham found the club while driving around.
“When we saw the Joke Joint, I said to my wife, ‘What would church in a comedy club look like?’ ” he recently told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “She said, ‘How’s that going to work? Are you just going to call the guy?’ I said ‘Yup! You get 80 percent of what you ask for!’ ”
Witham says the club has turned out to be a great space. “We talk about taking Jesus seriously and ourselves not too seriously,” Witham said.
“To a large degree we’re there because it is a comedy club,” Witham said. “It says a lot about who we are and what we want to do . . . if God created everything, what right do we have to say that this space is sacred and this space isn’t?”
The reporter observed while attending the church that at least one person was knitting and others were checking their cell phones during the service.
In an email with Covenant News Service, Witham said, “So many of our folks utilize their phones for multiple things, including their Bibles. For example, YouVersion is a Bible app that we’re using for a series called ‘Eat This Book.’ The app has a 12-month reading plan the church members sign up for, and then we’re all reading the same texts together as a community.”
Witham said it is possible that people are checking their email, Facebook, or some other website, “but we started Awaken with the assumption/belief/conviction that the spirit of God is at work leading people to and from Awaken. So we try to hold things, people, and this church pretty loosely.”
Holding on loosely has meant people keep staying. The church has quadrupled to about 120 attendees from its original 30. They are not all twenty-somethings.
Linda Hilleque, 64, said, “It’s a refreshing community, a broad community.”