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Clowning must be professional, veteran performer tells peers

ATLANTA (BP)–For part of his professional life, Leon McBryde lives as Buttons the Clown, and for the rest, he sells clown noses.
Strictly fun, outsiders might observe, but McBryde, president of Pro Knows in Buchanan, Va., believes clowning has more to it than just fun. He sees his career as a God-called profession.
“My God doesn’t want me to do something just to be nice. My work has to have a purpose, and I’ve got to have a fire for that purpose,” he told other clowns during the National Drama Festival at First Baptist Church, Atlanta, Nov. 14-16.
And he testifies God will provide the desire, the energy, time and money to do whatever he calls someone to do.
“I wake up every day and I say, ‘Thank you, God, for letting me do what I want to do.’ Every day I go to work is a vacation for me.”
While McBryde does not label himself a Christian clown, he accepts the description for those who choose to use it. He says he is a professional clown who also is a Christian. But those who use the word Christian to describe their clowning, he said, need to remember they, too, are professionals.
He dislikes hearing, “I’m a Christian clown, so I don’t have to be good.”
“If you are a Christian clown, the God that I serve knows good from bad,” he said. “As a professional, it is not the amount of money you make, it’s your attitude that is important. Fun is the byproduct of what we do.
“If you don’t have a professional attitude, you don’t have a ministry. If you don’t smile at the little things, what are you going to do about the big things?”
A product of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus College, the former Ringling clown said he believes “training is the most important thing in Christian clowning. We use an art form. We need to know why we do what we do. We need to understand children and adults and to understand why they do what they do.”
Clowning, like Christianity, McBryde maintained, is total freedom.
“If you get into clowning with the right attitude, you can go places you’ve never gone before in your life.
“And the power of fantasy is there. That’s why I never deliver the message of salvation as a clown, because I don’t want children to think God is not real. I never want children to think the plan of salvation is anything but truth.”
The National Drama Festival, attended by more than 2,200 people involved in creative arts ministries, was sponsored by the pastor-staff leadership department of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Charles Willis