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Pastor finds success while clowning around

COLUMBUS, Ga. (BP)–One day, he’s a clown. The next: a magician. But each and every Sunday, he’s a preacher.

For nearly 25 years, the Rev. Buddy Lamb has juggled all three roles. For him they’re natural complements.

“I’ll communicate God’s love while you’re laughing,” said Lamb, pastor of Schomburg Road Baptist Church. “I want folks to know about joy, that it’s not rocked by circumstances. It’s a possession. No one can take it from you.”

His office reflects this dual love of entertaining and ministering. Amid spiritual books and Bibles and posters about joy and love, there’s a bookshelf filled with about 25 clown figurines and a wall of photos of clown friends and entertainers from around the country.

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Lamb — whose clown name is Budzo — especially admires the antics of Mark Anthony and Lou Jacobs, former Ringling Brothers clowns.

“A clown starts from the heart and works outward. He exaggerates what’s already there,” Lamb explained. “There’s a joy that a clown experiences. He doesn’t hide behind it but works from what’s inside.”

Lamb, 48, started clowning around more than 20 years ago when a man in his church in Covington, Ga., encouraged him to perform for a church group.

“I had never in my life ‘dressed out,’ with professional makeup,” Lamb recalled, but said his outgoing personality carried him through. “I never meet a stranger.”

As he moved from church to church, Lamb built up his act. He improved his makeup and magic skills and even went to clown conferences. He did extensive research, and began to teach others about performing.

In 1984, he established his first clown ministry, while on staff at First Baptist Church in Dawson, Ga. A year later he was asked to be a teacher for the Georgia Baptist Convention’s drama festival.

“That made me bump up my research further,” he said. “Ever since then, I never looked back.”

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Lamb is now the drama consultant for the Georgia Baptist Convention, and the only one in the 50-state Southern Baptist Convention to have a clowning background. Lamb regularly performs for GBC-sponsored events, and also gets calls to perform at Southern-Baptist-sponsored conferences around the country.

“He’s one of those rare people in that he’s a professional entertainer as well as a minister,” sad the Rev. Dennis Rogers, a discipleship specialist with the GBC’s family ministries in Atlanta. “He has a ministry incentive in doing his clowning and magic tricks.

“What’s appealing is, he really loves people, ” added Rogers, who’s been friends with Lamb for more than 20 years. “He has a boldness about him. We’ll go into places to eat and he has a rope around his neck. That’s his rope trick. He loves to make people laugh.”

Ironically, one of Lamb’s most strained performances came in front of a group of ministers, at a Christmas banquet several years ago.

“It was dead,” he said. “It was my home association. It was like they were saying, ‘We dare you to make us laugh.'”

More typical are performances like the one this past Tuesday night at St. Mark United Methodist Church. For about 30 minutes, Lamb mystified his audience of about 500 with card tricks, rope tricks and disappearing acts. Most of the children gathered in front of the stage. They squealed, laughed and screamed and begged to be chosen as volunteer helpers.

Lamb loves to perform even when he’s not on stage. Like at hospitals.

“I try to interact with the staff in a friendly way,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll go to the nurses’ station and just stand there. They’ll say, ‘Can I help you’ and I’ll say, ‘No’ and keep standing there. After a pause, I’ll say, ‘I thought you need to look at the face of somebody who needs absolutely nothing from you today.’ One lady said, ‘Hallelujah!'”

Then there’s his sizeable audience at home. He and his wife, Carol, a music teacher at Christian Heritage Academy, have four children: Bonnie, 27; Ben, 25; Bethany, 20; and Betsy, 10.

All the Lamb children have grown up watching their dad clown around.

“My sister and I watched Daddy put on his makeup and become Daddy Clown. It wasn’t a strange thing,” said Bethany, a student at Columbus State University.

Nor is it strange, apparently, to the members of Schomburg Road Baptist Church — although Lamb warned them when he became pastor two years ago they might get kidded for his antics.

Jeff Ely is the church’s chairman of deacons.

“I don’t think it’s weird at all because I’m also a magician,” said Ely. “I don’t think the church thinks it’s strange. They probably enjoy it. He tries to refrain from being a clown in the pulpit. He does a fine job of balancing being goofy with being serious.”

Lamb seems comfortable with his varied roles, too.

“Preachers preach. I’ll never be an evangelist like Billy Graham. I won’t ever fit the stereotype. The only time I wear a tie is Sunday mornings and funerals.

“I just want to be who I am.”
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(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: DIVINE COMEDY and CLOWNING AROUND.