Priest mixes religion with comedy

The Reverend Chris Bedding in his other role – as parish priest at St Cuthberts Darlington-Bellevue.
The Reverend Chris Bedding in his other role – as parish priest at St Cuthberts Darlington-Bellevue.

Mr Bedding, better known as the parish priest for Darlington-Bellevue at St Cuthbert’s Church, won the inaugural Robert Juniper Award last month.

There is far more to Mr Bedding than his lifelong passion for the church.

As well as providing ministry to his flock, he is also an accomplished actor, director, musician ” and stand-up comedian.

The Darlington resident, who specialises in improvisation, said his role as a comedian fitted well with his chosen life in the ministry.

‘All clergy improvise. We are always looking for the right thing to say because we often meet people at the point of crisis, which can be very confronting if you are young and inexperienced,’ he said.

‘The whole nature of improvising is responding to a crisis,’ he said.

But Mr Bedding said he tries not to improvise too much during his sermons.

‘But on the occasions when I have, I have been told they were the most moving,’ he said.

Originally from NSW, Mr Bedding says he sensed his path in life would involve some type of ministry from an early age.

He sang in a church choir from the age of 10 and later attended a leadership course that led him to a theology degree ” and also sparked a keen interest in musical theatre.

From performing in musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof and Les Miserables, he took up directing, improvisation and stand-up comedy.

He is now performing in Pirate Church, a satirical comedy about religion, at the Perth Fringe Festival.

Why improvise? ‘It’s exciting,’ Mr Bedding said. ‘And I’m learning so much at the moment. I enjoy its unpredictability. It’s accessible and very egalitarian ” and it’s a great opportunity for people from all walks of life.’

He will use his $5000 cash prize to attend a workshop presented by Keith Johnstone ” a world authority in improvisation and theatre sports ” in Canada, in July.

The Robert Juniper Award for the Arts is presented annually by the Mundaring Bicentennial Scholarship Trust. The Robert and Trish Juniper Art Prize of $1000 was won by artist Kieran Ingram.