Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The "It's up to You-Charist"

Apparently we here in Grand Rapids are on the cutting edge of liturgical inculturation. Not just once in a while, but every month a few churches here in town sponsor an increasingly popular event that is known as the "U2charist."

Despite the admiration of Bono in certain circles, (not entirely undeserved), the U2charist is not the worship of an Irish singer who sacrifices his rock-star career in order to lobby for African debt relief.

No, it is, rather, a fairly ordinary worship service wherein a congregation from a liturgically conservative tradition (usually Episcopal) lifts up the One Campaign and the Millenium Development Goals (in the sermon or prayers in particular) and incorporates U2 songs into the traditional liturgy, replacing, for instance, an opening hymn with Mysterious Ways, or singing Gloria as service music.

I'm not sure I want to comment too critically on this sort of thing -- it does indulge a healthy impulse to reach out and connect with people the church usually doesn't, and to embrace the good things God is already doing in the world outside the church. That's nothing but good. Full stop.

Still, one wonders if the clever marketing ploy that is the name of the service (and it is clever) might distract attention from, well, Jesus. The holy supper isn't about U2; and the sermon isn't (or shouldn't be) first about laudable social goals -- except as they are a fitting response to Jesus' message of concern for the poor.

Furthermore, it does feel a bit like a desperate lunge at cultural relevance by the usual staid and respectable members of the church family. Done wrong, I suspect, it may feel a bit like when Uncle Eugene tried to dance the Macarena at Suzie's wedding. Awk. Ward.

And then there's the inevitable slippery-slope questions. If the church offers a service to attract the U2 fans and that particular sub-culture, should it do the same for other subcultures? Should Christians somewhere offer a Competitive Prayer-service for athletes and prayer warriors? Or a Goth Mass that really embraces the dark side of the human condition? Or a Jazz Vespers that is so cool it's hot? (Short answer: maybe.)

All of this might or might not be worth commentary on this blog, except that today I found that the instigator of the first U2charist has a sense of humor about herself, as she responded to critics with a list of further liturgical experiments unlikely to come to your town anytime soon, including:
To which we add, in the spirit of Theologiggle, the following:
  • The Achoo-charist - a service of prayer for healing from colds and allergies
  • The Chim-chim-chiroo-charist - a good-luck service featuring music from Mary Poppins and the ceremonial "shake 'ands or blow a kiss" with your neighbor
  • For the gourmand, there is the Cordon bleu-charist, the Fondue-charist, and even the Home-brew-charist (that's for you, Chip!)
  • The Sioux-charist and Zulu-charist -- bold experiments in adaptation to particular cultures; those willing to go a bit further may consider the Voo-doo-charist or the Vishnu-charist
At this point, you can easily see how one can get carried away.
  • I.O.U.-charist - capitalizing on the Dave Ramsey rage -- an offering will be held for people dealing with overweening debt
  • Haiku-charist - The Lord be with you/With one voice, in verse, they spoke/And also with you
  • Et, Tu-charist - a service of reconciliation for those who have been the perpetrators or victims of betrayal
  • Deja-Vu-charist - talk about anamnesis! (WARNING: worship geek joke alert)
  • Shoo-bee-doo-bee-doo-charist - featuring the music of Frank Sinatra and dry martinis as the blessed beverage
And now, we invite you to comment on the following or add your own ideas:
  • Tattoo-charist (hmmm)
  • Kung-fu-charist (whaddya think, Andrew?)
  • Pas-de-deux-charist (liturgical dancing with the stars?)
  • Timbuktu-charist (this one is way out there)
  • Kalamazoo-charist (this one not quite so far)
You know, there seems to be no end to the possibilities here. Maybe I should make this part of my 5-year scholarly plan...

UPDATE: Hey - just realized I can start my scholarly work right here. Since my dissertation has to do with paedocommunion (i.e., the full participation of all baptized children/infants in the Lord's Supper), perhaps the last chapter, after all theological analysis, should be a return to praxis: a set of liturgical recommendations for the cootchie-cootchie-coo-charist.

UPDATE2: Jacob just suggested that congregations uncomfortable with the cootchie-cootchie-coo-charist can keep their sunday-school or children-in-worship programs and have an age-appropriate celebration of the Winnie-the-Pooh-Charist. Hunny. Mmmm.

UPDATE3: How about the Dr. Who-charist? Check it out. For reals. (Thanks, Bethany!)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tempus Fugit

Last night was Mia's middle-school graduation. We all got dressed up and went to the local high school for a very nice ceremony with pomp and circumstance and earnest prayers and speechifying about making a difference and even a bit of liturgical dance. Nary a hint of the civil religion we endured at Jacob's culmination last year.

Years ago, I wrote a snarky song for my little sister when she graduated from middle school. The song was entitled "No Big Deal." It suggested that the genuine big deal would be a few years off yet.

I still feel a little of that snark, but I admit that last night was kind of a big deal. Not necessarily because passing 8th grade math and English and science is a significant accomplishment in itself, but because these events give us a chance to look back and see that there has been a whole lot of life invested in this blond 14-year old with a big smile and an iron will -- a whole lot of tears and talk, of playing and praying and laughing and loving, and no small number of mini-van miles. She has been this wonderful gift from God -- to us, and increasingly, to the world.

Pride, it seems, is a potent alchemy of nostalgia, gratitude, humility, and astonishment.

Time flies -- and significant milestones pass us by in a blur.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bizarro World, Act II

a screenplay

Act I
Act II

Scene: Large suburban grocery store. RON has stopped his half-full cart in the produce section. He tests a few melons for ripeness before picking one and putting it into the cart. He checks his watch, and begins quickly pushing the cart from the produce section toward the dairy section. He gets his cell phone from his pocket and dials.


Hi honey, it's me. I'm at Meijer getting some food for tonight and I have 20 minutes to kill before I have to pick up Jacob from soccer. Is there anything you need me to get?


Hmmm. Milk?


Duh. Already got it. Anything else?


(pause) Not that I can think of.


Hey - you seem distracted - what are you up to right now?


Just doing my share of the work of the family.


(Puzzled) OK. I'll see you later tonight.

Cut to closeup of DEB as she puts away cell phone. Slow zoom out as we see her in a local hardware store, with a selection of plumbing parts (specifically, toilet parts) atop the counter between her and the store clerk. The clerk is finishing drawing something on a piece of scrap paper.


(Pointing to the drawing) So I need to put the rubber washers on both sides of the tank to get a tight seal?


That's right. You'll use this brass nut. Then you'll put the tank back on the bowl and reconnect the water supply to this.... (tech talk fades as camera zooms out further)

Fade out