Behind the Pulpit

Behind the PulpitI wanted to take the opportunity of writing my monthly “Behind the Pulpit” column for The Inner Light newsletter to share some of my recent thoughts on prayer. One might think that since I was a teacher of liturgy in seminary, and an author of several prayers now quite popular in our extended church family, that I am at ease with the routines and rituals of our prayer rites. Nothing could be further from the truth! I often spend my nights wide awake thinking of ideas on how we might spice things up a bit in our worship — and bring ourselves closer to God in the process. I want to take this column to share some of those thoughts with our members. I hope that you enjoy my proposal for our service.

First off, I want to suggest that all worshippers shall leave the pews and stand facing the walls of the church. The worship leader shall then begin what I call the “Humility” service with the following words:

“Good Morning! May God Bless You!”

The congregation shall answer:

“Are you talking to me?”

The leader shall continue:

“Do you like my singing?”

The congregation shall answer:


The leader continues:

“Do you at least think that I am smart?”

The congregation replies:

“Not really, no.”

The leader continues:

“But I have tried over the years to be a kind person.”

The congregation replies:

“The only people that like you are the ones you kiss up to.”

Once the leader has completed this section of the service, the leader shall signal the recitation of the doxology, which shall be chanted by the elders:

“God is dead! God is alive! God is dead! God is alive!”

This may be accompanied musically by the organ and the repeated slamming of a metal garbage can lid.

All members who have not paid their dues are called on to lead us in prayer. Each member shall be assigned a line from the liturgy below. All prayers shall be accompanied by heavy moaning and/or spitting.

Leader: “Cancer! Alzeihmer’s! Leukemia! AIDS!”

Congregation: “Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Allah! Thanks a lot!”

Leader: “Body bags! Friendly fire! Anthrax! Collateral damage!”

Congregation: “Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Allah! Thanks a lot!”

Leader: “$200,000 debt!”

Congregation: “Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Allah! Thanks a lot!”

Leader: “My life is falling apart! My family is falling apart!”

Congregation: “Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Allah! Thanks a lot!”

Following these chants shall be a section which I chose to title “Liberation!” During this section, congregants are urged to describe the item or items they wish to purchase in the coming weeks with passionate attention to detail, such as “designer ceramic tile with crescent motif at $32 a square foot” or “Steve Madden shoes with three eyelets, in a dark brown at $119, on sale.”

Following the “Liberation!”, an offering shall be taken and distributed to the church’s wealthiest families.

The scriptural reading for the service will come from one of the following sources: Obituary columns, Penthouse Letters, police blotters, medical charts, human rights reports, and insurance claims.

The scriptural reading would be an appropriate time to give a role to some of the children from the religious school in our main service.

At the conclusion of the reading, each worshipper shall turn around and lock eyes with someone else in the congregation. All congregants shall freeze in position without emotion, as if in a staring contest until someone starts to crack up.

Refreshments to follow.

Daniel S. Brenner is a reconstructionist rabbi and playwright living in Montclair, New Jersey. His work, Taking Names, won the Best New Play award at the All Out Arts Festival 2000 in New York City. He is currently at work on a play about the thirteenth-century mystic Abraham Abulafia.