Sunday, August 21, 2016

Is There a Wospel in Your Gospel? Celebrating the Seusscharist

Is there a wospel in your gospel? A lurch in your church? Or a fulpit in your pulpit?

If you answered yes, then maybe you have been part of a Seusscharist.

What is a Seusscharist? It’s a celebration of the Eucharist using language inspired by Dr. Seuss, otherwise known as Theodore Geisel. The purpose is to make the Eucharist more friendly to children and families.

The idea for the Seusscharist was developed by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. It seems the first one was held at Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh in 2010. I attended a Seusscharist at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Waterloo, Ont. earlier this summer.

A typical Seusscharist includes lines like these, from the opening:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open wide.
All of our want-wanting in you we confide,
and from you our secrets we just cannot hide.
Clean the thinks of our thumpers,
And we shall be happy jump-jumpers.

It also has lines like this, from the prayers of the people:

The people of Christ are here and there.
So for the church that we all share,
We pray for people everywhere.

During confession, people say:

God, we have wronged you,
and we need to say boo-ho.
for the things we did and didn’t do.
We are not content, we want to repent
One hundred percent.
Oh so sorry we say,
won’t you forgive us this day
so we can walk in your way.

After which the leader gives these words of absolution:

All Powerful God have mercy on yous,
And forget the sins of we Whos.
Keep you from all strife,
And lead you into new life.

And so on, through the receiving of bread and wine and to the end of the service.

Not having any children with me, I can’t say how the service I attended felt to younger ones. But the kids who were there seemed to enjoy the experience, and the adults did, too—there were more than a few chuckles and smiles as the words of the liturgy were read in Seuss-speak.

In a YouTube video, the Rev. Canon Ralph Blackman said it was “exciting to do something a little different,” although it was also a “little daunting for a priest” to dress up as the Cat in the Hat—with two child attendants dressed up as Thing 1 and Thing 2—and bring “silliness to worship.”

“We take the Eucharist seriously,” he noted, but felt the Seusscharist would “speak across generations and to the child that is in all of us.”

Jonathan Massimi, Coordinator of Family Ministries at St. George’s, agreed. For him the goal was to “create an experience for children and to give them the language to make sense of that experience.”

To be fair, not everyone feels so positive about the Seusscharist—some felt positively, well, Grinchy.

A search online finds comments such as: “A shocking lack of respect and reverence for one of the holiest things the Church does;" “a trivialization of the sacred to the silly;” a “sacrilege;” and “horrible, absolutely horrible.”

Dr. Seuss isn’t the only inspiration for alternative services. One of the more popular a few years ago was a U2charist, featuring the music of the Irish super-group U2, as well as liturgy inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen and a Johnny Cash vespers.

In Toronto, the Anglican Church of the Redeemer holds a monthly rock Eucharist featuring music from singers and songwriters such as Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Neil Young, and Aretha Franklin and David Bowie.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Assistant Director of Music Mike Daley explained that “what you often find when you look at the lyrics [of these artists] is that these writers are working through their own relationship with spirituality, and it’s often quite revealing.”

As for Geisel, we don’t know what he would think of a Seusscharist; he died in in 1991. We know he was a lifelong Lutheran, but his official website says nothing about his views on religion—or how he might feel about sneeds saying creeds or flims singing hymns.

From the August 20 Winnipeg Free Press.

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