Friends, consider the video embedded below. If I’ve done things right, clicking it should cause it to start playing at the 13 minute and 50 second mark. When the video cuts away from the the Rev. Dr. Carol Gregg encouraging us to share the peace of Christ with one another, look to the front row on the right. You’ll see a couple of idiots — a man and woman both wearing loud Hawaiian shirts — dutifully smacking each other on the forehead. You can’t hear what they’re saying (it’s probably best that way), but it, um, might have been a cheerful “Ja-HEE-zus!”
Carole and I were in Durham, NC over Memorial Day weekend.
We used to live in Durham (me, from 1993 to 1998, and Carole from 1996 to 1998) and would go to Duke Chapel now and then, usually for special music, like performances of Handel’s Messiah or for a Christmas concert by the Choral Society of Durham (Carole sang soprano). You really can’t beat it for quality of music and for the ambience.1I’ve been to a Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Nice, but not better than Duke. Services are your basic ecumenical Christian, but people of all faiths are welcome.
It would have been easy to sleep in on Sunday morning, but I insisted we get up and go to the Chapel for the 11:00 service. The place is enormous and I wanted to see well, so I grabbed us seats close to the front. I hadn’t considered that the services are web-streamed every week and that, by sitting up front, of necessity we’d be on camera every time they pulled back to a shot of the audience, but there we were.
All told, it was a really nice service. Nice sermon from a visiting minister and Duke Divinity grad, Dr. Michael Brown, former chief pastor at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. Wonderful music. You can watch the entire service if you want using the video link. The program for the service is here.
Oh, you’re still wondering about the head-smacking?
Well, I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where fundamentalist ministers were thick on the ground. Any number of ’em had weekly TV shows that permitted the pagans among us who didn’t go to church to turn on the tube on a Sunday morning and watch with perplexity and befuddlement at their faith-healing antics. These pastors all had their weird little customs and habits, but the head-smacking comes from a particularly amusing member of their clan (I think it was Ernest Angley) who was very fond of smacking people on the head and saying things like “You are HEALED!” and sometimes just “Ja-HEE-zus!”
Carole, bless her soul, missed out on that sort of thing by virtue of a) growing up in Ohio instead of the mountains of Virginia and b) attending Christ Church Kettering (Methodist) each week. But her heart apparently cried out for such a thing, because after I told her about my childhood experiences with TV preachers in general and that one guy in particular, she started smacking me on the head each week during “Sharing The Peace of Christ” at our church here in Vermont and, not to be unkind, I took to returning the favor. (I suspect the other members of our church regard us with mild confusion and alarm, but no one’s said anything about it yet.)
So anyway. We’re immortalized on the Duke Chapel webstream for last Sunday, for some definitions of “immortal”. (I haven’t watched the service end to end for fear of what else it might have caught us doing.)