Saturday, July 01, 2006

Competetive Prayer Endings

I'm sure to get myself into trouble again when I tell you this,
but I just have to tell you this.

A dear friend and colleague and I attended several worship services at GA together and noted how many versions of "so may it be" worship leaders employed to conclude either prayers (or "prayers" -- and some of you know exactly what I'm referring to) or sermons.

It's not just okay to say "Amen" anymore. I like to say something about "God's shalom be among us now" in my own church after pastoral prayers. I like "shalom's" connotations, and I like that it connects me to my Jewish heritage. And I use "Blessed be" sometimes, too because it's nice and the pagans like it.
But I do wish the UUs wouldn't always feel it's necessary to wind up every prayer with a big laundry list of versions of "so may it be." Nowadays, it seems we've got:

"Spirit of Life, Infinite Presence,
bla bla bla bla,
prayer meditation reflection nice thoughts
love, etc."

"Amen. Shalom. Blessed Be. Salaam. Ashe."

To which I am always tempted to add,
"And gesundheit."

My dear mentor and friend, the Reverend Carl Scovel, once praised a sermon of mine especially much because it did NOT endwith "amen." He just LOVED that, and I have since tried to heed his counsel that there's no reason to end a sermon with "amen."

As for prayers, they do feel like they should have an ending like "amen," so why can't we choose just one or two versions of "amen" at GA?
I'll tell you why: 'cause if we leave out someone's favorite way of saying "so may it be," we're going to hear about it. And then we'll never get in line for lunch and have to subsist on those rubbery hot dogs they sell in the convention center.

I won't tell you what my gracious and dear colleague recommended as the Officially UU Approved Ending For Prayers, because it's naughty. Let me just say that I think we can do away with this lengthy business; not because there's anything wrong with a good, long prayer, but because all those invocations from different cultures starts to sound not reverent, but competitive.

Blessed Be.


Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

I don't think I've ever heard anyone do it, but ending a prayer with salaam doesn't sound right to me at all. Muslims don't end their prayers that way. We always said, Ameen. I wonder if folks might be confused because sometimes, when taking leave of each other, Muslims say "ma'salaam."

I am a little puzzled.

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

And that is pronounced Ah-meen, not Ay-meen.

Blogger Errantfrogs said...

You say: "It's not just okay to say "Amen" anymore."

Really? That seems a bit dogmatic. Many times after a prayer or sermon I say "amen" and nothing else. Other times, when the spirit moves, I will add a "blessed be" and/or "shalom." The reason is the very one you site: I'll never be able to hit all different ways of saying "so may it be," so I pick the one that's most within our tradition. That's "amen" brothers and sisters!

Maybe I get away with it because my congregation identifies me as a Buddhist.

Blogger Obijuan said...

I prefer the simple "Amen" if anything. David Bumbaugh, our preaching professor at Meadville, would prefer ther sermon just end. I've had several sermons this year that end with a question for the congregation to chew on. If I do that, I prefer to leave the question hanging. To say "amen" to me would make it feel as though I was asking a rhetorical question, rather than one I really want the folks to think about.

Blogger Christine Robinson said...

Jews don't end their prayers "shalom", either, but with a Hebrew word that sounds like a-main.

I think that if one prays regularly with a group, varying one's address and ending to acknowledge diverse theologies is a nice gesture to Mystery. When it turns into a laundry list, it is silly. Those whose chipped shoulders ache every time they hear the words of Christianity have to be helped to heal. And that's the job of ministry in this denomination.

Blogger Christine Robinson said...

Here's another thing I think is silly:

"Please rise, if you are able and willing, in body and spirit, to sing the next hymn." I heard this several times at GA. Yuch!

The ones who are not willing won't. I don't see any need to take note of that behavior, and I certainly won't do anything to encourage it. It is certainly polite to take note of (and in essence excuse) those who can't easily rise, but it seems to me that either, "Please rise if you are able," OR "Please rise in body or in spirit" is enough, already.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

I like "Please rise in body or in spirit." The "please rise if you are able" always seems to point attention to those who aren't, but maybe that's just me.


Blogger CK said...

I'm not going to jump into the debate, but just note that when I was in the PCA, furor erupted over the decision to take out the "amen" at the end of the hymns--for theological reasons. It was one of the many skirmishes in the evangelical worship wars.

There are some churches that still use the "blue hymnal" and refuse to move over to the "red hymnal" for that very reason.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Froggie, READ WHAT I SAID BEFORE CALLING ME DOGMATIC, 'kay? I'M not the one who's saying it's not okay just to say "Amen" anymore. My post should have made that abundantly clear.

Blogger Clyde Grubbs said...

I have understood that the word Amen was Hebrew and meant Let this be so. So I use both. Now I know that I am doing what all Unitarian Universalists do, I will have to think about it. Hate being normal.

Normally I end the service with a pastoral benediction (good word in Latin) that uses Amen.

Unless I have proclaimed a do this and do that closing (a more prophetic benediction) I use the English.

Blogger Clyde Grubbs said...

With all due respect to Carl, if the sermon ends with a prayer an Amen might just be called for.

But if it ends with a UU conclusion, more research is needed, maybe we will never know, lets discuss this more, and let the mystery be.

then end it with a song.

Blogger Errantfrogs said...

My apologies. I must have misread. Cheers.

Blogger Aola said...

PB, I enjoyed the article you linked to about God... thanks for the link.

Blogger Jamie Goodwin said...

you forgot "Namaste" on your list.

I like to say

"Forever, and Ever.. Amen"

because it is a phrase I grew up with in a small town pentecostal church.. but it is a good memory, and I just love the sound of it.

or "So Mote It Be" because the Freemasons say it is a direct translation of Amen.. and I like the idea of that as well.

Blogger Donald O'Bloggin said...

*raises hand* Sorry PB... I misinterpreted your writing the first couple times I read it. I thought you WERE saying it wasn't ok to just say amen anymore. One geek to another, I put other peoples words inside blockquote tags:
< blockquote >
Donald says this is blockquoted code
< /blockquote >

However.. as to the substance of your post...
My family, especially on my fathers side, is one of religious pluralism. Represented are the following, some of which apply to the same people at different points in time:
Church of Scotland
Christian Science
United Church of Christ
Unitarian Universalist

My father and my uncle are both lay leaders in their faith-of-the-present-time, and it falls to them to say grace/prayer before family gathering meals. My father usually ends them with "May it be so", to which some in the group will add an amen.

I've always liked the turn "May it be so". It is unambiguous, and a call to the Powers That Be, however we subscribe to them, and to ourselves to make this, our prayer, Real.

In committee meetings, I've always liked "Go forth and multiply", but I'm a frighteningly evangelical UU.

Blogger Joel Monka said...

>Jamie you reminded me of a laugh moment in a discussion similar to this, where one person said we shouldn't use "So mote it be" because it was a Masonic thing. My reply: so what are we supposed to say- "Over and out"? There were a few chuckles, then someone pointed out that "Over and out" expects a reply; we should just say "Out"! That finally ended the discussion with gales of laughter.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

Call me a cranky humanist, but I like the idea of taking a note from the British Navy.

(preferably looking at the congregation)

"Make it so!"


Blogger Jamie Goodwin said...

CC: That is so Captain Piccard.. i love it!

Joel: That is funny! Ok.. i'm a geeek to so I am going to point out that officially "Over and Out" is wrong. When you are speaking on a Radio you say OVER when you are done with your sentence but waiting for there reply. When you say out it means conversation over.. so actually they are opposites.

Same with Roger Wilco. Roger means you understand and passes the control back to the other speaker, Wilco meand Will Comply and the other speaker should wait patiently until you do as such.

So they don't fit together.. ok Military lesson over for today.. sorry for the tangent.

Blogger boyinthebands said...

I've replied at my blog. Link.

Blogger Paul Wilczynski said...


I understand that the question you ask about how to end a prayer is a valid one for UUs.

But does the question strike anyone as demonstrating a certain dynfunctionality (not on the part of the asker!)? I'm certainly not a student of religions, but I'm gonna guess no other religion has ever considered this question to be an issue.

What does it say about us? I guess I could put a positive spin on it and say the question comes up because we're so diverse, but I still have this feeling that, in a real religion, one would never need to spend the time to think about that question.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

That's pretty harsh, Paul. If you really think that the line between religion and not a religion is everyone using the same terminiology, you have a much lower opinion of religion than I do.

And I do know these discussions happen in other faiths. (With the presbyterians they ran more like: "Why does she end prayers with Shalom? Why doesn't she stick with Amen? Amen was good.")

Blogger Paul Wilczynski said...


Perhaps I meant to be a bit harsh because, in the larger scheme of things, the subject just seems so miniscule.

Maybe what I'm feeling is that, if we say we accept and try to learn from multiple faith traditions, we should, without needing a discussion, accept a variety of prayer endings.

Perhaps we're not as accepting of multiple faith traditions as we say we are.

I mean, taking out amen, leaving in amen ... sheesh! Please! This is what's important?


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