It’s been two years since the time when my pastor asked me to create a drama Sunday.
“Do I have to do a Bible story?” I asked. “Church drama scripts are nearly all terrible, and I’m no playwright.”
“Do whatever you want,” she said.
“Whatever I want” is almost always Shakespeare. I’m not sure if she knew what she was authorizing…
So I wrote a sermon and illustrated it with scenes from Shakespeare. I pressured several members of our congregation into performing, and pulled in a few ringers from the local college theaters I work with. I was impressed with the work everyone put in to make this strange event possible. My “sermon,” such as it was, was mostly about how it’s the people in Shakespeare who see things as limited who don’t end well. The kingdom can only be divided so many ways; the only right way to live is within the bounds of the gender/class/race you were born to; there is no magic. Those folks all lose, most badly.
Shakespeare’s theology is a theology of abundance. “The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.” The winners in Shakespeare are the ones who seek to free themselves and to free others. They are the ones who give themselves and what they have with an open and joyful hand. I can’t think of a more hopeful message than the one I create every time I collaborate with him. Together, we offer a world where magic is possible, and love is the only truth.
This service was the day after the tragic events at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Two years on, I’m remembering shaking with shock as I heard that news from just over the mountain. I remember, in my words of welcome to the congregation, saying that people who live in that space of hate believe that there is only so much to go around–if your slice of the pie is bigger, then mine must be smaller. I remember proclaiming, “But we are Kingdom People. We are Mennonites. We believe in infinite pie.” (and I got an “amen” in our very not-amen-corner church). I still believe in infinite pie, and I’m pretty sure Shakespeare would agree.
I remember feeling awkward about the whole thing, about naming my work as an artist as holy work, about saying to 250 people assembled in a room wreathed with stained glass and stocked with hymnals, “Today, I’m going to take you to my church,” by which I meant the theater.
Nevertheless, I thought it came off pretty well, and some of the people I respect a whole bunch–including some who teach at the seminary!–told me they thought it was surprising and delightful.
I was not asked to “create a drama Sunday” again.
(But if you’re curious, you can hear the recording of it here.)