When our minister entered from the back of the sanctuary and started jumping over pews while the Pink Panther theme song played, I knew it wouldn’t be just another Sunday service.
I attend the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, which traditionally celebrates carnival Sunday with a good bit of frivolity. Merge that with Super Bowl madness, and we ended up with a service that featured readings from Ogden Nash’s poem “The Panther” and the Gospel of Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuke (21:19 –“Stand firm and you will win life”). Songs included a Pantherized version of “Nothing Could be Finer” and “Theme from Cam (a-lot).”
Senior Minister Jay Leach, who’s normally more at home quoting Henry David Thoreau, donned eye black and trotted out the sports themes for his homily.
We weren’t the only church coloring outside the lines on Sunday.
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In Denver – the North Carolina town northeast of Charlotte, not that other place – the Rev. Ron Taylor wore his classic Julius Peppers jersey under his church robes while hosting Bishop Porter Taylor at St. Peter By-the-Lake Episcopal Church.
Taylor, bishop of the denomination’s Western North Carolina diocese, was there for an annual visit to confirm and receive people into the church. He walked in with a Panthers rally towel to go with his liturgical attire, and referenced the Super Bowl in his sermon.
“I know who I’m going to root for,” Taylor said to a congregation wearing plenty of Panther blue and black, plus one lone parishioner with an orange Broncos jersey for Peyton Manning. “But the most important part of the game is at the end when the quarterbacks shake hands. It is a football game, not about good and evil.”
As worship concluded at Charlotte’s Covenant Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Bob Henderson announced that the youth choir had a “special benediction” – whereupon the youth and the pastor did their best “dab,” with the chancel area of the Gothic-style sanctuary lit up in Panther blue.
St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church also included a reading from the Gospel of Luke. The church chose 5:9, which begins “For he and all his friends were astonished at the catch ...” It’s about fish, but you don’t get picky on Super Bowl Sunday.
And it would be hard to top Rabbi Judy Schindler’s recent “JewTube” video “God is a Panthers Fan,” in which she announces that “These are days when we celebrate God’s chosen team: The Carolina Panthers!” It’s part of a friendly wager with a rabbi in Denver (Colorado, this time).
So what did your house of worship do? As we’re waiting for the game, share your stories and photos. My email is below the byline, phone and Twitter handle below – or just tweet #HolySuperBowl.