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Concerned about the “limited appeal” of its traditional Evensong (Vespers), England’s Truro Cathedral has introduced “alternative services.” In a departure from chanting the Psalms of a traditional Sunday evening, the historic Anglican church expanded its liturgical repertoire to include an evening of worship led by Elvis impersonator Johnny Cowling. With the aid of a guitar, backing tracks and rock-solid quaff, the 34-year-old performed gospel hits such as “Peace in the Valley,” “If I Can Dream,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (Daily Telegraph, July 14).
Since the assault on Lebanon began this summer, Israeli combat soldiers have been clamoring for the right to visit a sperm bank. “I’ve been living with my girlfriend for four years. I received an emergency call-up for service in Lebanon,” said one reservist, “and I’m afraid something will happen to me. I want to freeze my sperm in case of a disaster.” Some soldiers fear dying, but others, according to attorney Irit Rosenblum, “fear they will suffer an injury that will make them infertile, and they want to freeze their sperm while they’re still healthy” (ynetnews.com, Aug. 8).
The Rev. Ian Gregory believes he has a novel solution for those who are disillusioned with the “institutional Church.” The retired British Congregationalist minister has embarked on a new project he calls “Christianity without religion.” Instead of the “archaic mumbo-jumbo” of church services and the “silly arguments about things that don’t and shouldn’t matter,” Gregory proposes feel-good chats and the world’s first “laughter room,” where Sunday worshipers can split their sides together. Afternoon services include watching videos of classic comedy films over tea and toast, followed by one-on-one personal consultations and “healing prayers” (Telegraph, Aug. 7).
A new documentary claims to have uncovered fresh evidence that confirms one of the most dramatic episodes in the Old Testament: the parting of the Red Sea. According to The Exodus Decoded, produced by Titanic director James Cameron, a volcanic eruption on the Greek island of Santorini triggered a chain of natural disasters recorded in the Bible as the 10 plagues that God visited upon the Egyptians as punishment for enslaving the Jews. Cameron believes the parting of the Red Sea was not a Moses miracle but the result of a tsunami that happened to occur just as the Jews were fleeing Pharaoh’s army. Cameron also claims the author of Exodus got the location wrong: it wasn’t the Red Sea that was parted, he says, but the much smaller Sea of Reeds, a marshy area at the northern end of the Suez Canal (Sunday Times, Aug. 6).
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