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Pray. Write. Text. Texting in liturgy

Pray. Write. Text. Texting in liturgy

The New York Times reports on a service where texting in encouraged:

Settling into their seats for Rosh Hashana service, the twentysomethings instinctively reached for their cellphones to turn them off, anticipating an admonition they hear often at synagogue. Then they looked up at the white screen behind the rabbi: Pray. Write. Text.

And text they did for nearly 90 minutes, sending out regrets, goals, musings and blissful thoughts, all anonymously for everyone to see.

“Let’s see some texting, guys,” Rabbi Amy L. Morrison told the group. “Take those phones out.” What do you need to let go of, she asked the congregants, in order to be “fully present”? Hunched over their phones, they let loose their words and watched them scroll into view: Past mistakes. Shyness. Anger. Fear of failure. Self-pity. Ego. Doubt. Control.

At an offbeat service on Sunday night at the Jewish Museum of Florida, organizers were trying an innovation that few if any rabbis have embraced: using the language of the tech generation instead of the Torah to keep the crowd of 20- to 30-year-olds, mostly unmarried and transient, connected to their Jewish roots and to one another.


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Bill Dilworth

Sarah, I’m not sure that the average shul-going Jew’s reasons for going are any more to “reach out to…fellow worshippers in sharing and support” any more than the average Christian’s. And I think Christian identity was probably always too linked to specific nationalities for it to gel into a concept of a people. Being Irish or Greek was tied up in large part to being Irish Catholic or Greek Orthodox, for example. Even in US Orthodoxy the idea of ethnic identity long dominated any unified religious identity (until the phenomenon of “pan-Orthodox” parishes that arose from the modern wave of converts and internal migration from the big cities of the East Coast). Maybe it’s a result of the idea that the local congregation gathered in the Eucjarist constitutes the Church?

Ironically, part of the strength of US Jewish identity seems to stem from the melting pot idea of American society. The US is one of the few places where Jews seem to regard themselves as all forming one common grouping. In much of the rest of the world (as, for example, Latin America) not only is there a definite divide between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, but within those categories ethnic differences figure much larger into their self image – Jews of German vs Hungarian descent, Greek Jews vs. North African, etc.


I think that’s kind of a cool idea, if one which wouldn’t be appropriate all the time even for the generation which fully embraces texting.

I feel like one of the points of corporate worship is to support one another in whatever we do there, whether it’s stating our creeds, offering praise or thanksgiving, asking for forgiveness, asking for or offering intercessory prayer, or anything else. And maybe sometimes we feel inhibited or even foolish in our prayers, even when they’re offered silently or privately. So instead of *only* saying a general confession or thanksgiving, displaying a host of different prayers might be helpful for some.

For Jews, Rosh Hashana is all about atonement for sin. If I had been sitting in that congregation in the article, seeing my own transgressions up on a screen along with those of many others would have been quite profound, I think, not just because I would have thought wow, look how sinful we humans are, or gee, my sins are way more/less grievous than the others, but because there is something very powerful about knowing that you are part of a group, a people, and my sin has effects beyond myself, and the sins of others has effects on me, and together we can offer up our failures and then go on to support one another as we try to do better.

I think Jews have retained the sense of being members of a people better than Christians have — we are too self-absorbed, I think, and even when we show up in church, it’s an expression of personal piety rather than a true reaching out to our fellow worshippers in sharing and support.

I have seen exercises like this done in Christian Formation groups, with somebody standing at a whiteboard or newsprint on an easel, writing down everything that people shout out. But a lot of adults refuse to attend Adult Formation classes. So sockin’ it to ’em in the middle of a regular service might be truly eye-opening. And it could be done not only for confession, but also for praise and thanksgiving — that would be glorious.

Sarah Ridgway

Lois Keen

I like it!

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