Annapolis says grace, but uses very little

February 24, 1998

Annapolis says grace, but uses very little

"After this manner, therefore pray ye, Our Father who art..."

Whoops, hold on. I hardly think that's good enough. Not for the Maryland House of Delegates at any rate.

"Our Father." Humph. What would Wicca think?

Here's the deal. It seems that ever since the beginning of government in provincial Maryland, sometime around 1692, the legislative day's session has kicked off with a prayer of some sort.

For 300 years this was not a problem.

Enter 1998, when some delegates are raising concerns about the content of the prayers, which are offered by a different, guest-member of the clergy prior to each day's business.


Delegates are annoyed when their deity of choice is snubbed, or when the presiding prayer-maker starts stirring politics, such as abortion or gun control, into the mix.

That caused Father-Speaker Cas Taylor to lay down some laws last week for guest preachers to follow in hopes that no member of the assemblage is put off.

You wonder why bother, since most of the delegates are back in the cloakroom drinking coffee when the prayer is offered. But no matter. No sense risking that all the Jews and Moslems and Hindus will be offended by some minister's calm reflection that all non-Christians must die in flames.

In a nutshell, the search for a politically correct prayer has led to this edict: It's all right to pray, just as long as you keep religion out of it.

Each prospective preacher receives a note from Father Cas imploring that, "Leading public prayer is both a privilege and a responsibility."

Sort of like driving.

The memo goes on to say that "General prayer is inclusive, nonsectarian and carefully planned to avoid embarrassments and misunderstandings."

The information package includes a list of clergy-generated do's and don'ts so fraught with restrictions that it might be preferable to adhere to a suggestion that the speaker "consider other creative alternatives, including a moment of silence."

A moment of silence. You gotta call somebody in from outside to be quiet? Well, considering the alternative is to try to accomplish the mission with one of 141 politicians, that may indeed be a necessary strategy.

Along with other ministerial self-helps are suggestions for ways to get around such seditions as "In Jesus' name, amen." For example, you may wish to try "Hear our prayer," or "In thy name," or, my personal favorite, "May goodness flourish."

I could handle this, I think. So if I am ever asked, I will stand proudly at the rostrum, bow my head and declare:

"To whom it may concern who art in heaven or earth or in one of any celestial body including, but not limited to, stars, supernova, asteroids, comets and black holes.

"Hallowed be thy moniker to which is attached significance. Thy king and/or queendom come, thy will, assuming it be not in conflict with overriding wills of superior moralistic merit be done, on some assemblage of matter and/or antimatter, as it is in some manifestation of more desirable molecular or atomic structure.

"Give us this day/night our daily/nightly bread, tofu, kale, linguine, souvlakia, fatted calf, etc., and forgive us our slights, real or imagined, as we forgive those who have slighted us, unless it seems at the time not to be such a bully idea in which case they may be shot.

"And lead us not into some form of behavior which may be described as challenged, but deliver us from evil as we understand evil to be defined and that is not to say strictly limited to evil in the legal sense.

"For thine is the wherezits, the whomp and the whoopie for ever and ever.


The Herald-Mail Articles