London theater audiences have been entranced for the past couple of seasons by Peter Shaffer's Lettice and Lovage, a comedy starring Maggie Smith. Smith plays the part of a guide in a rather unexciting National Trust home. Bored with the job, she begins spicing up her presentations with highly imaginative concoctions about the families that lived there and the royalty who visited them. One fanciful story involves Queen Elizabeth I, who is said to have tripped on the stairway and been caught in midair by her host, who was subsequently knighted for his deft act!
I couldn't help thinking, the day after seeing the play, what the woman played by Maggie Smith could do for some of the unimaginative worship services I've sat through or even led. She'd spark a one-woman liturgical renaissance.
Having only recently moved back to an academic setting after several years in the pastorate, I'm quite aware that we ministers are not that free to invent our material out of whole cloth or to introduce it ...1