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90 seconds of clergy swapping: UCC video preaches interfaith harmony

(RNS) Most people who have seen it find it moving, though some question preaching in the garb of another faith.

(RNS) The rabbi puts on the priest’s collar, the priest dons the imam’s prayer cap and the imam wraps the rabbi’s prayer shawl around his shoulders.

To the strains of soulful piano music, the clergy-disguised-as-other-clergy then preach the same mini-sermon at one another’s congregations. And then they change back into their own clerical garb.

That’s the whole video, a minute and a half that the United Church of Christ hopes will move people in these divisive times to focus on the commonalities of the three Abrahamic faiths: Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

“Trading Places” has so far garnered more than 74,000 hits on Facebook and more than 6,000 on YouTube. That’s enough for the UCC, which says it released the video to coincide with the inauguration of President Trump, to tout its success.

Still, the video, which has been shared more than 1,500 times, is sparking online conversation.

“This is a brief but powerful view and needed so much right now!” commented June Quarfordt on Facebook, a reaction that reflected those of many who saw it.

But also on Facebook, the video comes in for some criticism from both progressive and traditional Christians who wonder if it’s right for clergy to represent themselves as someone other than who they really are.

“They switch vestments, and then go to another community, dressed in the vestments of the faith community they are addressing?” asked the Rev. Emily C. Heath, a UCC pastor who commented on Facebook. “To me this feels a little like appropriation. They don’t just put on the clothing of another faith in order to learn more; they attempt to lead another faith while wearing the clothing of its leaders.”

“Deplorable twisting of God’s Word,” commented Keegan Cooke.