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Adolescens: A conversation with the worship demon

In Tales of Tittivillus, Vorsteeg, a United Methodist minister, offers the reader a hilarious collection of dialogues between church leaders and Tittivillus, a medieval devil who delights in subverting worship. Since Tittivillus is fluent in Latin, all of the sixty or so vignettes are titled in Latin, Vorsteeg's intent in producing this little paperback was "to offer in a humorous way some thoughts, suggestions, and viewpoints to stimulate, enrich, and improve our practice of worship."

"What I need," I mused as I sat alone in the chancel, "what I need are ways to make worship meaningful to teenagers."

Down the aisle he swooped on a miniature skateboard, that Defiler of the Divine, that Delinquent of the Delu-brum, Tittivillus.

He hopped and leaped the board over the first step, then jammed his hoof on its curled-up back as he stepped off so that it sprang into his claw like a trained poodle.

"What you need," he smirked, "are ways to make worship meaningful to teenagers."

Spiked purple hair crowned his cranium and draped past a glittering earring down his neck where it caught a string that led back to the temple bars of his shades. He wore a tattered black Raiders jacket with skull and crossbones over a crayon-colored shirt, and jeans with the knees slashed.

He gazed about elaborately. "To appeal to teenagers, first you need to do, like, some radical remodeling, Dude. Some neon, some excitement, someplace to walk, to sit and talk—like a mall."

"We can't really afford the redecorating," I admitted. "I thought maybe we could just change our approach a little you know, talk teenage talk, like groovy and neat."

"Swell!" he said, but I thought he sounded sarcastic.

He stuck a cigarette behind his ear. "Could you afford at least some arcade games? Joshua zapping the Canaanites might be O.K."

"Maybe we could rent one for the narthex," I thought.

He was eyeing me. "That alb has got to go. You gotta wear something Alternative."

"A Wesley gown maybe?"

"And no organ music. Give everybody a Walkman stereo tape player. Put the service on VCR, else nobody'll pay attention. And we gotta get you started on that rap preaching."

"I'm not sure I'm ready—"

But he was bouncing up and down on a tambourine:

"You gotta listen to what I say,
You gotta be born again today.
Don't want no jive,
Jus' come alive,
Come walkin' to yer Daddy
'Cause you know you're awful glad he
Shows a better and a brighter and a badder day!
Yeah!"

"I was thinking," I ventured, "about maybe a youth choir."

"Right on!" quoth he. "But you gotta give it a name. Something like Teenage Mutant Christian Singers."

"Pastor?" The voice belonged to Schyler, peeking in the rear sanctuary doors. "You talking to somebody?"

"Nobody, really." And it was true. In that twinkling the demon had vanished, leaving behind only a melting spot of vanilla ice on the carpet.

"Pastor, the youth group is supposed to do the worship service when you're on vacation next month, and we'd like to have some suggestions from you."

I looked around. "Too bad we can't, like, do some radical redecorating."

"No," she said, "this'll be just fine." She consulted a clipboard. "We were thinking about starting with Holy, Holy, Holy...."

Reprinted by permission from Tales of Tittivillus, the Worship Demon, by Robert John Vorsteeg. Published by Viaticum Kash Literary Enterprises, Inc., 720 Felix SL Saint Joseph, Missouri 64501-2236; (816) 232-5511.150 pages $1095.