Monday, July 09, 2018
The Church of the...Yellow Submarine!
My love for the Beatles developed during the 1960's, although I was too young to comprehend Beatlemania of the early years. It is impressive that their music has such staying power. The impish and adored Paul is now Sir Paul McCartne, and in his seventies attracted crowds in Liverpool when he showed up their recently with James Corden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjvzCTqkBDQ
Even though the phrase from Ecclesiastes tells us that "there is nothing new under the sun" I just discovered through NPR that five decades ago a Yellow Submarine denomination sprang up with a number of congregations. I'll let NPR tell the story:
When the phantasmagorically weird Beatles film Yellow Submarine premiered 50 years ago, its psychedelic colors and peace-and-love sensibility quickly influenced fashion, graphic design, animation and music.
But the 1968 movie also influenced organized religion — a fact lost in the hubbub over the release of a restored and remastered version in American theaters on July 8.
Not long after the British-made film landed in the United States, "submarine churches" attracted urban, young people. They adopted the outline of a yellow submarine with a small cross on its periscope as their symbol and displayed it alongside peace signs, flowers and other popular emblems of the 1960s.
There were enough of the churches a year after the film's release that they operated The Submarine Church Press, which published a national directory of 40 such churches, most with mainline Protestant or Catholic roots, and held a three-day "rap session," or conference, in Kansas City, Mo. Attendees came from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis and Akron, Ohio.
"In the Beatles' movie, the submarine was the place where they loved each other in a groovy way and got strength to do battle with the Blue Meanies," Rev. Tony Nugent, a former co-pastor of a submarine church in Berkeley, Calif., told The New York Times in 1970 "It also shows that a church has to have flexibility and maneuverability."
\Submarine churches had unusual names, like Alice's Restaurant, Ecstatic Umbrella and Now Church, and were known for their equally offbeat practices. Some were new and independent; others evolved from existing congregations. They routinely met outside church walls in parks, basements and college plazas, and they staged elaborate, protest-themed stunts. Similar to the Biblical tale of Joseph and Mary searching for an inn in Bethlehem, Alice's Restaurant sent a couple and a donkey to a local hotel one Christmas in search of lodging. (They got it.)
Submarine churches adopted the refrain of John Lennon's song "All You Need is Love" spelled out in mod-style letters across the op art landscape of the film.
Some also borrowed the film's fashion sense. When the Rev. Richard York of the Free Church of Berkeley, a submarine church with ties to the Episcopal Church, was ordained in 1968, he wore a flowing robe of pink, yellow, green and gold that looked like it was ripped from one of the film's far-out backgrounds. The bishop who ordained him wore a plain white cassock.
Bizarre? Well, it was, and obviously this initiative didn't have staying power. Mind you, the United Church was fairly healthy in the late 60's, and look at us know.
Still, Jesus "came singing love", as the hymn says.