Terry Marotta:

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Columns / Apr. 5, 2001 12:00am EDT

Be Your Own Reverend—for only $29.95

It’s a do-it-yourself world, all right. These days there’s almost nothing folks won’t take a stab at on their own.

Say you want to bring out a book. Once, you’d have had to go through channels, find backing, get an agent to do your wheedling for you.

No more.

Today, you can create, print, and market that little masterpiece without even changing out of your bathrobe. You can promote it by doing interviews on the radio with talk shows desperate to fill all that airtime. And because it’s radio and not TV, you can keep ON wearing your bathrobe, and do it all right from your own kitchen. I know this because I brought out a book of my own once, and aside from developing both a twitch and a slight mustache as a result, found the experience both instructive and helpful: generations of grateful mice STILL do calisthenics on the hundred cartons in my basement, which hold the thousands of volumes of my own deathless prose.

I guess I’ve always been drawn to do-it-yourselfing, come to think of it. Didn’t I make my own clothes as a girl (though for the whole first year the glinting grin of exposed zippers betrayed me as a rank beginner)? Didn’t I make my own wine, filling my kitchen with vats of fermenting mush, my back hall with many bottles of the potent concoction, all wearing toy balloons as air locks—‘til they exploded one by one, leaving me naught but purple feet and inky floorboards?

I was forever buying moldy old chairs for $10, baring them to their bones and creating them anew, with a mouthful of nails, and 100 bags of fluffy stuffing; forever picking up scarred old tables for $5 and refinishing them, all but marinating myself in so much chemical solvent it’s a wonder I emerged from those years with any fingerprints at all, never mind any normal offspring.

And now today, to my cheery do-it-yourselfer’s heart comes a fresh invitation. Washed in upon the shimmering tide of e-mail is an announcement by one Charles Simpson who says he can make me a minister, "authorized to perform the rites and ceremonies of the church!!," as he puts it from inside a tangle of exclamation points.

Send in $29.95, he says "and within 48 hours you can officiate at:

"WEDDINGS! Marry your BROTHER, SISTER, or your BEST FRIEND!! Don't settle for being the BEST MAN OR BRIDESMAID! Most states require that you register your certificate (THAT WE SEND YOU) with the state prior to conducting the ceremony."

And who hasn’t wished to marry his brother, sister or favorite pal?

"FUNERALS: A very hard time for you and your family. Don’t settle for a minister you don't know!!" What’s worse than having some stranger run your deaths and burials, when you can do it all, and maybe dig the grave besides?

I could even effect the forgiveness of sins, Reverend Simpson says ("The Catholic Church has practiced the forgiveness of sins for centuries…") or start my own congregation, no less.

But best of all, I could do my own "BAPTISMS: You can say ‘WELCOME TO THE WORLD!!!! I AM YOUR MINISTER AND YOUR UNCLE!!

Yep. It's that last one that clinches it for me. I mean, I married my stuffed animals to each other when I was little, and who hasn’t helped friends find forgiveness? It’s my sad fate even to have delivered the eulogy at four of our last five family funerals. But to say "I am your minister and your uncle" – well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

So next time you see this column, be warned: it may just be REVEREND Terry you’re reading here and THIS deathless prose the first of many sermons.

Contact Terry at tmarotta@ mediaone.net

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