Sunday, February 15, 2009

Librarians might make good priests

I'd like to write up a nice review of a Bill McKibben lecture I attended Friday night, or perhaps post a recap of Dartmouth's legendary winter carnival, but alas I must dash off to a Willie Nelson concert momentarily, so this will be brief.

The sermon in church this morning was not bad, but I only caught about half of it. Our church here in New Hampshire unfortunately does not have a nursery during church services, and the babies and toddlers roam around in the back of the church with their toys behind the pews. I'm okay with that - it's sweet, and Jesus said the children shall be His heirs - but they were much noisier than normal today. One tot in particular was babbling the entire service through, non-stop. I usually don’t mind a few minutes of that or occasional outcries throughout the entire service, but today was just a bit much. I understand that sometimes it’s beyond the parent’s ability to shush the little person, but sometimes you reach a point where it’s time to put everyone else’s desire to hear the preacher ahead of your own desire to be present, and go to the Parish Hall for awhile.

Inexcusably making matters worse were two friends of mine in the pew behind me who were giggling and whispering to each other for most of the service as well – and in fact, just plain spoke rather than whispered during then the anthem. Yes, that’s the time your voices will be muffled, but it’s also the time I want to hear the most! Each friend has had experience on church staffs and should know better. Now, they’re usually not like this (and I think half of their chatter was oooing over the babies to begin with) so I won’t say anything to them and just vent here… but BLAH! ENOUGH! SHUSH!

The reason I decided to post this rant is because it gives me the chance to post an e-mail that’s been sitting in my inbox since June. Fr. Lane, who writes the Out of Nowhere column, had this to say about talking during the pre- and post-ludes. (For the record, Gerry’s postlude today was the Allegro from Handel’s Concerto in Bb, and it was heavenly!)

After years of hiding the fact that the love is gone and the last child moved out of the house, Mom and Dad announce they are getting a divorce. The kids are distraught and hire a marriage counselor as a last resort at keeping the parents together. The counselor works for hours, tries all of his methods, but the couple still won't even talk to each other. Finally, the counselor goes over to a closet, brings out a beautiful upright bass, and begins to play. After a few moments, the couple starts talking. They discover that they're not actually that far apart and decide to give their marriage another try.

The kids are amazed and ask the counselor how he managed to do it. He replies, "I've never seen anyone who wouldn't talk during a bass solo."

After some considerable years playing on dance bands and for other type musical performances, this story is painfully true to my experience, not only for bass solos, but for that matter, almost anything else.

OoN passes on this piece of hilarity because I've found the same to be true for the musician's postlude at the conclusion of a liturgy, especially on Sundays. A pianist, organist, or other instrumentalist can spend hours preparing for a service and start the postlude, only to find it to be a signal for a congregation suddenly to burst into an impossible din of vocal cacophony, hymnals thudding to the floor, shuffling chairs, opening and closing doors, interrupting other congregants who may be yet at prayer, and whatever.

What possesses us to do this is beyond me. It would be unthinkable to behave this way as we enter and prepare for a worship celebration. Why do so many take the unwarranted license to do so at the dismissal? If you just can't stand the postlude and show some appreciation and courtesy to your church musician, then exit yourself to the coffee minute where you usually have to shout to be heard.

On second thought, anybody having marital problems could be invited to stay until the postlude finishes.

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