It’s Lent. I’m giving up the organ. No more stops, keys, pedals, and pipes for me.
You’re right, I don’t actually have pipes, and not because of some dramatic Lenten fast. No, if I did have pipes you couldn’t get me to give them up that easily, just try it.
No? No one’s giving me pipes? Oh well.
That’s okay, because I’m not actually giving up the whole organ, just the accompaniment to most of the liturgy, thereby letting the congregation wing it a cappella. If you’ve never heard a congregation belt 4-part harmonies you should really stop in some Sunday morning at 8:00.
No one sings like Our Savior Lutheran Church. This congregation could give the groups on The Sing Off a run for their money, all they need is a little choreography, because I don’t think the stand-kneel-stand-sit variety would probably get very far with Shawn Stockman.
So, despite the fact that the people are singing with all their might, this sans-organ liturgical environment is pretty quiet, reserved, and meditational.
EXCEPT . . .
A couple of weeks ago Jerry stayed home with the sick babies. But the boys are 8, 6, and 4, so it seemed reasonable to expect them to sit in front of the organ without their father, and arrive unscathed on the other side of the hour and twenty minute Divine Service. After all, I confidently told my skeptical husband, they would be mostly within arms reach of my locale on the bench, and there are a host of helpful souls around to corral any wondering sheep.
Within the opening bars of the prelude my expectations were shattered as things took a turn toward the wild and wooly. There was teasing, oversinging, oldest-child scolding, youngest child curling in fetal position, and general disturbance. It was ugly.
It’s been said that organists have the most complicated job, second only to helicopter pilots. The good news is that when we mess up no one gets hurt. Usually. This particular Sunday, the potential was unfolding to take organist survival statistics in an unfavorable direction.
I quickly shifted the tenor line to my right hand, dropped doubled harmonies, twisted my body like a pretzel over my right shoulder, and gave my patented Swap-Snap-Glare Hush.
On to defense number two: pull out all the stops. Literally. Okay, I didn’t use all of them, but a little extra volume on the organ goes a long way towards covering irreverent sibling bickering.
At this point I had no choice but to persevere through the remainder of the opening hymn and then quickly act during Confession and Absolution. My plan was in place and I steeled myself for the encounter.
At the Invocation I swept the middle child off his unsuspecting and unstill feet and plopped him onto the bench beside me, with the strict warning to “TOUCH NOTHING.” The fear of God and mother were both present in church that morning. And since he seemed to be the linchpin holding the wheel of torture together I thought I had succeeded in derailing their efforts.
I was wrong.
For one cannot underestimate the power of jealousy. Despite being a seat of shame, the youngest coveted his brother’s spot next to me, and began his spin into a complete meltdown. Cries of “I want my Mommy” interrupted the pious confessions of the congregation. Then, without warning he became silent, dove underneath the pew, threw down the obstructing kneeler, crawled into the organ area, and before I could provide a left leg block, he had made his way onto the pedal board.
Of course I had stops pulled.
Of course it was otherwise silent in the nave, save the reading of God’s Word.
Of course no one could miss the dissonance of determined 4-year-old hands and knees.
Of course I panicked and couldn’t remember where the ‘cancel’ button was.
Of course the helicopter would have crashed.
And at that moment, having my remains flung hither and thither around the countryside seemed preferable to the humiliation which I suffered.
But you remember those fabulous SATB sinner-saints of Our Savior I mentioned earlier? Well, not only are they so skilled that they might unknowingly start an Anglican chant revival, they are also wonderfully understanding, kind, and above all, forgiving.
So, the next Wednesday night, when my children were home, safe from reproof, and I broke the silence of the Lord’s Supper with a garishly loud open fifth on 16-foot reeds I couldn’t decide whether it was better to have their forgiveness applied towards my failure as a parent, or on organist.