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Interesting Sunday

Just a couple of hours before the phone rang yesterday, I’d been dreaming about my piano teacher, a dear Roman Catholic nun who took me on as an adult pupil about 15 years ago and tried her best to fan the flames of a very meagre talent.

“I was just talking to Sr. Claire,” I murmured to The Mister.

“That’s nice,” The Mister murmured back and rolled over.

Now that I think of it, that dream might have been a sign.

A while later, as I was finishing getting ready, I heard the phone ring in the other room.  The Mister answered.  I couldn’t hear the conversation, but I figured if it was important, The Mister would surely let me know.  There was no frantic banging on the bathroom door, or screaming that the neighbours could see smoke pouring out of our basement windows, so whatever it was, it couldn’t be THAT important.

I was heading for the closet for my coat when he finally spoke up.  “Oh by the way…” he said.

And you would think by now I would know that nothing good can follow the words “oh by the way”, but no.  I looked over at him, innocent as a lamb being led to the slaughter.

“Yes?” I bleated.

“That was Elizabeth (our minister) on the phone.”

“Yeeess?” I repeated, still sweetly trusting.

“She said the winds are so high and the water level so low that the ferry can’t make the run to the island.  So the organist is stranded.”

“Aaaaand?” I said, my voice dropping a couple of octaves into the basso profundo suspicioso range.

“And she’d like you to fill in.”

“She actually wants me to fill in for the organist?”

“Well, no.  What she said was, would you be willing to hit the first note of the hymns on the piano to get us started.”

“Oh!” I said, much relieved.  “That I can do!”

But as I shrugged into my coat and wrapped my scarf around my neck, I found myself thinking, “You know, if the hymns aren’t too difficult (i.e. written in a key with more than three sharps or flats, or in an alien time signature like 15/36 or something) I might be able to provide a little more than the first note.

When I got to the church, I rushed into the sanctuary, grabbed a bulletin, chucked my coat over the first pew, and settled in at the keyboard.  The hymns were pretty good – nothing requiring an act of divine intervention to play, so OK.  I took a look at the responses – The Lord’s Prayer seemed manageable, the Acclamation fine.  I noticed the all important Doxology had an Amen written after it, but I paid it no mind because we don’t sing the Amen to the Doxology.  Well, if I can manage all this, I thought, may as well see if I can throw in an anthem too.  I found an easy one and after a total of about 15 minutes rehearsal time for everything (and really, what musician needs more than 15 minutes to prepare a service?), and a very quick run-through with the choir,  I strode up to the front of the church, sat at the piano, folded back the sleeves of my choir gown…

…and prayed.

Hard.

“Lord, consider this a marvellous opportunity to show forth your power.  Amen.”

The Processional started off a bit weak, but once the choir joined me at the front and turned up the volume on their voices, as I had beseeched them to do, it sounded pretty good.  But my fingers started to fumble through The Lord’s Prayer.  “Stop it!” I ordered them.  “Just stop it!”  And they hollered back, “You stop it!  You’re the brain!  We just do what you tell us.”

Oh yeah.  Sorry digits.

I did a pretty fair job canoodling my way through the anthem which gave me confidence to sneak a peek at the congregation.  No signs that read “For the love of God, STOP!” or “There’s making a joyful noise, and then there’s what you’re doing.”    No one running screaming from the sanctuary.  It’s all good.

Almost done.  And then it hit me!  That Amen I’d found at the end of the Doxology, wasn’t meant for the Doxology.  It was the Three-Fold Amen for the end of Benediction.  Yikes!  I’d forgotten all about the final Amen.  I grabbed the response card to look at it again, and oh my sweet Auntie Myrtle, it’s written in four flats!!

OK OK OK.  Settle down.  The congregation knows this so well, all you really have to do is hit the opening chord and they can take it from there!  I carefully deciphered every blessed note in that chord and held my hands ready above them.  When the Benediction was given, I sounded the chord and nearly wept with relief to hear the congregation sing out with full-throated glory.  I even managed to play the rest of the response (softly) with no glaring errors – in four flats! I thought, Sister Claire would be so pleased!

My congregation loves me to the stars and back and they were delighted with my contribution to the morning’s worship, but I was unmercifully teased about my lack of a prelude, offertory, and postlude, and someone even wanted to know why I didn’t sing!  I tried to explain I was a bit distracted with other things and did she notice all that music coming out of the piano? Hm? Another member said I looked so scared he wished he’d had a bullet for me to bite down on.  Someone else said, “So, you preach and you play.  What’s next?”

Well, this Sunday, I hope they’ll let me take up the collection!

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