Sunday, January 6, 2019

Tribute to volunteer church organists

Joyce Sasse -
Volunteer church organists are the unsung heroes of Sunday worship – expected to perform suitably whether there are 5 or 50 in the congregation. Expected to be there regardless the weather or whatever their family schedule might include. Expected to make meaningful sound – often with instruments handed down from generations.

They do their best to cope with hymns selected by clergy that are unfamiliar to the congregation.

They treasure their broken and tattered hymn books that don’t threaten to close halfway through verse 2. 

They slowly make necessary adjustments when sporting new bifocals and as fingers stiffen.

Jean Fahlman, a veteran country church organist, recalls “one minister who couldn’t tell C from G. But what he lacked in a musical ear, he made up for in enthusiasm. I got the full benefit of his warbling.” She writes, “I got so rattled by all the discord that I couldn’t tell if I was playing the wrong key or if he was singing off-key.” Was that what one organist was hinting to me when she wished she could zap the pulpit mic during the singing of our hymns? But I did appreciate the tribute that came from her choir when they sang “The Monotone Angel” at my service-of-retirement!

Fahlman says more. “I played for church after I learned my father had terminal cancer, because I thought If I stuck to my routine, maybe things would somehow get back to normal.” So often we take these persons for granted!

In one community where several children and youth took music lessons, the Church Board invited them to play at church whenever they had something appropriate. It could be during the opening, or at the time of the offering, or for a song the congregation could sing … It took one 6-year-old three Sundays trying to get his courage up to do his piece. But four years later he even filled in one Sunday so the organist could be away. It is much easier to gain that experience as a child, instead of when you are in your Twenties or Forties! And we had a volunteer-organist-in-the-making.

We are indebted to all volunteer organists who so generously share their ministry of music!

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