The new church organ and the pastor’s wife

The new church organ and the pastor’s wife

After more than 20 years of serving as a local church pastor, I have seen some really funny things happen on a Sunday morning. Back in the 1980s, I was working as a youth pastor in a very traditional church. This particular denomination was known for its historical buildings which often contained an unusually large and extravagant sanctuary. This particular church had a towering stained glass window at the front, rows and rows of sculpted hardwood pews, and giant chandeliers hanging from the vaulted ceiling nearly forty feet off the ground. The sermon would be delivered from behind a huge pulpit that perched far above the heads of those seated in the congregation. Each Sunday morning, the pastors would stroll down the center isle as the prelude concluded, robes and sashes waving in the breeze, and assume their rightful positions on the massive wooden thrones positioned ever so purposefully on either side of the alter. Once the streaming light from the window created a luminous halo around the Senior and Associate pastors, the service was then ready to commence.

On one such glorious morning, this stuffy atmosphere was uncharacteristically permeated with uproarious laughter. Churches can be known for many things, but our church was best known for its choir and its organ. The pastor’s wife was a long standing member of the choir and was notorious for being the one person who would hold onto the final note of a hymn just a little longer than everyone else. This was an obvious attempt to assure that all within hearing distance could identify the superior tonal quality and sustain of her now aging soprano voice. More often than not, the hymn would end with only she and the organist lingering on to see who was shameless enough to go the distance. To the ever increasing disdain of the congregation, she always seemed to be able to last just a moment longer. That is, until the new organ arrived.

For many years, the organist had petitioned the church finance committee for an upgrade to his antiquated pipe organ. Time and again, his request would be denied so that things like new carpet or a remodel for the fellowship hall could be purchased. He must have simply worn them out, because eventually the decision was made to buy the latest and greatest organ available at the time. I remember the entire back wall of the sanctuary had to be redesigned and built specifically to accommodate the bank of speakers the organ needed to improve on the sound that all those pipes used to make. This thing literally had all the bells and whistles.

I will never forget the first Sunday morning that the new organ made its maiden voyage. As per tradition, the opening hymn was sung, first, second, and fourth verses only of course. It was clear that the organist was playing unusually loud, but who could blame him. He was as proud of his baby as any new father could be. The louder he played, the more forcefully the choir seemed to sing. With each advancing verse, it became clear that we had a full on voice versus organ duel taking place. As the final refrain was sung, you could feel the anticipation mounting as we all knew what was about to take place. Sure enough, as the last chord was played, the organist held down those keys like he was trying to drown someone. Everyone watched in delight as the pastor’s wife drew in a huge breath. It was on! After all other voices had long since faded out, there the two opponents remained, locked in some kind of musical combat. I looked over at the organist just in time to see him crack a devilish grin as if to say, I will hold on to this chord all day if I have to. Sure enough, after what seemed like an eternity, the voice of the pastor’s wife finally gave out, and with only a faint squeaking sound piercing her lips, she collapsed back into her chair. As if on cue, the entire congregation erupted in laughter and applause. Maybe it is just me, but I am convinced that churches are often the best place to find God’s sense of humor expressed through the frailty of the human condition. If you need to find a local church or a church directory, try using the link below.