Anybody who has ever raised a child and has taken that child to church could retire at the age of 40 if they got a quarter for every time they whispered to that child to be quiet because the preacher was praying/preaching or the choir was singing. Folks sitting with you in the pews shoot ugly looks at you if you don't at least attempt to hush a talkative tyke while worship is underway.
Of course, at FUMC, worship is defined as that time on Sunday mornings when people stop talking after we sit down after the processional hymn. Before that? Well, we are a congregation of talkers, and we regard anything before the processional as background music for our conversations.
Visiting with one another is evidence of the"radical hospitality" we have become famous for providing, right? I'm here to say, as a world-class chatterer, that talking through the prelude is akin to getting all the scoop from last night's party during the pastoral prayer, or rehashing last night's ball game during the sermon.
Those of us who provide a prelude for the congregation as a time to gather their thoughts and center their hearts toward God appreciated very much our preacher's new strategy for making announcements before the prelude. We all hoped it would mean folks would take the gentle hint, and it actually worked for a few weeks. Unfortunately, I think he's had to crank up the volume on his microphone for the past several weeks because people are talking louder to talk over him.
Last Sunday morning a member of our youth group performed a beautiful duet with our assistant minister of music for our prelude. It broke my heart that, rather than show our support for this young man's gifts, the chattering continued as if there were nothing special happening because the choir hadn't processed yet.
I recognize and appreciate that the leadership of our church has to walk a diplomatic line about this issue. I'm just rank and file, people, so that line's a little wider for me. I don't believe anybody in the congregation intends to be rude. I just think we've gotten into a bad congregational habit that has become increasingly worse.
This Sunday, the two adult handbell choirs have a rare opportunity to be part of your (and our) worship experience for Pentecost. Each choir will be offering an extended musical prelude, and the Allegro Bells (my group) will also provide the Act of Praise at the 11:00 service. Both services begin earlier than usual to accommodate these extended preludes, and it is my hope that whatever service you choose to attend you will be there, seated and quiet, at the appointed time. We have all worked very, very hard so that we might be part of your Pentecostal experience. All we ask is that you allow us to offer our musical gift to God without having to feel like we're ringing in Babel.
Next time, we'll talk about how wonderful it is to sit around and listen to the POSTLUDE!