Easter 2024

18 September 2006
stupid - don't be

Recently, a nearby religious establishment has been snubbed by an earnest, albeit completely clueless organist.

Organists often have delusions of holy grandeur.

By entering church in a serious way whilst still young, they are fascinated by their proximity to holy people, things and words.

Here in the church, they talk to these people, study these things, and then, before you know it, throw big, holy words around and develop their own ideas instead of letting the church think on their behalf.

Letting the church think on their behalf can also be a bad thing. I'm just joking around here. The conscience of the individual must be respected, but does anyone's conscience fit squarely within denominational guidelines? And if not, should you start your own sect?

Everyone experiences this religious formation stuff differently, organist or no. It's a complicated process. So I don't mean to belittle religious formation, but let me tell you a little about my experience, and the experiences I think organists should have.

Been to church lately? How do you know what church to trust? How do you know what God to believe in?

If any of these questions interest you, you're in kind of an ideal position, as an organist. You see, organists actually get paid to go to church. There are very few other lay people for whom this is an option.

Now a story: back in my day, when organs still had pipes, I would get up early on Sunday morning, commandeer the family vehicle and navigate to a distant corner of our sprawling metropolis. There, I would engage elderly protestants in conversation and provide organ music for a religious gathering. Visiting these churches for one day, sometimes just one service, was an interesting and educational experience. It was usually possible to discern the health and polity of these congregations in a relatively short period of time.

Somehow, I was always able to answer the call of a religious institution that asked for my services as an organist. This was how I played my one (and only) Christian Science service.

Christian Science tangent: It is important for me to point out, even at the expense of the point that I might get around to making later, that the service was neither Christian nor scientific. They did read aloud from a textbook though.

Kwanza services? Right on. Within reason, I never said no to an opportunity to play the organ.

You know, being a guest organist is different than being an employee, and I understand that. But what I cannot understand is how any organist could not be where I am. I guess I subscribe to process theology for organists and I believe that organists need to go through this process, or something like it:

  1. Organists need to be able to play for religious services. (Both "need to be able" technically and "need to be able" opportunistically.)
  2. Therefore, organists should seek out as many opportunities to perform for religious services as reasonably possible. (This satisfies both, see?)
  3. Through this process, organists must be respectful of unfamiliar or uncomfortable faith traditions in order to be successful.
  4. This respectfulness leads an organist in to an open-minded awareness and dialogue with other faith traditions.

With only a few years of organ gigs, I came away with a sense that the Judeo-Christian religion is thriving in myriad forms in Southwest Texas. I'm sure it is in other places too.

However, some might say that this organist process theology I've outlined doesn't really focus enough on playing. They'd be right. It focuses more on being a decent human being. And not just a tolerant human being. Tolerance implies power and superiority. I'm talking about real decency and dialogue.

You know, some things are actually more important than playing well.


Hint: If you already know what's going on here, you might start over and check the first letter of every paragraph.


Oh David. So true. I was disappointed to hear about the mess.

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