Monday, June 9, 2008

Performing Clown

I am not a coordinated person. Gracefulness is not my strong point, and most people would go so far as to classify me as clumsy. I'm aware of this trait and so I try to compensate for it. I think through movements and such before I do them, hoping against hope that I don't embarrass myself. I watch my step when moving in public. I go carefully up and down stairs. But sometimes I still end up awkwardly in spite of my best efforts. Sometimes I end up in embarrassing situations because of my best efforts. That's really painful.
For instance, I play both the piano and the organ at church. (Not at the same time, obviously.) The platform is small and rather crowded with both those instruments up there. Plus there's the pulpit and the choir loft. And the chairs for the pastor and song leader. It's crowded even when no one is up there. But during a service it really gets full when you have both the pastor and the song leader plus all the choir members. I fill in on the organ when our regular organist can't be there. I also am occasionally scheduled to play an offertory on the piano or play or sing a special. Somehow, those scheduled things always end up happening the same day that I'm playing the organ. So somewhere in the middle of the song service, I end up having to go from the organ on one side of the platform to the piano on the other. We usually have the offering right after a congregational song, so I use the prayer time before the offering to move from the organ to the piano. I can either turn completely away from the platform, go down the steps and then hurry across the front of the auditorium, climb the other steps and settle at the piano, or I can go straight across the platform. And now we're back to the crowded conditions. The piano player and I try to warn the pastor (my husband) and the song leader (her husband) if there has to be an instrument switch so they can kind of get out of the way. Plus, my husband usually says a short prayer before the offering. If I'm switching instruments then he needs to pray longer to give us time to get moved around. He doesn't always remember that.
Added into the mix of this shifting is the fact that I have to take my shoes off to play the organ. So I've got to put them back on before moving across the platform. I usually wear some kind of a sandal that I can just step into, so that shouldn't be a problem. Except that it is. On more than one occasion, I've had to simply grab my shoes and hurry barefoot across the platform to be at the piano by the time my husband finishes praying. The congregation never notices this, but the choir gets a big kick out of it. Well, one Sunday I planned things out in advance. I warned my husband to pray longer. I wore sandals that were low heeled (no falling) and I could step into easily. I even looked at the song right before the offering and timed out how quickly I could end that last note and slide off the bench. But there were a couple of glitches in my plan. I knew I had to hurry, but I felt I had all the details taken care of so that I wasn't running around wildly. The song ended and I slid off the organ bench and started to step into my sandals. Only they wouldn't go on! I tugged and pulled, but the band wouldn't slide across the top of my foot. Just those few seconds used up my cushion of time that I had built in. I could tell my husband's prayer was winding down. So I dropped everything and ran for the piano. That's right. I left my sandals by the organ. Before I'd always at least grabbed them, but I panicked. I hurried across the platform, but realized at the last minute that the song leader was standing by the wall, blocking the path to the piano. In a split second I veered to the edge of the platform and jumped off, then hurried around to the back of the piano. The entire scene was very surreal, like a nightmare where you realize you're in your nightgown in a public place. I couldn't believe this was happening to me! I was climbing the steps when my husband said his "Amen." Quickly I grabbed my book, slid onto the bench and began the offertory.
Everyone on the platform had seen my gymnastic move and they were all laughing so hard it was a little distracting. When my husband sat back down, he noticed my shoes still on the floor by the organ. Than he began laughing too. I sat at the piano barefoot and played for the offertory, the last congregational song and then the special. Then I got up from the piano, went down the stairs and walked to the back of the auditorium, still barefoot. I sat quietly in my pew through the entire sermon and ignored my boys who kept asking me where my shoes were.
I no longer play offertories when I'm on the organ. The piano player juggles the offertory schedule for me because I threatened to throw in a cartwheel or two the next time I have to dash from one instrument to the other.
I've got other embarrassing moments to share, but that's for another post. In the meantime, care to share one of yours?


  1. Well, I'm impressed! Your precarious performance overshadows my barefooted graduation from Bible Institute by leaps and bounds ... literally!
    Admit it, Jill, you enjoy being sans footwear. There is no shame in leaving your tootsies "au natural" as the majority of folks would rather do ... at least I would! Just imagine the money you could save on shoes!!

  2. So true, Freda. BTW, yesterday at church we watched the MBC VBS DVD from 2006 and who should be on there but Freda Griffin, barefoot!

  3. You know me, Jill, shoes are generally optional, but they are practically non-existent during VBS!


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