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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Timing is Everything, or Has Anybody Seen the Bass Player?

    There are any number of qualifications that the individual members of a local church praise team must have in order for them to function well together.  In addition to all the spiritual requirements that may come to mind, there are also the natural ones. You know, like singers should be able to carry a tune, and I don’t mean in a bucket. Anyone who plays an instrument should demonstrate a certain level of skill before they’re allowed to join the band.  And in my book, the one attribute that all singers and musicians on a church worship team must have is a good sense of timing. Especially the drummer. Let’s face it, drums rule. If the drummer can’t keep good time, that’s a pretty tough challenge to work through because, in music, timing is everything.

    There’s another timing issue among musicians that concerns me on many a Sunday morning, and it has nothing to do with keeping the beat.  It has to do with actually being bodily present for the the start of the worship service. You would be amazed at the disappearing act that sometimes goes on at my church right before a service is supposed to begin. One minute our keyboard player (and main worship leader/ audiophile) is on the platform ready to play, and seconds later he is up in the balcony, hanging like a monkey and tweaking some audio connection.  Certain instruments I can start without, but the keyboard is not one of them. How does he move that fast, anyway?

    I should tell you that our pre-service prep and rehearsal only runs an hour, and I must allow everyone time for a break before the service begins. People do what they gotta do in that brief time, and this seems to include breakfasting on coffee and a pastry for some of the non-singers. I’m pretty sure they find it on the premises, but it takes them so long to make it back that sometimes I wonder. Ever see that Family Circle cartoon of little Billy after being instructed by his mom to “come straight home?”  If you can envision the rabbit trails that Billy takes between where he is and home, then you have a pretty good idea of what happens to some of our folks between 8:50 and 9:00 on a typical Sunday morning.

    This past Sunday was not typical, however. It was Easter. Naturally, we planned some special music and programming for the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. The allotted time for praise and worship would be abbreviated, however, to allow for everything on the schedule. Aware of the extra time constraints, I had stressed the need to our team for starting on time, “with or without the congregation!” (Our nine o’clock folks can be a little slow to find their seats).  Our normally tight schedule was actually running pretty smoothly. Everything and everyone was prepared by service time, and all systems were “go.”   Until, that is, someone noticed that our bass player was missing.  Well, it just went all Keystone Cops from there.

    “Where’s Jacob?” “He’s getting coffee.”  “Wow, it’s nine o’clock - I’ll go find him!”  And before I can engage my brain quickly enough to say, “Don’t leave! We’ll start without him,” off dashes the keyboard player.  While Jonathan is off to parts unknown looking for Jacob, in walks Jacob. Only he’s not really walking. Walking would look like a sprint compared to the stroll he’s doing.  But at least he is back and getting ready to play. It’s now five minutes after nine, and no keyboard player. I look beyond the open doors of the rear of the sanctuary to see Jonathan quickly circle the foyer and head out again, not realizing that Jacob has returned.  Seven after nine and counting. I’m now having visions of Second Service people impatiently waiting as First Service runs late and my pastor gives me the evil eye (he wouldn’t, by the way). Slight panic. Visitors are looking at me funny. At least I think they are - I may still be having visions. I apologize to our visitors for the housekeeping and try humorously explaining the disappearing musicians phenomenon that sometimes afflicts us.  At last, I see Jonathan sprinting across the foyer and back into the sanctuary. He bounds up the platform steps to his station and we begin the opening song.

    I wasn’t about to start our Resurrection Day celebration service without a keyboard player. That would be like eating a ham sandwich without the ham. Besides, the guy wears a lot of hats on Sunday mornings, so he deserves some slack. As a general rule, I don’t like starting any worship service without the entire team being in place. But if I have to, I’ll start without a disappearing bass player in a New York minute. You can count on it!

Lynn DeShazo