Monday, 28 July 2014

The Day Ruby Stopped the Church Organ Cold

  One of the joys of being a newly ordained minister, years ago, was that I was settled on a seven point pastoral charge. That meant seven services on a Sunday. Fortunately, I was married to my pastoral colleague at the time, so leading seven services on a Sunday wasn’t too taxing. We did two separate circuits, one up river and one down river, with three sevices each and a single evening service where one drove and the other preached.

It also meant we were dealing with seven church organists of varying ability. Some of the church organs were all electric; some were electrified old reed pump organs. Two were still pumped manually by foot pedal by the church organists, who were both as old as my grandmother.

Unfortunately, during my time in that community, Ruby, one of the church organists, passed away. Her loss was keenly felt, not only in the small congregation, but in the larger community.

When the time came for the funeral, the little church, which sat just 60 or so, was simply too small. We had to put people in the church hall and leave the dorr open so people could hear.

The time for the funeral approached. The funeral coach carrying the casket arrived and with all due liturgical reverence we began to process the casket down the aisle.

You might wonder who was playing the organ for Ruby’s funeral. Ruby did have someone to fill in for her. It was Grace, a neighbour, who played quite well, although she preferred the piano. In this case, as the piano was in the hall and not the church, Grace was at the organ bench, softly playing familiar hymns.

The pallbearers removed the casket from the coach and rolled it into the sanctuary.

Now the building of this little rural church predated the coming of electricity to the community. It had been wired with a basic service, and I suspect that much of what was there was original, including the main fuse box. The fuse box, with it’s large levered switch sat on the wall, just inside the front door, in a small vestibule. Someone had painted it white to match the walls, so it was less noticeable.

As Ruby’s casket rolled past the fuse box, the organ stopped cold. Not a sound came out of the speakers. Grace leaned over and flicked the power switch a few times. Nothing. She looked slightly panicked.

By this time the casket had reached the front and the service had to start. I looked at my colleague and said, "We sing?"

"Yes. Unaccompanied." And we did.

Fortunately everyone knew the huymns. The choir stepped up and led the music. There was even some harmony.

Ruby was eulogized, her soul commended to God and the benediction pronounced. The pall bearers stepped forward and moved the casket out of the church.

As the casket passed the main fuse box in the entrance, I heard the sound of the organ. It had come to life again, apparently.

We all started to chuckle, including the funeral director. One of the pallbearers, a church elder named Harold, leaned over and said, "Knowing Ruby, there was no damn way that anyone else was going to play her church organ at her funeral! So she made sure they didn’t!"

We checked later with neighbours. Ther was no power outage in the community that day.

We had an electrician check the circuits and fuses. They were just fine.

The only explanation we could come up with was that Ruby didn’t want anyone else playing the church organ at her funeral. So she stopped the church organ cold.

Rev. David Shearman is the minister of Central Westside United Church, Owen Sound and the host of Faithworks on Rogers TV - Grey County, Cable 53.