Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Funny Church Stories

It's common practice in the Catholic church during the part of the mass when you say the Lord's prayer to hold hands with the people on either side of you. And if not, people usually hold their hands at their sides with their palms up in a gesture of reception or don't hold their hands up at all. Last Sunday I was cantoring the late mass at my church and when we got to the Lord's prayer, the priest, who was a visitor to the parish, held his hands up in front of him in a way that made him look like he was getting arrested. It was all I could do to keep myself from laughing. For whatever reason it just struck me as hilarious. This is not an uncommon occurrence for me in church. Because the ritual is so particular, when someone makes a mistake or does something different than what you expect, it can be hilarious. I have often thought it would be very amusing to collect stories from other singers about their experiences in church. I have been a professional singer for a Presbyterian church, several Episcopal churches, a Christian Science church, and a Catholic church. I have sung or played violin for weddings for people of many more traditions. The funniest things have definitely happened while cantoring for the Catholic church and I suppose that is because the expectation for uniformity is the greatest and the room for error most wide. I'm finally at a point where cantoring is enjoyable for me and doesn't make me incredibly nervous, but there was a long time when I was so afraid of making mistakes that I almost couldn't avoid them and then those mistakes would lead to more mistakes. And usually the mistakes were pretty funny (singing the wrong word or something) and I had to keep myself from laughing at what I had done. This happened mostly when I was not familiar enough with the music and was trying to look up at the congregation while singing. One time I lost my place in the music and when I looked back down for some ridiculous reason what came out of my mouth right at that point was "Wah wah wah wah". I was simultaneously mortified and at the verge of uncontrollable laughter for the rest of the mass. Moments like that make me wonder whether Hollywood could sell a movie called "The Cantor". Do you have any funny church stories? I would love to hear them. :-)

8 comments:

Jake said...

Well, you and I know a certain rector (not to mention organist!) who is a walking funny story. I do seem to recall one instance where the organist in question stepped on the pedals to interrupt the rambling rector, and the choir just lost it.... :)

But your story reminded me of my college choir director who always used to say "If you make a mistake, that's one. If you stop because you made a mistake, that's two. If you get lost because you stopped because you made a mistake, that's three." Ever since I've tried to be real blase about making mistakes, especially since almost no-one ever notices.

Pam said...

Ha! Yes. I think you told me about that.

Your college choir director has a good point.

tkempton said...

Maybe you were speaking in tongues with the Wah wah wah? Too funny. Aside from the fact that a certain type of laughter seems to creep up when it is LEAST appropriate - a fact that drove my father to sit in bewteen my mother and I lest we would break into nameless hysterics - there are always funny mistakes.

The first wedding I played in a string quartet, one player found they were missing the music. And had to wing it the whole time.

I grew up attending a Presbyterian church, where you finish the Lord's prayer with "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and Glory, forever. Amen." Well, Catholics designate those last bits to the priest. So my first time attending a Catholic service, there's little old me, plunging into the silence with Kingdoms and Powers and everyone else, silent, looking at me askance.

Pam said...

Wow, Terri. I didn't realize you grew up Presbyterian, too. I did the same thing, I think, the first time I attended a Catholic mass.

Diana P said...

One of the songs we perennially sing in non-denominational, culture-current, Christian churches (i.e. pop songs) has the line, "Great is our Lord!" Long ago I memorized it as "Great is our God!" Hence, every time I sing it with the congregation, I end up correcting mid-syllable, resulting in the phrase, "Great is our Gourd!" And then God and I giggle about The Great Pumpkin.

Pam said...

That's great, Diana. I remember a certain Simpsons episode when Homer refers to Jeebus. One day in church while we were singing a song about Jesus, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I think I slipped once or twice.

Suze said...

I have had SO many giggling fits at inappropriate times in church, mostly as an adolescent sitting or standing next to my best friend. Southern Baptists pray a LOT and we just couldn't help ourselves.

I think my most embarrassing moment was once when I was playing piano for a wedding and I started the recessional before the couple was pronounced. The officiator looked over and motioned me to stop, so I tried to do a little fade-out, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't convincing! Fortunately, it was a small wedding (2nd marriage for at least one of the people getting married), so it wasn't a large, formal to-do.

Ooh! Just thought of another one. The church I grew up in had one guy who always did really interesting children's time. He was slated for Easter Sunday once, and brought a fly (as in the insect), which he had somehow anesthetized and planned to resurrect during the children's storytime. Unfortunately, that fly didn't wake up on cue...I don't really remember what he did about it, but it was certainly entertaining.

Pam said...

Ooh! Great stories, Suze! There was one mass where I started to lead the congregation in the recessional song before the Priest had announced, "The Mass is ended. Let us go in peace." That was embarrassing! I'm sure people forget about these things pretty quickly, but I never do. Geez... and then there was the time where I was in the congregation for the Easter Vigil service and my hair caught fire from my candle...