Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Write in the HUMOR genre (04/12/07)
TITLE: Hold the Fort
By Dee Yoder
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I especially remember an Easter Sunday when he led us in singing the hymn about Jesus coming up from the grave. No congregation on earth that day could have sung the mournful “Lo, in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior” slower or sadder than we. I expected, from past experiences with this hymn, to be excited at the part in the song where we exuberantly “up-tempoed” at the chorus as Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave. Evidently, Brother Paul felt the gravity of the morning deserved a slower pace than even the songwriter intended. “Up from the grave He arose” came out sounding like someone had turned down the speed lever on a giant record player! Most of us ran out of breath before we could get to the end of the first sentence. If a bicyclist tried to ride as slow as we sang that Easter standard, he’d fall over from lack of momentum!
Brother John led on Wednesday nights and was a bit of a mystery to me so naturally I was observant of his every action. He wore big billowy sleeves and psychedelic clothing. Even though it was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius during the sixties mod rage, in our staid church tradition, being “worldly” wasn’t normally acceptable. Except, evidently, with Brother John. What interested me the most about him though, was his musical directing style.
Most people just got up on the stage and demurely counted out the tempo with one hand, using stiff, tiny gestures. But not Brother John. He swung his arms wide, both of them, so his large billowing sleeves swished in the breeze he created. He exhorted us to “sing out” and was mildly irritated with us if we hung back on the verses. He wore big, square plastic framed black glasses that continually slid down his nose. These he kept pushing up through his boisterous song leading. I sometimes wondered if he wouldn’t just like to fling them madly off into a far corner so he could sing and direct un-encumbered.
He clapped, which we did with fast songs, in a most peculiar way. He threw his arms out wide as far as they would go and then slapped his hands back together with great force. Then, he would push his entwined palms straight out in front of him until gravity tore them asunder, swing wide his arms, and start the whole process over again. He looked like he was using the same motion a person would to burst through a heavy double door.
After fifteen minutes of this intensive style of singing workout, he would pause; pull out his hankie to wipe the sweat from his face and sigh, “Isn’t the Lord good, people?” He often took the opportunity; while he had his hankie out, to sing the song I absolutely dreaded most, the “Hold the Fort” song.
The chorus had a sentence about Jesus telling us to hold the fort and then the saints answered back to heaven “by thy grace we will’. Brother John always insisted, and I mean insisted, that we each get hold of a hankie or Kleenex or anything we could and when we got to the part about waving the answer back to heaven, he expected us, by golly, to wave our “banners”. I was terribly mortified to be doing this in church. Even as a child I knew it looked ridiculous! I imagined passers-by glancing in the open windows and seeing an entire congregation seemingly signaling surrender, white flags waving, en masse.
One Wednesday night, I noticed my parents also were reluctant to wave the answer back to heaven. So I refused to wave. I simply stood; defiantly holding my arms stiffly crossed over my skinny chest as I frowned stubbornly. This earned me a frozen stare from my mother, but she didn’t scold me later. I guessed that she felt like holding her arms stubbornly across her chest, too.
Remembering how I didn’t like the way he manipulated our congregation, even now I cringe when I hear a leader call the congregation “people”. And I never, ever carry a hankie in my purse when I go to church!
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