A Defining Moment

It had been a warm summer day. I was tired and bored and ready for the evening church service to be over. As the congregation sang the intermediate hymn, I lifted my head up from my mother’s lap in an attempt to respond to her gentle encouragement to sing. But there was a lot more meeting left to endure than my 8-year-old body felt it could handle. So I just leaned against my mother’s arm and felt terribly guilty for not joining in the song of worship.

I liked music. And I liked church. My lack of participation was not due to lack of interest nor an act of defiance. Yes, I was tired. But the stronger motivation to remain silent was that I had recently become convinced that I didn’t sing well, and I just didn’t want everyone else to know that right then.

My mother never pushed me to join in, but somehow I knew that I was expected to sing. I mean, that’s what people do at church. Looking around, it was obvious. Everyone was singing—the Music Director, the leaders on the stand, and even Brother Miller, the most quiet, reclusive man (and the oldest bachelor I had ever known) were all offering praises through song.

As the weight of my “duty” fell upon me, my gaze drifted over to the organist, Pat Ashliman. I remember noticing that she played with a look of confidence and unstrained concentration. But I also noticed that she wasn’t singing. She wasn’t singing!

“What?” I wondered, “Organists don’t have to sing?!?”

I watched her through the remainder of the hymn. Not a note escaped her lips.

The hymn ended. My mother placed the hymnal back in its holder. As my head rested once again on her lap, I whispered in my heart:  “I want to be an organist.”