I didn’t go to VBS tonight and mingle with children of the community.  Nor did I show up to help clean the corner room for the Head Start program that is moving into the church building soon.  Instead, I rather irresponsibly drove into the city and attended an organ concert.  It was my first in a long time.

The regional convention of the American Guild of Organists is in town and pipes are humming.  I  found an empty parking space, walked a few blocks in stifling evening air, and stepped into a cooler sanctuary space filled with hundreds of people who love to play and listen to this strange and demanding instrument.

Organists are an unusual lot.  Whether or not they want to be, they are part of the church or synagogue because that is where their massive instruments reside.  That makes for an uneasy co-existence at times because it is usually not theology that draws them.  It is not speech that persuades them.  Instead the passion of their life is in the mystery of worship.  Their relationship to an awesome God is expressed in their art…without words.

I know, because I was once a professional organist until God called elsewhere. Tonight it was good to return and sit in their midst, not speak, just listen.  Good to eavesdrop on their conversations about registrations and church windows as they waited for the concert.  Good to watch their upturned, eager faces as they looked for the recitalist in the rear balcony.  Good to feel them settle into familiar, meditative concentration as the sounds danced around the room and the lowest pipes shook the floor.  Good to hear them laugh at the subtle humor of an ending chord–only a musician would get the joke.  Most of all, it was good to sense worship happening in a language too deep for words.

For me, an ah-hah moment:  so this is where I learned how to pray without needing words!  All those years on the organ bench gave birth to that strange and silent contemplative person that resides in the garb of a pastor.  I don’t for a minute regret the change of vocation, but I think tomorrow night I’ll escape again to another wordless recital…or is it an hour of silent prayer.


  1. silent praying…sounds refreshing!