Having spent over 20 years as a radio music producer, I am very aware of the golden rule. NEVER say anything in front of a mic that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear. ALWAYS assume the mic is on, even if you are in the studio by yourself. Every faux pas is embellished in the retelling and echoes in the halls of a broadcasting building for decades.
Most churches built from the 1950s to the present day resemble God’s living room. Flying buttresses and domed apses have given way to auditoriums or less grand buildings where the floors are carpeted and the pews cushioned. A large video screen is given more prominence than a cross or altar. Because the acoustics are so poor in many contemporary churches, and the aging congregations are suffering hearing loss, clergy have to equip themselves with wireless mics like the type that pop stars wear.
Most clergy have never been trained in mic usage. They don’t have a producer on the other side of the glass to double-check their mic to see if it is on or off at the appropriate moment.
One particular Sunday, I was supplying for a congregation that was larger than usual because of confirmation. There were friends and family members of the confirmation candidates and of course, the bishop was presiding. During the playing of my fancy pants prelude, I heard voices. Not the normal din of a congregation that chats away instead of praying or listening, but a full-fledged animated conversation. My attention was diverted from my Bach to the details of a cocktail party that was being held later in the day. My heart stopped when I realized it was the bishop and the rector. Knowing both of them rather well, and their sense of humour and enjoyment of fine scotch, I stopped playing midstream, started a coughing fit so I could run out and boot it down the back stairs with my gown flying behind me. I think it took all of 15 seconds before I made it to the rector’s study. As I continued to cough to cover their conversation, I ran up, frisked them, and turned their mics off. During the procession, I think both the clergy and rector matched their red vestments.
Another Sunday, at yet another church, after the opening hymn, and lighting of the Christ candle, the Youth Pastor started in on his children’s talk. You know the one, where the conversation is tailored more for the adults and the children are just anxious to escape and work on their crafts. The Senior Pastor got up from his chair and went out the side door. About a minute later I heard, and so did everyone else in the sanctuary, the unmistakable sounds of someone taking a whiz and then the toilet flushing. I have a very loud laugh as anyone who knows me can attest to. I think I broke something inside trying to hold it together as I was hoping I’d also hear his hands being washed.
So my clergy friends, unless you would rather your organist didn’t launch into Handel’s Water music as the Postlude, ALWAYS check your mics.
Do you have some mic stories you’d like to share. Feel free to change the name!