I have been a church musician for over 30 years and much of that time I’ve been sitting on the organ bench as a supply organist. Because I had a full-time job that I loved, and 2 choirs that offered programming and conducting opportunities, it was the perfect mix. I could keep my fingers in shape and have various ‘religious’ experiences. Through the years I have played for pretty much all denominations, from the smells and bells of the high Anglicans to the bible thumping Baptists. I’ve listened to a thousand sermons, if I have heard one. And the reading from John 14 vs:2 ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions’ has to be true. Some congregations feel that they will be the only ones in heaven.
One particular Sunday I was supplying at a church where I was very familiar with the personalities of the congregants. It was an evangelical church with a decent choir and a respectable number of bums in the pews. The senior pastor was away and a guest minister (whom I shall name) The Rev. Thurston Narcissist, was going to be the homilist.
Before the service began, as was the practice of this church, a prayer was given with the choir to prepare for the service. Heads were bowed and he began to wax eloquent, not asking but telling God that souls were going to be saved today. Though my head was bowed, I opened my eyes and caught him re-arranging his pompadour as he was offering up his blessing. The choir filed out and he took me aside and said, “During the altar call, keep playing ‘Just as I am’. It gets them every time.” Being a musician for hire, I do what I am told.
The sermon was long, not theologically very sound, but full of fire and brimstone. The Rev. Narcissist had one of those soft covered bibles, with gold trim on the edges and where Jesus speaks in red. He made a mighty wallop as he hit the pulpit to emphasize a particular sin that would damn you for all eternity. Then came the altar call. I think he was using it as a measure of his success. The more sinners that walked up the long aisle, the more he could justify his cheque. I started playing. After about 2 minutes, still no soul ventured up the aisle. He took off his jacket, removed his tie, and took his hanky from his breast pocket mopping up a brow that was bathed in sweat. I glanced in the mirror trying to catch his eye. How many times could I sustain a theme and variations on this tune. Finally, *Polly (not her real name) saved the day by getting saved…yet again. I had played before at this church and witnessed her salvation at least 4 times. I was happy that this meant that the service was drawing to a close as the deacons came forward to lay their hands on her. But it did give me pause. Yes, I believe in conversion experiences, that people can be ‘saved’. But I am putting it out there. You can ask forgiveness for your sins, anytime, all the time, but can you be ‘saved more than once?
All thoughts welcome.