Report from the Vice-Chair of the Worship Committee to the Head of Session, Elkhaven Presbyterian Church, Elkhaven, Wisconsin, on the Music During the 1995 Christmas Eve Service.

Copyright © 2008, John F. Raffensperger. 27 Dec 2008. My mother, a Presbyterian minister, once told me about an actual Christmas service in which “Oh, Holy Night” was done several times too many. That episode and her gentle church in Big Bay, Michigan, inspired this story.

Since Harry is sick (and obviously not likely to come back), Jack (you) asked me to write up what happened at the Christmas Eve service, and how come the worship music was so disorganized. So I’ll try to say what I think happened. I know I’m putting in some stuff that the Session already knows, but I just want to be clear.

First off, before the service, I heard Harry and Angie arguing in the foyer. I was in the choir loft getting my music organized for my solo. Anyhow, Harry and Angie were arguing about the money from the Thanksgiving fundraiser, and Harry was saying it should be used for new carpet, and Angie was saying it should be used for missions. Now, I’m not part of either faction, and not taking a stand on that either way, but I’m just saying, because maybe there was some miscommunication about the music. After that, people came in, and the service started.

Now, I didn’t pick the hymn, so that’s not my fault, but as you (Jack) know, we sang “Oh, Holy Night” in unison. I thought Angie did a fine job on the organ, despite just getting yelled at by Harry. Then Pastor Bill gave the welcome and the announcements. Then Jack (you) did the offering, during which I did my solo, with Amy-Sue accompanying on the piano and maybe I should of checked with Angie but Harry said I could do any song I wanted and it was “Oh, Holy Night” and maybe that was my fault and I’m sorry so let’s move on. Sorry about missing the high note.

Then the Sunday School kids came in and the high school kids did the play about the wise men. Then the primary school kids sang “Oh, Holy Night” and that was not my fault, as they must of been practicing without talking to Harry or Angie and Harry didn’t say anything to me.

Then Pastor Bill gave a fine sermon about “Jesus: Astronaut to Earth.” About midway through the sermon, I saw Ollie come in through the foyer. Now, I know not many people think well of him, maybe just cause he’s young and not working or whatever, but I never had any issue with him and didn’t mind. Then I saw Doc Gould come in too, and I was glad and mad cause I invited him just cause we're friends to come see my solo which he had missed but you all (whole Session, I guess) know he is non-sectarian but I was glad he came in and there he was. Anyway, then there was the sharing time, and Ollie asked if he could share, and he asked if he could sing a song, and it was “Oh, Holy Night.” That was definitely not my fault, as you (Jack) know he isn’t even a member or even an attender. But I do think he did a better job than any of us and did hit the high note. Then Mary Ann got up and asked if she could share and Jack you were really nice helping her up the stairs and she thanked in a really heartfelt way just the whole church for the food and help since being jobless and nine months pregnant and whatnot is really tough.

Then the weird bit, which, as you all know (whole Session), caused some consternation, and was probably out of order (but I didn't have anything to do with), when Harry got up and asked her while she was still standing there who the father is. And she hemmed and hawed and didn’t want to say but Harry asked her again really loud. And I was honestly embarrassed for the girl, and maybe other people were too, cause you know the place got quiet. Anyway, then you (Jack) know what she said, it was Harry’s boy, God rest his soul in Iraq, and that was a surprise as people thought Mary Ann and Harry’s boy didn’t get along and I have to admit that raises all kinds of questions in my own mind that are not my business. Nor yours (Jack’s – and whole Session’s) now, I guess. And then Harry sat down with his head in his hands and then Mary Ann sat down, and then the candle lighting ceremony started.

And then about half way when maybe twenty people had their candles going, as you (Jack) know, someone and I don’t need to say who cause that is responsibility of the Building Maintenance Committee, anyway, someone dropped their candle and the program in the middle aisle and the program caught fire and then the carpet caught fire. Angie must of saw it first cause she was already dialing the phone under the railing and then Pastor Bill told everyone to get out but to stay out of the middle aisle which was just the right thing.

Then even before we were all out in the parking lot, and I have to bless the Building Maintenance Committee cause they did such a good job clearing the parking lot of all the snow but it would have been easy with the new plow. Anyway, even before we were all in the parking lot, Aaron Vanderman and the Volunteer guys were right there with the fire appliance and it was just a small fire on the carpet and no one got hurt or anything. But Aaron thought it was too smoky and recommended to Pastor Bill and Jack (you) that maybe it would be bad for the older folks to be breathing the smoke.

And then Father Tonio must of heard all the commotion cause he came out and invited us all into their basement, which was awfully nice, I thought. So there we were in the basement in the Catholic Church, and they were really nice sharing their cake and some of the ladies went back to our church to get the pies and brought them back and it was just a nice time for a while. And then the Catholics wanted to sing “Oh, Holy Night” and even asked Amy-Sue to play the piano, and that WAS NOT MY FAULT but I had to admit I was even getting tired of the song.

And then Ollie makes a big to-do and gets everyone’s attention and gets down on his knee in the middle of the room and asks Mary Ann to marry him. And just as she is saying yes her waters break and she cries and doesn’t want to give birth to a bastard in the wrong church on Christmas Day and can’t they get married right then? So everyone looks at Angie who has a quick think and runs to the Post Office and brings back the license and they got it filled out and practically everyone signed the back of it and I did too which I thought was pretty cool. And then Pastor Bob and Father Tonio talk to Ollie and Mary Ann and they wanted a Presbyterian wedding right there in the basement of the Catholic Church. And for some reason Mary Ann kind of surprised everyone by asking Harry to give her away which didn’t make sense to me but I’m pretty sure that’s what really happened, and then Pastor Bob gave a talk, when I guess Mary Ann was having contractions, cause his talk seemed a little too long, and then I think Angie gave her 50th anniversary ring to give to Ollie to give to Mary Ann, which was awfully awfully awfully nice and then Pastor Bob married them.

And then the Catholics wanted to sing an encore, and they picked “Oh, Holy Night” again and then there was another commotion and Harry was lying under the table and Doc Gould was looking at him but Doc was worried about Mary Ann too but decided Angie and Amy-Sue could help deliver Mary Ann. And then some guys (sorry, I forget whom) helped/half carry or ferry Harry to Doc’s little Miata and Doc took off, as we all know now, to Central Hospital because, as we all know now, Harry had had a bad heart-attack and probably won’t make it to New Year’s and now I shouldn’t say anything bad about Harry, especially cause I heard he willed the hardware store to Mary Ann. And then Mary Ann started having her baby but I, as you (Jack) know, passed out too, and it was all over when I woke up.

But having said all that, I do think that if there had been maybe a bit more communication between Harry and Angie before the service about the singing and music, and maybe with the Sunday School staff, we would of sung “Oh, Holy Night” less times. But Ollie would of still sung it, and he did do a good job and hit the high note, and the Catholics would of still sung it, and that worked out okay anyway. So that is the report, and it’s all under the bridge now anyway.

P.S. I guess this is for the Building Committee, but just for Jack’s (yours) information, I heard from Amy-Sue that the burned spot in the carpet has the spitting image of the Virgin Mary and now the carpet-buying faction is kind of quiet and some of the Catholics are wanting to come over on Sundays.