A Sunday in late June, anticipated since the dark, icy days of January, finally arrived with the blue skies and green grass expected of such a day in Minnesota. The enthusiastic committee members had spent all these months on zoom meetings, numerous “Reply All” emails, phone calls, and brainstorming. The honor and responsibility of planning events for the UCC Congregational Church of Brainerd’s 150th Anniversary rested on their shoulders and in their hearts. Each had energetically taken on an event, researched, written, called volunteers, and come together in a massive advertising blitz. Today, was the first of five events:  The Stain Glass Window Tour and Historical Organ Recital.

In preparation, Cynthia diligently perused past newspapers for a glimpse into the lives represented by the names of those remembered in the stain glass. Jeff, an architect, provided a blueprint copy of the sanctuary, enumerating the windows and matching them to the donors. Grace and Laura practiced their recital repertoire for weeks, putting the exemplary organ through its paces. Pamphlets were printed and folded for the greeters to hand out.  The committee members wore the T-shirts they fashioned with a logo created by Carol, a professional design expert, working with everyone’s input. Pastor Leslie religiously read the weekly historical trivia and event updates.

Between area news outlets, Facebook shares, “Save the Date” postcards, the technologically inhibited being phoned in person, and the front page of the Brainerd Dispatch weekend edition being read over coffee, the committee had covered its proverbial bases.  The long anticipated Sunday would begin with the regular 10:00 service, followed by the afternoon program.

The sun rose. The committee rose. The historical photo signs rose up along the sidewalk. The beginning notes of the first hymn rose. Their spirits rose. And then, one long, low note refused to stop rising!

A bull bison bellowing? Was it the humidity?  Maybe a pedal stuck?  Laura’s face was not reassuring. She stood up and walked around the organ before exiting to the back with Nancy into the “organ pipe” area. Grace slipped over to the grand piano taking over the music. The committee communally clenched their jaws.  Pastor Leslie carried on.

During the prayer, Laura and Nancy’s voices slipped out from behind the pipes. Time came for the offertory, but still no organ. Quick thinking Pastor Leslie led an a cappella rendition of the doxology. The committee’s thoughts swirled. What does a “Plan B” look like when the organ featured in the Organ Concert doesn’t work? Church ended, but the stress didn’t.

Phone calls found the repairman located south of Minneapolis, too far to make it back.  The Organ company in Fargo couldn’t help. Maybe showing Dan and Marcia’s video collection of church photos would be a substitution. Cancelling just three hours out would be logistically impossible. Reschedule? We raced over options.

I returned at 2:30 to take my post as a greeter. I entered, searching their faces for a clue. Were we on or not? A smile. I sensed relief.  Oh whew, but. . . what happened?

“Seems there were some paper clips and other small items under the pedals,” I overheard Linda say. “The pedal wasn’t connecting.”

I let out a long sigh just as Karen gasped, clutching her hand to her throat, staring into the rafters. “A bat,” she croaked. 

Earlier, that bat had sent Sharon scurrying downstairs and Lowell charging up to second floor looking for the “bat-friendly” fishing net that had replaced the former tennis racket.

I turned to Karen and whispered, “Look down. If you look up, everyone else will. We don’t want a stampede!” I smiled. Well, she and Jean just had to look up, but Lowell was already in control.

Ten minutes to the hour, Linda closed down the Silent Auction and began herding us toward the Sanctuary.  We shut the sanctuary doors with the people and air-conditioning inside. Attendees shifted themselves into a comfortable position, finally relaxing. 

Images from the First Congregational UCC 150th Anniversary events:

Pastor Leslie stepped up to the lectern.  “Welcome all,” she began. “I suppose by now, you have heard how things have been going around here for us today.”  There was a congregational chuckle. The lights dimmed. Or wait, had they gone out?

The candles flickered.  The ceiling fans stopped rotating. Pastor Leslie tapped her microphone. Nothing. Dan headed to check the circuit breakers. We all exchanged glances, hoping above hope that something else in our “historic” church hadn’t gone dead!

The sanctuary doors opened. “There is a power outage on this side of town,” Dan reported.

What?  Really?  You have got to be kidding! Well, at least it wasn’t just us, but no electricity? Too many people cranking up their air-conditioning?  How long will it be out?  This is no pump organ.

Grace took her notes and projected her story of the organ out over the congregation in her loudest voice. Carla took over with her readings of the people represented in the windows. Still no electricity.  Pastor tried to rig up a speaker with her IPhone, resulting in an echo. People were cupping their ears and leaning forward. Jeff stepped up with his report on the sanctuary and intricate changes to this magnificent instrument – magnificent when there is electricity. 

The clock ticked through the hour of readings – no change. The hour ended. No more waiting for a miracle. Time to leave. They filed out, fist-bumping, elbow touching, yet shaking only their heads, resigned but disappointed that the organ never sounded.

As the doors closed on the heels of the exiting audience, someone’s squeal rippled down the hallway, “The electricity!  It’s back on!”


The rest of the story:

The repairman arrived the next day and fixed the magnetic space between pedals in a mere fifteen minutes. Grace and Laura agreed to return at noon the following Sunday. That service was to be an outdoor special music event followed by root beer floats, with biodegradable straws – agreed upon only after a lengthy discussion revolving around the woes of straws in the ocean.

We again thought we had covered all the bases, yet no one dared ask the question on everyone’s mind:

“What could possibly go wrong? “

YouTube:   A snippet ( 1:16 minute) of music being played on the majestic organ in the world’s largest Gothic church, the cathedral in Seville, Spain.

Listen to the incredible sound of the organ at the Seville Cathedral.