Putting On A Show

I was the assisting minister in church yesterday. That required me to sit up front with the pastors and read aloud a selection from the Old Testament, read the Psalm responsively with the congregation,  and then read a selection from the New Testament.  This week I read from Jeremiah and Romans. I really love reading the lessons, and I try my best to convey the meanings in them to the congregation.

Last year we hired a new Worship and Music director.  It is a lay position.  She has done a nice job revitalizing our worship services. I must confess, however, that I find her presentation more than a little disconcerting .  She really, really, loves the Lord, and during services she beams with this beatific glow from her head to her toes.  The problem is that she expects those of us assisting in the worship services as well as musicians to exude the same joy she does. I was raised in a more somber tradition, in which you don’t show much emotion in church, and public displays of religious fervor are highly suspect.  This passage from Matthew sums up what was deeply ingrained in me growing up:

And when you pray, be not like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand in the synagogue and on the street corners to be seen by men. . . But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

Our services are now in person (we are all masked), as well as broadcast over a live Facebook feed and over the local radio. The other Sunday after Husband was the assisting minister, our Worship and Music Director emailed him to  chide him for looking too serious and glum during the service. Husband always looks glum. Moreover,  it is hard to exude joy in a mask, or when you are reading something gloomy from the Old Testament.  We just ignored her email.

Yesterday as I sat in front and read the assigned verses, I couldn’t help but smile surreptitiously behind my mask as I thought about this number from The Producers.

I imagine the Worship and Music Director wouldn’t think it was very funny, but it really sums up her idea of putting on a church service.  Her tenure is limited, as she and her family have moved to another state. She brought us some good ideas to enliven worship, but I am relieved I won’t be chided for not putting a sappy look on my face as I assist or provide music.

When have you had to put on  a show?

51 thoughts on “Putting On A Show”

  1. I fear this comment will befuddle younger Baboons. Richard Nixon once did a TV appearance at the White House where he played piano, smiled like Liberace and tried much too hard to look affable. A critic offered the opinion that “Nixon looked like a graduate of the Bert Parks School of Sincerity.” Older baboons might remember Bert Parks as the gushy presenter at Miss America pageants. The Music and Worship Director in Renee’s appealing lead story would have loved Bert Parks.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. It is not in my nature to be effusive, I guess. Whenever, in response to some speech or performance, in addition to applause I hear people hooting, I wonder what impels them to do that. I have never hooted in my life.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I must state, however, that the Director doesn’t have a hypocritical bone in her body. She is absolutely sincere.

    Our county 4-H clubs used to travel to Sioux Falls to participate in a “show ” with other regional clubs at a big theater. We had to come up with skits and musical numbers.. They even hired a professional director. All I remember about him was that he wasn’t from Sioux Falls and he dressed rather flamboyantly. Our club presented variety type skits, capped off by our dressing in pillow cases with huge faces painted on them, dancing to a recording of “The Hokey Pokey”.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. There was a lot of truth to those jokes—my dad was a county extension agent. He could talk at great length about any little thing. I memorized his speech about making terraced fields “to increase maximum tillage,” and would help him give the lecture as a very small child.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I wonder if anyone else remembers a weird minor character in Garrison Keillor’s early radio work. I remember his name as Doctor Harley Peters, and his schtick was delivering Sex Tips. He was a copy of an extremely boring county extension agronomist named Gus Hardt, back before “educational radio” morphed into public radio. Harley Peters gave out sex tips in a monotone drone that proved even sex advice can be a crashing bore in the mouths of some folks.

          Social commentary from Garrison in the 1970s had an odd sinister edge. Jack’s Auto Repair was a dark, spooky place (a dystopian big box store styled on Plywood Minnesota). They had a driver named Raoul the Warm Car Driver who could drop by your home and bundle up your kids on days when they were resisting to dress for school.

          Sorry. This is pretty OT.

          Liked by 3 people

    1. If the director were completely sincere, she would be content to let others also be sincere in their expression. It’s at least partially performance.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    Renee, I admire your restraint with this person. I probably would have thrown a hymnal at her. If that is all Chris said to her after her criticism, she is probably lucky. Perhaps it is OK that she is moving on elsewhere. Please let me know if she is anywhere near me so that I can avoid her.

    I have a particular bias towards this kind of “Christian.” But then, at this time, I have so many biases towards Evangelical Christians, and my resentment and ill humor is flowing over towards any conservative person of any ilk. They do not cause me to feel joyful. At. All while inducing many negative emotions. It is difficult enough at this time to have any sense of joy without needing to perform it.

    I used to have to “perform” for Lou’s family when there were gatherings due to a lot of unpleasant people and weird dynamics. This was about 20-25 years ago. As our kids became young adults they finally asked that we not go there anymore, which pulled Lou up short. They echoed my complaints about the food (lutefisk), the conversation (politics and religion), and the hate speech (homosexuals).

    Yesterday we went to Rochester to have a picnic with Lou’s cousin (who was never any part of the complaints listed above.). It was so nice to see different scenery and to have unfettered talk about the upcoming election. The cousin is a retired physician who told me that Michael Osterholm has a podcast, which I missed somehow. It is really good for self-education and facts that inform how to interact with the world right now. If you google his name and “podcast” it will pop up.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’ve already stated my perspective, but I suspect that there is a kind of unexamined sincerity and toxic self awareness that goes along with that sort of performative rapture.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Hmm, I don’t see it that way, at all. Why do you see it as “unexamined sincerity and toxic self awareness”? That seems like a rather harsh judgment to me. While I’ll admit I probably would find her annoying because she’s a lot more effusive than I’m naturally inclined to be, I don’t necessarily think it’s unexamined, insincere or toxic.

          A dear friend and neighbor of mine is like that. She’s an actress and performer, and whole lot more comfortable with elaborate rituals, ceremony, and flowery language than I am. A dinner at her house is bound to include various rituals that make me feel like an extra in a play. But I know her to be a sincere and loving friend, she’s just a lot more outgoing than I am.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. When I say unexamined sincerity, I mean she probably thinks of herself as sincere, but only because she is shallowly introspective. I think, in her mind’s eye, she sees herself demonstrating “joy”, like a missionary trying to convert the less gushy and she sees that as virtuous and superior.

          I am wary of people who always seem to be watching and evaluating themselves from a depersonalized position—their own private stage—and I think this director is one of them. I’m also impatient with artificial ceremonies and rituals, but that’s another matter.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. My favorite band is a group called Tuba Skinny. They have a huge presence on YouTube. The comments below videos of the band are almost entirely raves. When someone writes a critical comment, it is always that the band “doesn’t look happy” while performing. Those comments miss a big point. Tuba Skinny plays extremely complex, demanding arrangements. A song might have two or three key changes, tempo changes and many solo moments (which are all quick and short). The band plays without printed music, and their repertoire is amazingly large. Tuba Skinny players don’t mug and grin because they are concentrating fiercely on their complicated arrangements.

    The cornet player is the band leader, the one keeping everyone on track with subtle gestures.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Any time I’m in charge of something, I feel like I’m on stage – not totally, in can mostly be myself, but there is an edge to it. In that way it has been nice to have fewer things lately that I’m leading,

    I choose friends carefully, and hang out with people for whom I don’t feel I have to perform. This blog, I feel, is a place where I can let it all hang out.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I told Three Billy Goats Gruff in Norwegian last Thursday at a political fundraiser…accused of “lots of animation” but…well, so much fun to act out, especially the troll.

    Did you see the Ann Reed Facebook Page on Thursday where she sang “No Fair, no fair”? Brought back so many memories of the GLMS at the Fair and her creations then. I will try to post the video here…

    Liked by 5 people

  8. on more reflection, a time that I particularly feel like I’m performing is having people over for dinner. Having to put on a “perfect” meal (where did I get that?), and have everything turn out right ALL AT THE SAME TIME is just exhausting. I believe I learned this attitude from my mother…

    Brunch is easier for some reason, much more casual feeling.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I’m taking two online classes with multiple discussion in each.(‘American Government’ and ‘Philosophy and World Religion’)
    Pish- every day is putting on a show as I write my posts. 🙂
    Some of these kids are SO YOUNG! The things they write! They’re so naive! I really have to bite my writing tongue sometimes.
    Course there are some that are really into the subject and they’re writing at a level over my head even.
    One of the issues of being the older student, is that I tend to go down wormholes trying to learn more about whatever (The other day it was Karl Marx) and I have to stop myself and remind myself ‘It was a two minute video – just write the response to that.” Looking up “Di-electrical Materialism”, while interesting, takes me way off point. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Ben, I really admire that you’re throwing yourself into your college classes, but I get that your “advanced” age gives you a whole different perspective than your younger classmates. I was twenty-five when I started at SIU, and even at that age was viewed as an older student. It gave me some real advantages, but no doubt, many of my fellow students thought me an odd duck. Good luck with your courses.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Couple years ago I was in an English class and one day while in a group discussion, the other kids said I must be rich because I had printed my report on such heavy paper. Uh… it was just regular printer paper, but I guess it’s heavier than they use.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’ve been taking an online class the last month as well. I’m finding that a lot of the other students—I don’t know how old they are—just seem to be phoning it in. It’s a little frustrating in that any interaction we have in the course is with peers. We have to grade and comment on each other’s submissions. It gives me a lot of sympathy for college professors who have to read and grade this stuff all the time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Not sure I understand what you mean by “just phoning it in.” Are you supposed to submit written assignments? How do you phone in a written assignment? I’m not trying to be a smartass, I just can’t imagine how you phone in a written assignment. Please enlighten me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Just phoning it in is an expression that means doing the minimum. I’ve actually been very engaged and it would be nice to feel like I had some counterparts in the course. With actual live classes, it’s usually my habit to try and identify the students that are the most engaged. Those are the ones who are the most fun to interact with. The way this online class is set up, that’s a lot harder to do.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. To answer your other question, there’s actually a lot of writing—at least there is the way I’m doing it—but I’m seeing a lot of vague, general, and short submissions from the other students. I was a little surprised at first about the amount of writing. I had expected more presentations. But now I’m into it.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. It’s called, “Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You”
          It’s through Harvard, but it’s not what I would imagine a real Harvard class to be.

          Liked by 2 people

        4. Omitted one important little word above. Should read “not familiar” with that meaning of the phrase. Thanks.

          The course does sound interesting; certainly one that could produce all kinds of obscure knowledge.


      2. You’re exactly right. We did written introductions in one of the classes and it’s pretty easy to tell who’s writting at a higher level. Some of these kids are pretty smart; don’t get me wrong. But a lot just flat out said “I’m only here because I need the credit”.


  10. when i read this morning i thought of how my mom would be yelling and angry and threatening with a wooden spoon as she was doing her mom routine then the phone would ring and shed get her super pleasant “helloooooo” voice out when she answered. at about age 4 or 5 i started making fun of her and really pissing her off. what a phoney mom i’d chide and shed steam at thenears and come at me with that wooden spoon.
    lots of wooden spoons broken over my rear end as a youth. she feels bad about it today. kind of like black face. it was just what they did. how could they not see how screwed up it was?

    i remember renee commenting on how hard this director was going to be from day one with her just not getting it.
    hope the next ones better.
    my mom turned out to be ok and most of my scars have healed.

    Liked by 1 person

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