Ah Summer

Written by Beverly Walker

(parishioner at St. John’s)

Ah Summer

I sometimes feel as if I’ve been around since the ark ran aground, there have been that many changes in the world since my childhood. It wasn’t until years later that I realised my youthful recollections were at least 3 generations out of sync with my peers in Ontario. I understand that Saskatchewan has since caught up. Whether that is a good thing or not, I’ll let the folk living there decide. But my childhood and early years have left me with many memories and since it is summer and no one wants to think deep thoughts on warm lazy days I will do a bit of a ramble down memory lane. Is there to be any point to it? Well that’s for you to decide when you’ve read this.

Mother was the organist in our little United Church after we left the farm and moved into the village. The organ, as electricity had not that long been introduced into the village, was a pump organ, requiring a small person to sit in a sort of well at one side and pump the bellows with a crank. This occupation was usually given to some young lad who was small enough to fit into this space – knees up around his ears almost – and pump. We ran out of boys of a suitable size and I was given the job. Some pipes in an organ require more air to produce the desired sound, especially the large lower pipes, which meant that when mother was using the foot pedals I had to pump with great vigour to keep the little pressure gauge at the correct level. It was not infrequent that mother’s voice, in a stage whisper that would have done Lady Macbeth proud, could be heard commanding, “Pump Bevie! Pump!”

My career as the organ pumper was short lived.

It was discovered that I could read music and could sing a part against the melody so I was put into the alto section of the choir. I have been warbling away in a church choir for 71 years and just might continue right up to my last gasp.

We had an Anglican church in our village – a very small structure with a membership of perhaps 30 families and a regular attendance of at least 30 people. The Bishop made an appearance once every three years, this being a three point parish. It was the smallest church both in terms of building size and congregational numbers and was always on the brink of being closed so the Bishop’s visit was of great import. Word of the impending visit spread.

Came the great Sunday, the Anglican church yard was filled with a few cars and a number of buggies and horse drawn conveyances, while horses munched their way through nets of timothy or nose bags of oats. The little church was filled to standing room only, the service at the United Church having been cancelled. The congregation even included the Jewish general storekeeper and his wife and family. Community solidarity was not lost on the Bishop and having googled the village, I’m pleased to say the little church is still holding regular services of worship.

In my early teens, we moved into the city of Winnipeg and became members of St. Paul’s United Church where my uncle was the minister and mother became the assistant organist. I was, of course, popped into the choir where I was seated next to my cousin Betty in the front row of the soprano section. Summer had come and the regular organist had gone to her cottage on Lake Winnipeg leaving mother to do the honours. Betty, on this particular Sunday, was to sing a solo. She stood up to sing opened her mouth at the appropriate moment of the introduction – and no sound came out. Mother replayed the introduction and Betty in blind panic said. “Sing, Bevie! Sing.” So I sat and sang and Betty stood and lip=synced (and you all thought lip-syncing was something new).

Then there was the Sunday the Lawn Bowling League paraded into church. Mother was playing the organ that Sunday and had prepared the preludes she would play accordingly – well if it would have been a normal summer Sunday. At the last minute somebody tip-toed into the organ loft to tell her that the lawn bowlers were gathered and were ready to begin their parade into church. Now the average age of the lawn bowlers would have been seventy something. Mother paused for a moment, then from her repertoire of memorization pulled the opening chords of Handel’s “The Dead March” from the oratorio Saul. She did speed it up a little and the lawn bowlers, with great dignity, processed into their place in my memory.

What has been the point of all this? Well in this world of artificial intelligence, computers, internet, communications devices that can contain a record of our entire life, instant potatoes and microwave entrées speed is the motivator. We want to fast forward every action. We want to recreate the Federal Senate – the supposed bastion of sober second thought – rather than look at its purpose and make it fulfill that requirement. We want to recreate our religious life to more realistically reflect the society that we live in rather than examine our beliefs and find ways of expressing them in the lives we lead and the world we live in.

We are to refocus – perhaps on the lines of we were created by God in his image and are to love God and our neighbours as ourselves. We are to refresh – perhaps in our stewardship of the world we were given and in the diversity of the peoples and creatures who are here with us.   We are to renew – perhaps in our commitment to the belief that if we are created in God’s image and are to carry out his commandment what should we be doing.

Beverly Walker