Old Church Piano
By Jacob Hatcher
Most Sundays, my church sings pretty modern songs with pretty modern arrangements, and I really enjoy that. As much as I’m an old nostalgic traditionalist in a lot of ways, I’m not afraid of change. Things are going to change whether I like it or not, so I might as well find a way to like it.
Recently, though, I was standing in the front row with my wife when an old familiar melody began to play. It had been so long since I’d heard it, it took me a second or two to realize what it was. But once the first word was sung, it all came rushing back.
“I hear the savior say, “thy strength indeed is small…”
For a split second, I felt like John having some kind of revelation. The darkened auditorium turned into a pew filled sanctuary washed with stained glass sunlight. The drums and electric guitar fell away until all I could hear was an old church piano.
Those old church pianos just sound like Sunday to me. It sounds the way changing into comfortable clothes at Nanas feels and the way Sunday afternoon roast tastes. You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I swear I could smell an old hymnal when we sang the second verse.
I guess there’s a lot of old church pianos covered in dust these days, the hinges on their lid rusted in place. A lot of the sweet ladies that diligently played them week after week have retired these days. You might never know it, but those sweet ladies could play the fire out of a piano, if they ever felt like it. I believe there’s a little Jerry Lee Lewis in every church pianist.
My Mama was one of those ladies, back before arthritis made her fingers hurt too bad to play. As we stood by her bed singing Great Is Thy Faithfulness and she faded off to Glory, I remember my uncle saying, “If there’s a piano up in heaven, I bet she’s playing it right now.” I bet she is.