Church organist Robert Burgess-Moon, 35, spotted the Holy Spirit staring back at him on his cocktail cabinet–Mr Burgess-Moon is a regular churchgoer and has played the organ at a number of churches in his local area.Think Mr Burgess-Moon might have been on the ‘spirit’ himself ?
I can assure you nothing like that might pop out at you at any of our local churches but I did find something very interesting one day at St. James Anglican Church in Carleton Place. One day I saw two names that were crudely scratched into the top of the pew. I had seen these faded names hundreds of times throughout the years but I never really gave it much thought.
Who were E. Virtue and C. Mull I asked myself?
What were their stories?
Had they used a geometry protractor as their artistic weapon?
It reminded me of my days being a nuisance in a church pew until my Mother and Grandmother decided I should join the church choir. You see, I didn’t have much use for a church congregation. My Grandmother, on the other hand, had every use for it.
My late mother who was tone deaf like myself thought I was born to sing like Deanna Durbin. Every week Reverend Peacock would choose a soloist and my mother suggested to him one too many times that I participate. Finally exhausted by her phone calls he agreed to let me have the next solo.
Sunday came way too fast and standing in front of the choir I began to sing the first verses of “Lead Me Lord”. There were no “bravos” in the congregation while I sang, and by verse three people were covering their mouths with their handkerchiefs. At the end of the hymn fellow classmate Dickie Diner in the front pew broke out into a fit of laughter and fell off his seat.
I went back to the choir pews and saw Reverend Brown look down at me through his bifocals in bewilderment. Miss Smith, the spinster church organist, stamped on the organ pedals and rolled into the next hymn at a death defying volume. My musical career ended after that, but my Mother kept saying it was fine, as she insisted they had stand-in-singers for Joan Crawford. I often wondered if people remembered the caterwauling that came out of me that day and actually gave it a second thought years later.
As I looked at the two names again I imagined the children that did “the deed” had to be between 10 and 12. I assume their parents caught them and punishment was either the woodshed or sitting in the corner with a bar of soap between their teeth. Needless to say, the families probably remembered the event each time they sat in that very pew. Of course there was always the thought that maybe their parents committed “the crime of the century” and changed pews not to be reminded of their children’s misdeeds.
The way a congregation thinks about mission is reflected in the type of building it uses, the language it uses to describe its reason for existence, the way people dress, and where people sit for the rest of their lives. Like Vegas, things once occurred in that very pew, but it happened far enough away to have no negative effect on “the here and now.” But, do you forget what is worth remembering, and is it best forgotten? Thankfully in my case, no two people remember the same thing, and I hope it was the same for Miss E.Virtue and her accomplice Master C. Mull.
UPDATE: Thanks to Jennifer Irwin at the Beckwith and Carleton Place Heritage Museum and Lise Heroux; we found out who the children were:
Evelyn Virtue and Cecil L. Mullins, both born in 1908
Evelyn Dorothy Virtue was born on February 1, 1908, in Carleton Place, Canada. Her father, William, was 32 and her mother, Mary, was 38.
Cecil L. MULLINS
St. James Anglican Church+, Carleton Place Cemetery
Lanark Co./Reg./Dist., Ontario
Cecil L. Mullins
26 Jan 1963
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