The Stoning of the Cantor
Another Lost Passage from Scripture
After Garrison Keillor’s “The Stoning of the Organist.”
And, lo!, Paul walked on, and he came upon a cantor who was as sore beset as the organist before him. And Paul spoke and asked those who were gathering stones, What hath this brother done that you would stone him? His smile is broad and his expression cheerful, how can he have brought the wrath of God or man down upon himself? And the people said, He hath stood in the midst of the sanctuary, yea, even before the altar, and smiled his simpering smile and spoken that which is not in the rubrics, even the very thing that is to be found by him who reads in the service leaflet, be it the page of the hymn or the name of the church or the number of the Sunday in the weeks of ordinary time. He has, yea verify, treated the people like boobs who lack the wit of the beasts of the field or the birds of the air! But that is the least of his crimes. He has silenced the very song that the people would raise up unto the Lord, waving his arms when they sought to move their lips in praise and bellowing like the very ox of the pasture into the trumpet of Satan so that his voice, and his voice alone, filleth the temple! Had he but the humility to raise his voice from the choir loft and chant the psalm with all his skill, we would place him among the pastors and masters of the assembly, but his smiling face, his waving arms, and his impiously amplified voice are a shame and an abomination before the Lord and a pain in the very neck of all who gather to worship! If we cannot not stone him, teacher, what succor will there be for thy suffering people? And Paul answered and said, You shall not stone him. Take him instead unto the brink of the highest rock. In your pity, allow him to solo on Upon Wings of Eagles and to employ all the vibrato and tremolo and ego in which he delighteth. And when that noise be finished, cast him from the precipice. Thus you shall do to him, and to all who would lift up the microphone like a golden calf to lead the people into silence, schlock, and folly! And the people harkened unto Paul and did as he bade them. And from that day hence, the song of the assembly was loud and strong and joyous.
And the Apostle again walked on, and lo!, he came upon a priest . . .