Special Music at Church – “I’ve Given Up the Beer”

Because I have literally been in ministry now for 33 years (my entire life in case you are wondering), I have been able to see the best and the worst of the “special music” time at church, traditionally known as the offertory, although not exclusive to just the offertory. I have many stories that all deserve their own separate posts on my blog so in that case, today I will just share one of them.

At the last church my dad pastored in Southern California (you know the one that he candidated for where there was a guy on stage playing “air guitar” during worship – read about that post HERE – Yeah that one!), there was an older woman named Eleanor who loved to sing and she loved to do specials at the church (and she looked eerily similar to the SNL Dana Carvey character “The Church Lady”). The issue was that she had been doing specials at that church long before my pops took the pastoral job so it was one of those situations (you know like a tenured politician) where there was no getting rid of her. And to make the other 4 older people who adored her in the church happy, she needed to continue singing (much to my dad’s chagrin as you will find out why). It’s not that we have a problem with getting an older lady up in the front of the church to sing, but when she sings with a completely vibrato and operatic style, and she is impossible to understand, that makes for one painful special music experience.

I don’t think I ever made it through one of her songs without having to hold back laughter, but one Wednesday night service in particular really stands out. She started her song and I was holding it together pretty well surprisingly. The other 4 older people in attendance were absolutely loving it and my dad, well, he had that look of sheer pain on his face (all of you pastor’s kid’s would understand what I’m talking about – it’s that look on your dad’s face that says “This is it. I’m not doing this any more”), and out of nowhere I swear she sang “I’ve Given up the Beer!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I tried to quickly decipher the words following to get the context but to no avail. There wasn’t one other word in the entire song that I understood. So I was left with the thought that Eleanor used to be a raging alcoholic and God healed her. I was flabbergasted at the thought of what I supposed I had just heard and being the young high school punk that I was and having my best buddy there with me who always incited much laughter to make for a deadly combination…I (we) absolutely lost it. My mom, who is the sweetest woman alive, saw us laughing and out of the corner of my eye, I could see her pointing at me and lip-ping “You stop right now!”, as her eyes peered into mine to evoke some sort of terror. I didn’t like to upset my mom ever growing up so I stopped laughing although it took a lot of mental energy to do so. And to this day, I’m pretty sure that those words “I’ve Given up the Beer” were uttered from Eleanor’s mouth and it has made for more than a few laughs since.

Tell me about your favorite “special church music” moments. I’d love to hear them because I’m sure I could write a book about all of my experiences alone. Maybe that is what is going to fund the Aletheia Network one day. We shall see 🙂

4 Comments

  • Kevin says:

    Aaron,
    This is a great story dude! Reminds me of this time during High School as well where I completely lost it. Every year our church would spend one Sunday doing a “Christmas Cantata” for the entire service. One year in particular our Music Director decided that the entire “Cantata” should be done in Latin. Needless to say a 15 year old High School guy zoned out pretty quick, until about 30 minutes into it. Where this lady got up for a Solo.

    I kid you not, the choir would sing something, and then she would just start belting “BAH” at the top of her lungs after every word the choir would say. Well it caught my attention, and by the third “BAH” I was losing it, and by the sixth “BAH” I began mocking her and singing along. Dad was laughing with me, but needless to say my mom wasn’t amused either. I was kindly dismissed to control myself and then comeback. The family still looks back on that time and laughs together when we think about that “Christmas Special”.

    Gotta love “Special Music” times.

  • AP says:

    Awesome story bro. I should have known that a good old Methodist boy would have a “cantada” story haha.

  • Benjamin Gordon says:

    Hey Aaron, I am sure you remember me and this post caught my attention. Thanks for sharing it. I hope you and your family are doing well.

  • Sage Knutson says:

    Take off those robes Lazarus

    Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water

    The tsitzis

    Sylvester Blue

    We choose the way of the Lord

    Bill McGavins (?) drum machine guy

    The Singing Continental who fell off the stage

    Eleanor Rankin gave me my first copy of Oswald Chambers Utmost for His Highest

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