The other day, I couldn't help thinking back to the little country church I served, the one where there were no microphones.
This small church had the most beautiful oak altar and pulpit The pump organ played from up in the balcony. The cemetery was right next door. You could walk right out to the cemetery after a funeral, and have the committal service right away, the way it ought to be.
I often dreamed of having Easter Sunrise service at this little church, beginning the service out in the darkness of the cemetery and processing into the church for festival worship. But it never happened, The facilities weren't adequate for the after-sunrise-service Easter breakfast hosted by the youth.
This church also did not have a microphone. My other two churches had cordless mikes, which I wore attached to my alb or lapel. My current congregation has cordless microphones which we wear around our ears.
There is something I hate about those ear microphones.
There is something I loved about the church without a microphone. It was one less thing to fiddle with, to test, to make sure that I had at the exact right spot when I came into church. I didn't have to worry about the occasional interference (before one Holy Week Service, we inexplicably were able to listen in a one half of a cell phone conversation).
There is something I loved about the church without a microphone. I felt that somehow I was offering them: myself, unadorned, unamplified. I was proud of my speaking ability. After all, the first time my grandmother heard me preach (via cassette tape), her one comment was, "I heard every word!" I felt confident in my ability. I spoke clearly and loudly. There was nothing between me and them, not even a set of speakers.
So I grieved on the day the elders brought in the bright shiny new cordless mike they wanted me to wear from then on. I grieved and I wondered if it was me, with my inadequate feminine voice, that had driven them to this innovation. Until then, the unadorned voice had always been enough. But now, I had to wear the contraption so that everyone could hear me.
Of course, it could just as well have been the fact that the congregation was aging. It might also have been their desire to be just like the other two congregations where I served. "We want a microphone! Just like all of the other congregations!" That might have been it as well.
Still, I grieved. What was simple (or at least had seemed simple) now had gotten more complicated. I was no longer enough for them. I needed to be amplified. From now on, the question would always be, in some way or another, "Can you hear me?"
I wonder what churches did before amplifiers and sound systems. Did preachers just have better voices, or were ears trained to listen differently? The technologies we use to help people hear us keep getting more and more sophisticated. At the same time, I yearn to know that I am enough.
It's just me and the Holy Spirit, standing in front of that small congregation with its beautiful oak pulpit and altar. It's just me and the Holy Spirit, saying, "You are enough. God can hear you, unadorned and beautiful."