At Zion Church, along the wooden reredos behind the pulpit chair are four ivory push buttons. They are aligned so that the pastor can reach down and press them when wanting something to be done. Probably most people do not pay close enough attention to notice them. When I was pastor there, during worship, when I wanted something to be done, I toyed with the idea of pushing them just to see what might happen. Maybe a bell or a buzzer or a small shock for someone who just fell asleep?
Maybe someone from Zion who is still alive might remember when these buttons were still being used and what they were used for. I inquired of two other former pastors but they didn’t know what those buttons did either. Sometime they fell into disuse. Today I do not know what legions of helpers or angels might be called if Pastor Brice pressed those buttons when in need
I have stolen into the sanctuary when no one was around, and pressed them, one at a time, and two or three together, but nothing happened that I could see. But no worship service was happening at the time. Could they have been disconnected, I wonder? Perhaps they fell into disuse when the first pagers and later cell phones became available. Perhaps pastors or worship leaders pressed them and nothing happened. That would indeed be discouraging if they were truly in need.
What could occur in worship that would require such emergency intervention, you ask? When Jeanne Tyler, former pastor at Keokuk, was preaching several years ago, she evoked the image of dancing the tango with God. If suddenly many of our worshipers started to dance the tango, we might not be able to handle it. I would have wanted some help. The tango, as an image of holy covenant, is indeed “too close for comfort.” I would have known that I had entirely lost control and everything was up for grabs. Buttons to the rescue!
There are lesser catastrophic expectations that might summon our desire to press for help. I lost count of the times when I realized that everything that I had prepared for a Sunday service had missed the mark. Rather than make fumbling efforts to change and adapt as I went, it would be wonderful if I could just press the button. When all of the other events of worship had reduced the time that I used to hope I could preach something that I was convinced was needed, the button might have gotten someone else to stop talking and let me have the floor or the pulpit. It could tell the ushers to stand with the offering plates at the door instead of passing them down the pews. It could tell Janice to play a hymn four times faster than normal. It could bring the Holy Spirit in the nick of time.
Or are those buttons just among the many things that worked for a while and then were abandoned? Things that were tried instead of prayer and preparation? Things like we still try, “to make worship more meaningful?” So we won’t be able to let our fingers do the walking? Maybe we’ll just have to pray after all? Guess so.