For $20 bucks a month, I pounded the keys on an old upright every Sunday at Pine Grove Methodist, an open one-room church, just outside of Hammondsville, Ohio. My best friend's step father had been hired as a preacher and they tapped me to play the piano.
I wasn't so stellar at the start. At first, I played Amazing Grace pretty much every Sunday. A few weeks into it, I started working with my piano teacher to learn new hymns. The best part of it was I got to plant he music.
I learned to love all the old ones, Rock of Ages, In the Garden and Just As I Am. And even though I knew the two-dozen or so regular church goers were sick of Amazing Grace, I tried to work it into the service every Sunday. After a few months, they didn't even need to open their hymnals on that one anymore. It was my favorite.
I didn't much care for the sermons, they were mostly fire and brimstone, nightmare-enducing, you'll-be-left-alone-if-you-don't-get-born-again-type things. But I loved the people.
There were salt-of-the-earth, as my mom would say. Every Sunday, during joys and concerns they would stand up and talk about their neighbors, about their gardens, about who was sick and who wasn't. One woman. who taught Sunday School in one corner of the room, stood and apologized for being so snippy lately but she was going through "change of life" and she just had all these emotions. When the weather turned and we learned the church didn't have heat, we would all huddle together under handmade quilts the women brought.
It lasted for little more than a year, if memory serves. As was his habit, my friend's stepfather quit and moved onto something else. So ended my piano playing duties.
Though I complained about having to get up early every Sunday, I missed my Sunday ritual once it was gone. Sometimes when I am alone in my car, especially on Sundays, I catch myself humming those hymns.