Christmas Eve 1990. I came this close to being physically thrown out of church.
We were new to town and we heard that a certain church in town had a fantastic Christmas Eve service. So, we went with some friends, about ten of us total, to this church in downtown Princeton, New Jersey. The church was packed and we were looking forward to a wonderful night.
Our first clue that something was a little off was when the usher gave us the night’s bulletin and warned us that there would be absolutely no talking before, during or after the service.
Huh, we thought.
We were chided several times by an usher to quit whispering, and this was before the service started.
Just before the service started, an associate pastor came out and requested that those in the congregation please refrain from singing, for the paid professional choir found it difficult to perform with unprofessional singing.
I am not making this up.
Well, the service started with the hymn "O Come All Ye Faithful". Who can resist singing "O Come All Ye Faithful"? The now familiar usher appeared and hushed our unprofessional row right up. He was quite menacing.
The second hymn was "Hark The Herald Angels Sing". I have to admit, the choir was quite good, but unlike the rest of the congregation our row couldn’t resist singing and we jumped in on the second verse. Immediately our usher was upon us, this time giving us our final warning. "One more time, and you are out", he quietly scolded us.
It was miserable. This usher would stroll by our pew every few minutes and give us a piercing glare. Christmas hymn, after Christmas hymn, and we couldn’t sing a word. We were like prisoners in our pew. Did we really sing that poorly? Finally, the service was ending, our candles were lit and the hymn "Silent Night" was just beginning. Well, I ask you, who can resist singing "Silent Night" on Christmas Eve? It is irresistible.
Soon a heavy hand fell upon my shoulder, "You have to leave, son, you're singing again." It was our ever vigilant usher. I didn't move. Again, I heard, "You have to leave, son, you're singing again." At this point we were on the last verse of "Silent Night" and in unified Christmas Eve defiance, our whole row started to sing. We sang the hymn with ever increasing gusto. Would the usher make a scene? Would we be physically dragged out of church for our clearly unprofessional singing? Would we be banned from Christmas Eve Service forever?
Perhaps it dawned on the usher that this was Christmas Eve. Perhaps the usher's bark was worse than his bite, or perhaps the joy of Christmas came upon the usher that at that very moment, I'll never know – but our usher relented and returned to his post.
We finished the hymn, extinguished our candles, and headed for the door, where we were met by the usher who had pestered us all evening, he shook our hands and exclaimed, "Merry Christmas, please join us for Sunday Service this next week."
We went to the church across the street the next Sunday.
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