I started singing in the church choir when I was in middle school, in the late '70s. You remember the days of church choirs? We had irridescent, peacock blue choir robes that covered us from head to knee (which isn't such a bad thing when you see what some "worship team" members come up with), and funny reversible collars (yellow or white) around our necks.
We'd file in, to the front of the church. Sometimes we'd sing some kind of brief call to worship at the beginning and sometimes not, but we'd sit in pews up on the platform, off to the side of the pulpit, until we sang our "anthem". Because when you sing it, it's a song, but when the choir sings it, it's an anthem... why??? And then we'd go down to our seats. Unless it was Easter, or Christmas and the church was packed with visitors.
And of course, sitting up there in front of the church, we had to behave ourselves. I mean, everybody could see us.
There was one little problem. The sweet old lady who sat next to me. She was probably just about exactly what you're imagining - permed hair (probably dyed, but I'd never have asked), a modest dress, sensible shoes, thick glasses, thick ankles, and a big smile. I always liked her. So what's the problem?
This dear woman - let's call her Pearl - had a very active gastrointestinal system. A very noisy system, that took on a life of its own every Sunday morning. And Pearl, I can only assume, had some degree of age-related hearing loss. In short, she made all manner of interesting and unusual noises which she herself appeared not to be able to hear.
But I could.
Long before the choir sang, Pearl's gut was warming up. It would start out quietly with a few modest gurgles as the pastor opened in prayer. Then, as he gave the announcements, it would grow to a rolling, echo-y rumble. I would sit, trying to keep a poker face, wondering to myself if it were possible that no one else could hear it? Perhaps the people in the first or second pew? Certainly the other choir members? But nobody gave any indication. I had to soldier on, stoically. Alone.
I'd sneak a glance to my left. Pearl sat gazing over the congregation, with the same placid smile on her face as always. If she couldn't hear herself, couldn't she feel anything? I mean, the pew was practically shaking! Well, maybe that was me, trying valiantly to hold in the laughter.
And then - the grand finale, her digestive tract had been building up to. I've never heard anything like it, outside of cartoon sound effects. And how can I describe it?
While all was quiet, and the pastor was praying...
Pearl went off like a spring. A very, very loud spring.
Bo-yo-yo-yo-yoing! Bo-yo-yo-yo-yoing! Bo-yo-yo-yo-yoing!
Nearly every Sunday, Pearl's intestines cut loose with a gaseous, internal Hallelujah Chorus.
And all God's people said... Amen.