One of things I find to be true in this life is evangelical churches have it all over us mainline folks when it comes to sound systems. I’ve been in several on both sides of the aisle and my observation remains spot on. I don’t have an explanation for this phenomenon, nor do I intend to attempt to assign blame. I do wonder sometimes if of the mainline folks have just never heard the difference a great sound system makes and so they think what they have is good.

    I notice it because I respond to sound. I’m moved by music. I would almost rather listen to a Red Sox game on the radio than watch it on television. When I go to the movie, I look for the theater with the Monster Extra Dolby Sound, even if it isn’t the biggest screen. I like to feel the bass line resonate in my chest cavity, to hear the clues before anyone sees them, to swim in the ocean of tight bluegrass harmonies.

    I like to hear and it’s getting harder for me to do.

    So when I get to church and I can’t hear, I end up complaining about the sound system. (I refer you back to paragraph one.) I want someone to do something about it; I want them to fix it where it works for me. About a month ago, in my frustration, I picked up one of the hearing aids we have available at the back of the sanctuary – a churchpod, as I like to call it – and used it for the service. I heard every word.

    And I had to sit in church wearing a hearing aid.

    About halfway through the service, I realized I was being discreet. I took it off during the hymns and the passing of the Peace. I was doing my best to not look like I was wearing it, even though I was not aware of my attempt to hide the little gray box. As I drove home from church, I tried to listen to myself to see if I could figure out what was wrapped up for me in wearing the churchpod. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, even as I pick up the little receiver each Sunday morning.

    As far as sound systems go, the issue appears to be mine more than the congregation’s at large, because I don’t hear anyone else talking about it. We have a good audio committee that works hard and I don’t have the time or energy – or knowledge – to get on the committee to try and do the leg work to see if we could install a more effective system. If I’m not going to put in the time and effort to help change it, I need to quit complaining. “I’ve got a great idea of a couple of things you need to do” is never a helpful statement on any number of levels.

    The emotion behind the whole issue for me has much less to do with sound systems or churchpods than it does with my own anxiety or even fear. I’m scared to come to terms with the fact that I am losing my hearing, even if it is incrementally. As both my ears and eyes change, I have to stare down my own fear of the claustrophobia that I think would come with being unable to read and listen. Books and music are two things that feed me deeply. What would I do if I lost them? I can rationally understand my question is reaching for an unnecessary extreme at this point, but that’s where the fear lives.

    My other realization is not any easier to take: my limits are drawing closer; I need help. The truth in that sentence runs deeper and more profoundly than my embarrassment at wearing the churchpod. The earphone is the tip of the iceberg. I can hear I need help, even without the churchpod, and it’s hard to take.

    In Earthly Good: Reflections of Life and God, Martha Sterne writes:

    Because it is hard to see God, find God, know God, love God, when we get busy posing like the strongest, richest, happiest people who ever walked. Because it’s just terribly hard to connect with God when we don’t need God, it’s just a terrible curse to suffer from the awful soul-killing delusion of self-sufficiency.

    All of us know the word “woe” from the inside. The woes are part of the truth of what it means to be human. Yen and yang, blessing and curse, heartbreak and heart open, life and death. We know that. And yet and still we people with much riches, much laughter, much power, we say “cheese” so well. We, more that poor people, can delude ourselves. So, for Christ’s sake, remember that self-sufficiency is not the truth of us, lest we forget our need for the One who made us and gives us every breath.

    In her sermon Sunday, Ginger talked about the different self-sufficiencies in the tax collector, the synagogue official, and the woman with “the issue of blood,” as I’ve always remembered it from my King James days. Matthew chose a profession that alienated him, Jairus was used to power and position, the woman had to be on her own because no one would include her. Jesus called Matthew to follow, Jairus was brought to his knees by his daughter’s death, and the woman grabbed Jesus’ robe in an act of ultimate desperation. They each found healing because they let go of the myth of their self-sufficiency.

    Even though evangelical churches will probably always have better sound systems, the truth is I can hear in our sanctuary when I use the churchpod. They keep them in the back for people – like me – who can’t hear in the sanctuary without help.

    That’s me. I need help. Even when I hide it under the hymnal.


    P. S. — There are new recipes here and here.


    1. Great post. On so many levels. I notice that the evangelical children’s material is often more attractive and engaging than the developmentally correct, theologically sound stuff. The self-sufficiency message is one I need to hear – Thanks. off to teh recipes …

    2. My father-in-law struggles with hearing loss, and his anger, resentment, and unwillingness to seek out, accept and use the tools that can help continue to cause stress for the entire family. It is not a weakness to face this head on: it is a great strength, and a gift to yourself and those who love you.

    3. You always make me think, brother Milton.

      Our sanctuary is great for singers (lots of stone, very resonant) and lousy for speakers (lots of stone, very resonant).

      We have yet to find a really good solution; I’m unwilling to make it carpet/pew pads to soak up sound (and sacrifice an acoustic so terrific that many local groups concertize here).

      BUT we don’t have a great sound system. We’ve just put a bunch of money into it, and it’s better than it was, but it’s hard to get every single person who uses it (most of whom are nervous) to speak slowly and clearly. And so we DO have trouble with speech.

      I get what you’re saying about the Churchpod. But brother, we ALL need help with SOMETHING.

      I sometimes wonder, now that I’m a middle-aged person, if the biggest task of the second half of my life will be graciousness in the face of my own increasingly-evident brokenness. God’s been in that space with me thus far…but it’s daunting to think about the number of new opportunities I’ll likely offer for God to meet me there! 😉

      Peace to you–

    4. We have these same sort of churchpods at our church but it can be difficult for those with hearing differences to use them.

      When posed the question hypothetically, which would you rather lose – hearing or sight – I fear losing hearing because of my love for music. I feel I could remember or recall the beauty of a rainbow in my mind, but to not hear words or music again would seemingly hurt my soul. All to say, I understand your point of view.

    5. The previous comment was meant to be a play on the words “seeing” and “hearing,” and instead it came off as a bit sarcastic. Ah, the fine nuances of communicating electronically, sans inflection and eyebrow lifts!

    6. It is indeed easier to find God when we lose our facade of self-sufficiency! That is part of the reason that I say church teaches me who God is, and a 12-step group that I attend teaches me how to connect with God! Although, now that I’m aware of the spirituality concept, I’m finding much more in my minister’s weekly sermons. Maybe it was just ME who didn’t have “ears to hear” before I gave up my idea of self-sufficiency? Could very well be. I may need to change what I say!

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