Have you ever heard the term “circuit rider?” It referred to clergy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the United States who traveled from church to church to organize congregations. It was especially prevalent in places where there was a dearth of ministers, and so it was common to have ministers serve more than one church at a time. And because of the distance between churches, many of the ministers rode horseback, where they were known as “circuit riders” or “saddleback preachers.”
Even Johann Sebastian Bach served more than one parish — people know about St. Thomas (Thomaskirche) and St. Nicholas (Nicolaikirche) in Leipzig, of course, but he also served two other churches: the New Church (destroyed in World War II), and St. Peter’s Church. The services differed in times so Bach was able to go from church to church. We have been to Leipzig numerous times, and the distance between St. Thomas and St. Nicholas is only a very short walk.
With that in mind, I am beginning to think that I am a “circuit rider organist” or at the least, a traveling organist. Apparently, there is a great shortage of competent substitute organists in Honolulu — as well as in other Hawaiian islands. If ever I had the idea that I would be spending my Sunday mornings sleeping in, that notion soon dissipated. Since mid-August I have been the “interim organist” at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and tomorrow will be my last Sunday. I decided that I would play the music of Bach for the prelude, communion and postlude.
But my November schedule has quickly filled up — On November 9th, 23rd and 30th, I will be at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, my first church job in Hawaii when I arrived in 1973 until 1976. And on November 16th, I will be filling in for John Renke at St. Andrew’s Cathedral and on November 18th for chapel at the St. Andrew’s Schools (Priory).
The following Sunday I will be in Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii, to play the annual Christmas performance of Handel’s Messiah and the Schubert Mass in G by the Kona Music Society. And soon after, I’ll be spending ten days in California with my family for the Christmas holidays.
Have (organ) shoes, will travel! And who knows, I may be coming to a church near you!