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Saturday, August 24, 2019
The Invisible Man at the Podium: Ode to the Taped Sermon
One of the oddest, and most awkward part of growing up in the Worldwide Church of God was the experience of the Taped Sermon. Every one of us remembers the experience.
We would all sit there - in dressed up suits and ties and dresses, mind you - briefcases on knees - staring up at an empty lectern, a waiting microphone, while an invisible voice boomed - oftentimes unintelligible - from the speakers in the hall. As a child, this was very confusing. What is it exactly that we were looking at? No one was there. Yet, there we stared. In retrospect, I think a good many of us were trying to simply interpret what in the world was being said!
Of course, because of the technology at the time, at some point, we'd get a break - often mid-word - for the sound guy to flip the tape over to side B. Oh good - we were halfway through! Commence re-staring at the empty podium and microphone.
It was at this point in which I'd start to get genuinely antsy and bored. I would begin either: Staring at lights, or crossing my eyes to make two podiums. Or, I'd look around wondering how long people would stare at that empty lectern like someone was actually there.
There was a time I remember very clearly when the Taped Sermon was absolutely unintelligible. A combination of horrible acoustics in the ramshackle meeting place and horrible tape quality combined to make a drive-thru speaker seem like high-quality sound. Eventually, the pastor decided to cut the tape halfway and I believe pulled a sermonette out of somewhere and just gave that.
I always hated it when I saw "taped sermon" in the Schedule of Services in the bulletin. It just seemed weird and strange. Nowhere else, anywhere else, did we ever sit and listen to an audio presentation over tape like we did at Church. Even in school, it was video (even reel-to-reel projector in my elementary years!) Music class was audio - but we actually sang along with that. Secretly, I had always hoped that the tape would mess up. I had hoped we'd hear the Pastor speaking on Chipmunk Speed, or that the tape would break. I don't think I could have refrained from laughing if I had heard the Pastor on chipmunk speed, but it would have been a break from the sheer monotony.
The Taped Sermon always seemed to be something absolutely uninteresting - usually a change in policy, or a new mandate, or some type of correction. Why did I have to listen to it all then anyway? After it got "played", it could be checked out from the Tape Library to be listened in the home anyway. It's not like I could understand what was being said anyway!
In what universe besides our Church did one go to Church to stare at an empty podium listening to a Cassette Tape, acting as if someone was really there? The only thing that ever rivaled that in strange weirdness was taped special music. Yes, that happened too, if I remember correctly.
It would have been a memorable Church Day if someone had slipped the Taped Sermon out for a tape of Metal Rock. I honestly don't think the hearts of many could have taken that kind of shock!
Perhaps if the audio was understandable, the sermon was at a decent length, the message wouldn't be completely interrupted at an awkward time to flip the tape, and we didn't have to sit and stare at an empty podium dressed formally it would have been a little better.
But it would not have made it any less weird.
submitted by SHT