Bring out yer dead!
For some reason I had this phrase running through my mind today. It is a phrase that, I believe, was used during the great plague in England by those who went around the streets picking up dead bodies.
Then, for an equally inexplicable reason, I got to thinking about the corps where I grew up as a young–then senior–soldier. As was the custom in Army halls during those days, there were two large photographs on the walls at either side of the platform. One was of William Booth, the other of Catherine.
It was probably because of my, then, tender years that I always got the impression that the Founder looked extremely bored at what was going on in the hall. Catherine, I remember, looked like the typical demure Victorian lady.
I never remember anyone ever referring to those photographs from the platform. Not even on the anniversary of their birthdays, or wedding. I guess, however, that they were there to remind us of something, but what that something was we were never told.
Many were the times I’d look at those pictures–so prominently placed–and wonder what a non-Army visitor would make of them. I read somewhere, once, that you can tell a great deal about what is important to a church by identifying what the major focal point of that church was…by what immediately drew the eyes. In some churches it would be the ornate elevated preaching place. In others, the altar. In yet others, the organ pipes (the organ console was invariably some place other than the pipes, whether because of the fear of causing the player to become deaf, or whether to give him a bird’s eye view, or whatever). That console always had a little “driving” mirror (I guess “playing mirror” would be a more appropriate term) so that the organist could see what was going on behind him.
(There was a famous musician/cartoonist called Hoffnung in those days who–in one cartoon pictured an organist at his console, going full blast. In the “playing mirror” you could see the picture of a speed-cop behind him!)
Interestingly, the choir was rarely in a prominent place. They’d be behind the preacher on two sides, in rows parallel to the congregation so that they could hardly be seen–an interesting contrast with comments of a group of elderly Afro-American women in a focus group we once conducted. They were shown several pictures of various Salvation Army halls and were mystified to know where on earth the choir sat. They were small halls with small platforms.
What is the first thing to catch the visitor’s eye when he/she enters your hall? What does that tell you about what is considered to be important?
They say, too, that a visitor can tell much about an organization by the pictures on the wall at its corporate headquarters. If of the past, they tend to suggest a backward focus (often tinged with a great deal of nostalgia). If of the now, or of future developments, they suggest a forward-looking organization. What is it they say, “Every picture tells a story!”
Some say you can learn as much from looking at the magnets on someone’s refrigerator. That is true for my household and, perhaps we’ll explore that in a future column.
But, why the obsession with looking back? Is it because the wonderful warmth of rose-tinted glasses tasks our minds of the challenge of today, perhaps? Is it an interest in the ways things used to be dress, accouterments? Is it because it reminds some of us of our lost youth?
Maybe it is because we want to honor the memory of our predecessors. That is certainly a noble cause, but not if it takes our eyes off the present challenge that they met so well in their day. Celebrate the past, by all means, but live the day.
CARPE DIEM! Seize the day! (Have you realized that, if you rearrange the letters you get EPIC DREAM!!) Seize the day with an epic dream! Now we’re talking. But, above all…
Bring out yer dead!