The Hymnboarder

When a man has been in charge of changing the song numbers on the hymn board for 43 years, how do you tell him he’s no longer fit for the job? Numbers get transposed, so when the congregation sang “Valley of the Shadow of Death” following a sermon about walking in the light, no one said a thing. And they overlooked “Fill me with God’s Light” at Graham Miller’s funeral, even though it wasn’t the best song for someone killed in a lightning strike. But after the invitation song on the last night of the gospel meeting, everyone knew Hank Bowser had to go. It’s a fine song and may inspire you to vote, but I doubt “God Bless America” ever saved a soul.

Late to the hymn board game, Hank posted his first hymn at age 37, when most hymnboarders are seasoned veterans. In his prime, he was fun to watch. Folks would come to services early to see him post the numbers, as if it were batting practice. You see, he didn’t slide the three-digit numbers from one side like most hymnboarders. Hank had style. He’d bend the middle number and pop it in from the front. Then, with a number in each hand, he’d slide one from each side and they’d meet in the middle.

Hank Bowser, probably the best hymnboarder ever, and now the board needs dusted and fingerprints cover the numbers. I don’t attend the Church of the Lost Sheep but Wilson Hahn said half the numbers were upside down this past Sunday. Joe Ballard, the song leader, told the congregation to ignore the board. He had no choice. Folks said there were tears in Hank’s eyes as he left at the end of the sermon.

Dignity should increase as we age, and it does for a while, but it usually fades long before we do. Some people say dignity is nothing but pride in a higher income bracket. I don’t think so. Do you feel pride when you make it to the bathroom on time? I don’t. We spend our formative years reaping praise for each milestone—potty training, tying our shoes, driving, living on our own—and then, if we take care of body and soul, we might live long enough for someone to take away our car keys. It keeps a body humble, doesn’t it?

The Church of the Lost Sheep will hold a reception for Hank this Saturday evening and your presence is welcome. Miss Ada Sanderling has donated a new hymn board to the congregation and Minister Westminster will present Hank with the same one he so faithfully attended for 43 years. I talked to Hank at the Nightshade Diner yesterday afternoon and I think he’ll be okay. He said it was rough at first, seeing numbers posted by someone else, but it might be nice to sit in a pew and let the songs come to him for once. Hank Bowser, probably the best hymnboarder ever.

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