The first 90 minutes of each Sunday morning is spent dividing my time between two sanctuaries--as if I am serving two churches simultaneously. That situation is alleviated at 9am, when the Fusion service begins. However, it is also about the time that the 8am service ends. And sometimes, there is a little anxiety about this.
It's not that I check my watch all the time--but I'll tell you this. Long ago I established a benchmark for the beginning of the sermon: if it begins at 8:24, we're right on time. After that, I get a little nervous. I might have to bag the offertory, pick up the tempo on the closing hymn, or outright ask anybody available if they can play a postlude (usually there is no one to ask; occasionally I have a back-up nearby) depending on the estimated time of the end of the service--and I am a pretty accurate guesser. I will have already timed the sermon on Saturday night at the 5:15 service so I know just how much time I have to get back across the hall while finishing up practice with the band. And I know how long the offertory will take to play and can estimate the doxology, closing hymn, and since I improvise the postlude, make it as short as necessary. That's one way improvisation really helps. Once, when we had a guest speaker who continued to talk until 8:59, I bagged the offertory and improvised that until the exact moment I saw the ushers finished taking the offertory; then went directly to the doxology. Sometimes I'll text Doug in the other service and tell him that the sermon just ended and suggest he hold the countdown a couple of minutes if possible.
And there is a countdown clock. As soon as the postlude ends, I jog across the hall, and as I round the corner into the Worship and Life Center I can see it flashing--10...9...8... with the other musicians on stage. I can't tell you how many times this has happened. And yet it is very rare that I miss the downbeat of the first song. It's happened before, but not often. And usually the band can go on without me if they have to. If it looks like I have a chance of being late I request that the first song not be one of the songs where the piano plays by itself for the first minute before the rest of the band joins in!
Once I'm in Fusion, however, things get a bit easier. We usually do around six praise songs, one or two of which I may not have rehearsed that week at all, but will have played before; I'm comfortable with that level of unpreparedness, which is one of the reasons I do well in a church! If it sounds like I practiced, than it worked. That's my rule. And that's how I manage to stay overbooked and perfectly sane all the time.
Most folks don't arrive for the Fusion service until about 9:10, so some weeks you can really watch the place fill up after what initially looked like a really depressingly low turnout. Most of the music is at the beginning. I've learned to sneak out during the sermon for my Sunday morning doughnut, which I used to snag on my way to choir practice after the Fusion service but have found to be more relaxing (also the sugar kicks in when I need it to) this way. I can also talk to the choir director if I need to. Then I head back into the Worship and Life Center, and listen to the rest of the sermon. They have a copy in the booth in the back and we are always warned when Brad's on the last page. Then Doug and I make our way to the light box near the stage, and as soon as Brad says "amen" we are back to work.
When the service ends we all hold hands for the benediction (or "hover in their vicinity" if we are not comfortable with the hand holding) and I'm off to the third service of the morning. If the service has run a bit late I'd better move. It's usually only a few minutes past ten, unless we had communion, in which case we've probably had to stretch the communion piece while the side of the church with the most attenders keeps coming to the front long after the other station is finished. Nothing says lopsided like our communion services! By 10:05 I am back in the sanctuary, and ready for choir practice.
(I'll conclude my exciting Sunday morning exploits next week)