We have been assigned to attend the Oneida Branch while we are on our mission. The third week we were there, the Relief Society President prepared the room, then announced, "If any of you play the piano, we would like to have you play." So I stumbled through "The Spirit of God" and "I am a Child of God." After Relief Society, the Branch Music Director, Sister Sweeten, approached me and said, "Now that I know you play, I would like to ask a favor. I have to be out of town next week, would you like to direct the music or play the organ in Sacrament meeting?" Well, I knew there was no one else who could play the organ in the Branch, and I had never tried to lead the singing to the accompaniment of a CD, I decided to play the organ. The following week she asked if I would play for Sacrament for the duration of our mission.
A few days before the Riedelbach's left, Sister Roll, who is the Primary President, came into the office to say good-bye to them. Then she asked me if I would teach the Primary class--there is only one class and all the children attend it regardless of their age--that Sister Riedelbach had been teaching. I was a little taken aback (I had never received a calling from an auxiliary president before) and told her I would be happy to substitute until someone was called.
A couple of weeks later, President Colbert (the Branch President) interviewed both Bill and I. He asked Bill to serve as the Assistant Branch Clerk, explaining that the current Branch Clerk actually lives in Herkimer, but had accepted the Oneida Branch Clerk calling since it was short on Priesthood. Then he asked if Sister Sweeten and Sister Roll had talked to me about playing and teaching and asked if I would accept those callings. So we've been busy ever since.
I try to spend 40-60 minutes, 5 days a week, practicing the organ in the Utica Stake Center where our office is located. Then we arrive at the Oneida Chapel an hour before church so Bill can prepare the weekly program, so I get another 40 minutes in before church starts. The he has to count tithing and other things for an hour or two after church, so I get more practice time and sometime a bit of a nap, too. I am getting better, but there are still some unintended sour notes that creep in in spite of the practice. Maybe by the time we leave...
In addition to his clerk duties, Bill has taught the Gospel Doctrine class, and the combined Relief Society/Priesthood meeting last week.
A month ago we got word that the Rolls were moving, that Chris (the husband) had been offered a job in California and he was leaving in two weeks. The rest of the family would stay here, get their house ready to sell, then move after December 9, which is the kids last day of school. The Rolls have a 25 year old son who is profoundly autistic and they are unable to leave him alone for longer than an hour, so they attend church in shifts. Chris comes to Sacrament, bringing Casey (14) and John (12) with him. Then he goes back home and Sherry comes and presents Sharing Time and Music Time in Primary. With Chris gone, she is unable to attend church, so she asked me to do Sharing Time and Music, and Sister Ransom to teach the class. So now I am acting Primary President until President Colbert calls someone to take that calling. Whether that will be me, only time will tell.
Last Sunday was especially exhausting. There were seven children in attendance! Now, I have taught Primary classes much bigger than that and have not had a hard time. But this one was tough. The children ranged in ages 5-11 and ability from very bright to autistic with ADHD, and family background from very active families to families struggling to become active. Three of the children come almost every Sunday. The Branch President's son Cameron who is five, the Young Women's President's daughter Lexie who is 7, and Trinity who turned 8 last week and was baptized Saturday are the most active. Then Christopher (9) and Kaylee (6) Blake come about half the time. They come from a large family that struggles both financially and spiritually. They are very needy, always asking for anything they see. And Keagan (11) and Reiley (9) Ammer were there for the first time since we arrived. I don't know much about them, except that Keagan is autistic and Keilley is quite bright and feels responsible for Keagan. Hmmm. After Primary was over, I retreated to the car and took a nap before I practiced.
It was a tough day for Bill, too. They weren't able to count tithing last week because Church headquarters was having technical problems. So they had twice as much to do this week. And they are still on a dial-up connection, so that makes it slow. And the computer they are using is as old as the hills, and that slows them down even more. The frustrating part is that the high speed connection is installed and a new computer is sitting on the desk, but the Stake Technology Specialist hasn't had time to install the firewall, so they continue to plug along at ultra-slow speed.
But in spite of the frustrations, we are enjoying being part of this tiny branch. We are slowing getting to know the members and are beginning to feel part of them.