Cleanliness Really is Next to Godliness

The lavalier microphone was invented in the late 1950s and first used nationally during television broadcasts of the 1960 Republican and Democratic conventions.

The device was named after a particular pendant worn by the Duchess de la Valierre, a mistress of Louis XIV, because it is most often clipped at the neckline.

My dad was a preacher for most of my life, from 1970 until he retired somewhere around 2002. The church purchased its first lavalier mic in the 1980s, thus freeing the pastoral staff to roam the stage while speaking. Dad loved it. The ability to forget about speaking directly into the microphone and the freedom from being confined to a two-foot square during a forty-five minute sermon seemed to add a new vigor to his sermons.

It also gave a certain music teacher at the Christian school the freedom to strut down the aisle dressed in a red, white, and blue sequined and starred vest singing Neil Diamond’s “We’re Coming to America” while backed up by sixty elementary-school children.

But with great freedom comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, the lavalier was so tiny one might occasionally forget it was attached and that it was turned on.

During a four-year-old-kindergarten graduation program a few years ago, as the children were filing in and filling up the stage, the young emcee, wearing a dark suit and a lavalier mic, leaned over to the boy next to him and, not knowing he was “on,” whispered, “This is BULLSHIT!”

Needless to say, Dad was completely aware of the dangers of having the equivalent of three megaphones four inches from his face. For nearly twenty years, he successfully avoided doing what we once saw depicted in a church cartoon. A pastor leans over to his associate pastor following a lovely operatic version of “O Holy Night” and whispers, “The fat lady has sung. Can we just go home?”

But early one Sunday  late in his career, as the choir and orchestra were rehearsing for the morning performances, the unthinkable happened. Over the speakers came a tinkling sound followed by the unmistakable “whoosh” of a flushing toilet. He emerged from the restroom to hear uproarious laughter coming from the auditorium, and he immediately realized he was “on.”

Thankfully, he had remembered to wash his hands.

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