Once a month our Hazzan, who is paid per diem, opts to stay home for the weekend, leaving us to assemble volunteers for Torah reading and davening, which we are usually able to do. Being one of the more experienced readers, I will usually take a mid-sized section, usually one I've not done before to help maintain my skills, and spend a few weeks preparing it. A crew of 5-7 readers will accomplish the weekly reading, usually done well by all participants. Since it takes a few weeks notice to pull this off, we are still very much dependent on a paid reader who can prepare an entire parsha in one week, something none of us the congregational members can do adequately but we have by far the most capable bimah bench of amateurs in the state.
This week the scheduled Haftarah reader failed to appear. He had left a message with the synagogue office the day before that a family emergency required him to be elsewhere but the message was received after the office had closed on Friday so no contingency plans could be made. As the Torah reading proceeded, there was still no reader for the Haftarah so I went over to the Gabbai and volunteered. Over the past thirty years, I've done most of the Haftarot at one time or another so I can usually get by on short notice, with a little off-form Hebrew, though I am familiar with most of the vocabulary and phrasing that commonly appears. And so it went. The portion of Yechezkeil got chanted capably on about fifteen minutes notice. Experienced listeners could probably pick up a few variations in the cadence when I came to long or unfamiliar words, but generally it fit in the mainstream of what those who attend our shul on shabbos morning would expect.
As our congregation's membership swoon proceeds at a fairly steady pace, discussion among the baalebatim on managing this have supplanted Bingo as the focus of the congregational governance. The destiny can take a number of forms from extinction to merger to revival. But what I witnessed this past month are features that make us unique, from AKSE Academy which contained classes with subjects and expertise that no place else can duplicate, to a shabbos morning service that proceeded under difficult circumstances with only minimal input from paid clergy. Other places have their unique features as well, no doubt, but they do not duplicate ours and should not replace ours.