Fortunately for Hope Wideman, it only takes five minutes to travel between Darlington United Methodist Church and Hosanna African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Even so, the Rev. David Zoller, pastor at Darlington United Methodist Church where Wideman is the Sunday organist,said he tries to keep a close check on the length of his 9:45 a.m. service.
That's so Wideman can -- from her seat at the organ at DarlingtonMethodist in time to be seated at her piano, ready to play for the 11 a.m. service at nearby Hosanna Episcopal.
Darlington Methodist is located on Shuresville Road, about 1 miles from Hosanna on Castleton Road.
"Since Hosanna had her first, we don't want to make her late," Zoller explained.
Wideman, 25, lives in Bel Air. Each Sundaysince December the Orangeburg, S.C., native has made the drive up tothe northern end of the county to participate in the services at both churches. She started playing at Hosanna's services and for rehearsals for the church's three choirs last April.
"I like playing for services because music compliments a service," said Wideman. "There'sa message in the music. It's not work if it's something you enjoy."
She started piano lessons at age 9, and by age 14, she was playingfor services at her church in Orangeburg. Her church began paying her to play at services when she was 16.
Since then, Wideman has used her talent at several other churches. In 1983, for example, she wasthe organist or pianist for three churches at the same time.
After graduating from South Carolina State University in 1987 with a degree in math, Wideman came north for work. She lived for a brief periodin Washington, D.C., where she played at Forest Chapel United Methodist, then moved to Bel Air about a year ago. She now works as an operations research analyst at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
After she moved to Bel Air, Wideman began helping her friend Deidre Minor at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Havre de Grace with the children's choir. But it had been some time since she had played for regular church services.
"Deidre's grandfather goes to Hosanna, and after the new minister came, her grandfather asked if I would like to meet the minister. So I went to the service," said Wideman, "and Rev. (John E.) Brown put me on the spot and asked if I would play for the service. Fortunately, I sight-read music well."
Brown said Wideman "came by divine appointment." He said he didn't really mean to put her on the spot that Sunday.
"But we were in need," he recalled.
"Our previous musician was the former minister's wife. Miss Wideman was a blessing. She's got that quiet spirit, but she gets things done. She fit right in. You should see how well she works with the young children."
Whenthe service was over, Brown asked Wideman to return the following Sunday.
"Since I had been away from playing for so long, it did surprise me," said Wideman, laughing at the recollection. "This church just came out of the blue. I didn't even know anybody except Deidre's grandfather."
Then last summer, when Darlington Methodist's musician decided she'd like to take a break from her routine, Zoller called Brown to see if Darlington Methodist could borrow Wideman as a substitute.
"Small churches face these changes periodically and we had been advertising for an organist and pianist and hadn't gotten much inthe way of results," Zoller said. "So I called Rev. Brown and asked if we could borrow their pianist. He said 'fine.' "
The second Sunday Wideman played at Darlington Methodist, Zoller knew he'd found just the right person to fill the vacancy at the church.
When Wideman said she'd be interested in continuing as Darlington's organist, provided she didn't have to give up her job at Hosanna, Zoller and Brown quickly reached an agreement. Since then, the two churches have also shared fellowship.
"There have always been ties between these two churches. This just brings the congregations closer," said Zoller. "We're learning more about each other as we work together."