Aregood, Il - They don't have rhythm. They don't have music. Could they ask for anything more? "Absolutely" says Mark Heistberger, speaking on behalf of the National Association of Rhythmically and Tonally Challenged Charismatics (NARTCC), a newly formed organization to help charismatics who struggle to sing on pitch or keep a steady beat during a song. Heistberger grew up in the Assemblies of God denomination, one of the nation's largest charismatic groups. But Heistberger always knew that he was a little "different" from the rest of his family and his church.
"I just never seemed to fit in" stated Heistberger. "I even remember when I was three years old being in the children's Christmas musical. The director told me 'Marky, just mouth the words, don't sing, you're throwing everyone off.' All throughout my time growing up at the church I could just never get it right. My pitch was always off, my claps were always off, my swaying was always off. I suffered through a lot of strange looks and dirty glares from people."
Over the years Heistberger discovered that he was not alone in his plight. As he discovered a number of good people in his own denomination struggled also with rhythm and tonality.
"I started looking for help, and soon found others like myself who were just deficient at singing and keeping time" he said. "In charismatic denominations like ours worship is very demonstrative, often with a lot of singing, swaying, dancing and hand clapping. Well, those of us who are challenged in these areas are often discriminated against because we sing off pitch and clap at the wrong times, or because we are swaying right to left while everyone else is swaying left to right. Or because we try to dance and look ridiculous, we're made fun of. Well, it's time for the dirty looks and funny stares to end. What we lack in ability we make up for in heart."
Heistberger formed NARTCC earlier this year with a two-fold purpose; to provide support for tonally and rhythmically challenged charismatics and to raise the awareness of the problem amongst charismatic churches.
"Our focus is primarily on charismatic churches" he stated. "In other denominations, like Presbyterians and Baptists it's no big deal if people can't sing on pitch or dance. But amongst charismatics I've know men and women who have been turned down from the ministry because they couldn't sing."
NARTCC is already planning to hold its first national conference next summer in Chicago. Each day of the conference will begin with a three-hour-long worship service.
"We want the rhythmically and tonally challenged to experience free and uninhibited worship for the first time in their lives perhaps" said Heistberger. "We're expecting in excess of 3000 people. What a glorious sound and site it will be to me when 3000 tone deaf people join together with one voice and swing out of time to the music."