As I, along with the Personnel Committee, spend hours and hours in prayerful consideration concerning our new minister of music, I find myself thinking more about that job my dad held when I was growing up. As the daughter of a Minister of Music, I got to see firsthand just how important and time-consuming music ministry can be.
I watched Dad oversee the filing and organizing of hundreds of anthems with the music committee. I watched him plan worship services, often days, even weeks in advance. I saw him choose choir anthems to fit the theme and flow of the worship service. I saw him research carefully which hymns and praise songs to sing with the congregation, sometimes choosing to teach new ones (slowly, and deliberately), sometimes choosing to incorporate new and different instruments, too. I watched him lock up after late practices, move sanctuary furniture for special events, set (and reset) the sound system, train sound system operators, and figure out all those different mic inputs and outputs. I watched him stay up late worrying about that alto part and whether they could pull it together by Sunday morning. (And I watched him sigh a big relief when they pulled it off). I watched him sing and play trumpet at his choir member’s funerals – some long after he had left that church. I watched him become family (along with our whole family) with some choir members so closely they might as well have been my own grandparents. I knew my dad, like so many other ministers of music, was so much more than “just a choir director” at the churches he served.
I’ve also watched music programs grow so that people of all ages were singing – from preschool and children’s choirs, to youth choir, to adult choir, to senior adult choir. I’ve seen music theory and breathing techniques taught. I’ve sat in choirs and listened to a part over and over and over until I could remember it and sing along with the other parts. And like me, no one I’ve met who was part of church music programs has ever regretted it. Did they always enjoy it? No, probably not. But looking back, they all appreciate what they learned in those years, how they grew, and how music shaped their faith and life. And they want the same for their own children, too.
I don’t think a music program alone will grow a church. It also won’t sustain a church all by itself. We need missions and outreach and education and good preaching, too. We need thoughtful relationships both within and outside the church. We need innovative ways to be and do church in a new century. But music is an accent with which we speak to God, and one that inspires beauty and art in our souls. And it is one avenue we take on a journey toward being authentic people of faith together.
The role of a minister of music and his/her program is wide and varied, and it’s important that we recognize that in this season. For 4+ years, we have had the privilege of two most excellent lay people to lead our choir and congregational singing, and we are forever grateful and indebted to Dr. David Lewis and Dr. Ross Gale. And now, as we allow them to rest, we will prayerfully select someone new to lead our music here and minister to us and this community through music. And though part-time for now, I know we will see this new person bring new energy, joy, and time into this role. I know we will see renewed and growing music ministries as one avenue of hopeful change in our midst. And I believe that in this decision, our church and our community will be blessed – with a little more beauty, a little more creativity, and a heaping of praise to God through song.
I’m excited for this new step in our journey, and I hope you are too.