Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain -or- Your Pledge Dollars At Work

[Ed. Note: Here’s a piece that will probably run this week in The Chronicle, the weekly electronic newsletter of the church at which I gig.]


File this somewhere under ‘Behind the Scenes’, and cc: it to ‘Your Pledge Dollars at Work’…

Last month, I helped represent SUMC musicians at a pair of workshops offered by the local chapter of the American Choral Directors’ Association. (‘Your Pledge Dollars at Work’: there were tiny fees attached to them – and there’s a ‘staff professional development’ line-item in our church budget for this sort of event. This line-item exists in no other church budget that I know of. And whenever I’ve utilized this money, it’s translated into noticeable improvements in how the choir does its thing, here.)

The second session, ‘Music and Worship for Today’s Church’, was more helpful for choir directors than for choir members: it mainly dealt with repertoire selection and worship-service planning. It seems there are quite a lot of music ministry staff members out there who are allowed to select hymns for their Sunday worship services.

Honestly, when I grasped that, I had a jaw-drop moment. Because I have an idea of how hard it is to draw up the game plan for one Sunday morning, let alone all of them. Certainly, I could crack open the hymnal, pick my favorite hymns, plug them into the three hymn slots, and be happy. But around here, it’s not that easy, and for very good reason.

Sometimes it hits you over the head; sometimes you may not be as aware of the themes that permeate SUMC’s Sunday mornings. But every week, there’s a focus – a program of the church like Social Justice or Outreach, for example, or a larger idea like ‘hope’ or ‘responsibility’ or, as was the case this week, our ambitious and exciting ‘Pave the Way’ capital campaign. And everything – hymns, sermon, prayer content, even the children’s message – everything addresses that somehow.

You might be right in thinking that this makes planning a service easier. At least it narrows down one’s wide range of choices of material to use. And that includes the choir’s anthems.

Pastor Joel is the only senior pastor I’ve ever worked with (and Kevin and I have now worked with a bunch of ’em) who sends us ‘bulletin forecasts’ ahead of time, usually three to four weeks ahead of any given Sunday. When we get them, we get some idea of what specific readings, prayers, and preaching will be utilized – and from this, we can determine what anthems will complement the message of the day. So in order to accomplish this forecast, Pastor Joel needs to get his game plan together at least a month early. And he does, regularly.

Lest you thought perhaps a pastor only works on Sundays! It’s NOT true. In our case, we’re more than getting our Pledge Dollars’ worth. Unfortunately, sometimes, to appreciate someone’s skill-set, you have to be a little bit ‘on the inside’ to have the proper perspective. I’m pleased to be in position to see what needs to happen Behind The Scenes, in order that people can walk out of church on Sunday morning feeling ‘spiritually fed’.

And on the rare occasions when someone asked me, ‘why’d you choose that hymn?’, and I tell them to send their cards and letters to the tall guy in the corner office … I’m not passing the buck, and I’m not deflecting their question gleefully. I’m referring them to the gentleman who’s doing a ton of work on their behalf.

Anyway, I just thought I’d relay this thought or two. Any questions? Feel free to run up to the Chancel after service and ask!”

October 26, 2015 Posted by | choir, SUMC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment