Yesterday afternoon I was getting out of my car in the church parking lot, there to go Christmas caroling to some of our homebound members. A parishioner was getting into his car, having finished up a little celebration of some sort or another. He commented that I was back after a busy morning, and said he wondered when we clergy types get to worship and soak in the beauty and meaning of Advent and Christmas.
That was kind of him, but he is a kind person so I expect nothing less from him. I told him that we find ways, that when someone else is preaching or praying, or when the choir is singing, we let go of all the leader-stuff we’re supposed to be done and find a tidbit of worship.
Truth be told, pastors have it a whole lot easier than church musicians. (Disclaimer: my brother is a church musician, and a university music professor, and conducts lots of choirs, so I am a little biased about this whole thing.)
Very very few church musicians have just one job; very few churches can afford a full-time director of music or organist or choir director who gets a good salary and full benefits. Most church musicians have at least three jobs, differing choirs, and December becomes a weary blur of concerts and recitals and eggnog (if they’re lucky.)
I have been blessed to work with amazing church musicians. Just yesterday, our choir sang one of my favorite pieces of music – Chesnokov’s “Salvation Is Created” – as the prelude, followed by an incredible a cappella anthem, with drums, the African “Betelehemu”, followed by a Rutter anthem using the words of a 16th century poem, followed by a beautiful choral response to the Welsh tune Ar Hyd y Nos. As if that weren’t enough, our organist and assistant organist played a four-hand, four-foot postlude. Really, who needs a sermon when you can have all of that?
So today, I tip my hat, I bow, and I thank all the church musicians, and special nod to those with whom I have worked over the years, and to the one I have known my whole life: Allen, Tom, Emily, Allan, Will, Marion, Rudy, Liz, Chris, Lee, Frances, Paula, Todd, Jenee, Debbie, Jeff, Michael, Leslie, Si, Linda, Anne, and my dear Tommy: thank you for making happen what the mere spoken word cannot. Thank you for reminding us that the morning stars sang together at the beginning of all things. Thank you for sharing your talent, for the countless hours, and the patience, and the sheer endurance of it all. Come the 26th, put your feet up and rest, for heaven’s sake!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!