We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. – 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4
I sat in a conference in the south side of Chicago this week beside other music directors in sessions, uber rides, and concerts. We discussed our challenges, our joys, our love for music, our churches and our music programs.
I listened to key note speakers talk about trying to stay positive in ministry. And I thanked God for you and your smiles, your sweet e-mails lifting me up with your kind words.
I attended reading sessions where comments were made about how ‘church choirs’ could never read this music. And I thanked God for you and your incredible musical gifts, ability to sight read music, and a desire to make beautiful art. I thought, “Wait until they hear OUR church choir!”
I listened to the all-too-well-known arguments over musical style and whether we should or should not be using organ, piano, guitar, trumpets, violins, etc. in our worship services. I thanked God for you, that those arguments have no foothold in our ministry. All are welcome. All are cherished.
I sat with music directors who described their music programs as “dying” both figuratively and literally (they literally had to bury half of their choir members that year!). And I thanked God for you, the choir members that form the backbone of our ministry and the newcomers we have welcomed in the last few years who provide fresh insight, new friendships and fullness to our sound.
I listened to sessions about making sure we don’t lose the ‘person’ in the ‘music director, to maintain authentic friendships within our ministry. And I thanked God for you and your prayers, vulnerable conversations and hugs after Mass or rehearsal that remind me that you care about me as a person and not just as a music director.
I laughed with other music directors as they discussed the difficulties of singing good music when they have only one bass and one tenor in the choir. And I smiled and thanked God for you, our incredibly talented solid group of men, whose harmonies in the Mass for a New World consistently bring a smile to my face in Mass and anytime during the week when I think of it.
I took notes as choral conductors reminded us to put the responsibility on you to help each other find the correct notes and sing on tune. And I thanked God for our leaders in the choir who humbly take initiative in their section in finding the right notes, for the altos who lean in to each other when they need to find the correct pitch, for the shy hand that pops up and says, “Can you run our part one more time?”
I cringed as I heard people discuss music in church as if it is a performance, forgetting that we must be prayerful, worshipful people. And I thanked God for you, for your prayers after rehearsal lifting up our choir members, loved ones, country and world up to God in complete humility.
I nodded my head in understanding as I heard fellow directors discuss the feeling of being burnt out and totally alone without any help. And I thanked God for John and Barbara, Dawn, and Kevin, who allow me the freedom to live a balanced life and who give so much of their free time to our Parish.
I heard all the complaints about how to find quality instrumentalists when you have a music budget that can’t afford them. And I thanked God for our committed volunteer instrumentalists who make us sound professional, who lift up our congregants in praise, who provide energy and excitement to well-known hymns and songs. I thought to myself, “How did we get so lucky?!” These churches are just trying to find the money to pay one trumpet player for one Mass on Easter Sunday. And we get talented instrumentalists at every Mass, every week!
I listened to speakers discuss making sure we have time to connect, talk, and laugh with each other in rehearsal. To make real music, we must be able to listen to each other and feel connected with one other. And I thanked God for those moments in rehearsal where we laugh and share insights into our lives, where I catch choir members smiling at one another, giggling with each other, and asking each other about something that happened during the week.
In short, as St. Paul said in our second reading for this Sunday, I give thanks to God for you this week.