Eileen Guenther, the national president of the American Guild of Organists, reveals behind-the-scenes church struggles in her new book, Rivals or a Team? Clergy-Musician Relationships in the Twenty-First Century.
Along with my work at the Century, I work part-time as a church musician (at Christ Lutheran on Chicago's northwest side). While my writing/blogging is in general less ministry-oriented than that of many other Century contributors, I do get into worship and music stuff from time to time.
In one of his earliest hymns, Brian Wren wrote that "we will not question or refuse the way you work, the means you choose, the pattern you weave." Yet in the 40 years since he wrote this verse, he has used his poetry, teaching and writing to question the way in which the church questions, names and explores God's ways in the world through corporate worship and Christian song.
It's a truism that Christianity lives and breathes as much
(or more) through music as through preaching or teaching, to say nothing of
dense theological texts--so Christian preachers and teachers should be on the
lookout for ways to incorporate the great hymns of the tradition into our
sermons, lessons and other theological work.
She is foggy, struggling to find the old gifts of conversation. But she knows me, I think. I
tell her all of the reassuring things that pastors say in such a
setting. "The Creator who has watched over you all of the days of your
life is now holding you in those sacred hands." She smiles and
struggles to respond with words I barely understand.
When I sit in church on Sunday mornings, I sometimes look
around at the other congregants and ask myself, "Why are these people here? Why
did they choose to come to church?" Some people prefer staying at home to
leisurely read the Sunday paper, or go out for a relaxed Sunday brunch. Why
have these people given up their precious spare time to be here?