In case you’ve been living under a rock or something and haven’t heard, this Sunday we are celebrating the 54-year music ministry of Joel and Karen Johnson, the longest tenure by far of any ministry at Falcon Heights Church.
The relationship between music ministry and pastoral ministry is one of the most crucial in any church. I am fortunate to have had “chemistry” with the Johnsons right from the beginning, and that’s been a gift to me, because I love music and have always felt in sync with them when making decisions about worship.
But a far more important thing happened than us getting along: We carried a healthy music ministry forward into the search process that brought us Adam Miller, and that’s given us grace and strength to have a solid beginning to his tenure, even as we’ve faced the challenges of a pandemic and a greatly shortened rehearsal schedule before Holy Week and Easter.
I’m reflecting on what I’m grateful for in FHC’s music ministry as we close one chapter even as we’ve already begun the next. So here, in no particular order, are the things I’m thankful for about music ministry at Falcon Heights:
Quality – There’s a fine line between perfectionism and high standards of musicianship in parish music ministry. Joel and Karen set high expectations over the years for preparation and rehearsal, but with a strong sense that this is worship, and never just a performance. We’re singing for God, even as we sing for and with the congregation. This sense of worship is now part of the choir and congregation’s DNA, and in Adam, we have a director who comes from the same place.
Open to anybody – This is a non-audition choir, in the best church tradition, in which all are welcome to participate. Couple this with Quality, above, and singing in this choir makes me a better singer, as it does all FHC choir members.
Humor – There’s a lightness to rehearsals and singing services in our choir, which enables us to approach what we’re doing with seriousness and focus. Humor helps us keep from taking ourselves so seriously, which frees up energy and focus for the group effort. I’ve never left a choir rehearsal feeling worse than when I came; I may be tired at the end of a strenuous rehearsal, but I’m energized, too.
Learning – Because Karen, Joel, and Adam are all teachers at heart, they make rehearsals occasions for learning how to sing better, how to blend, how to care for our voices, how to read music more easily, and understanding a piece’s history, how it fits into a worship service, what the composer intended, and other things that develop choristers as whole human beings. I’ve always learned something new from every director I’ve sung with.
Joy – All of us have looked for little things that make us happy during this pandemic, and every day I feel lucky to find at least one of these. But to me, the life of faith and spirituality has to include JOY to qualify as worthwhile. The regular exercise of joy through singing and worship offer us the daily gift of happiness and contentment.
Community – There’s a movement within a segment of the singing community focused on paperless singing, but what I love about it is the name: “Music that Makes Community.” There is something about an ensemble such as a choir in which the whole is greater than the sum of the individual voices. We do more than just sing in a choir: we come to belong. And that sense of belonging has been nurtured through regular eating and revelry together, coming together to sing after the death of a choir member, and the bonds of friendship formed through regular singing together.
I’m excited about this coming Sunday, because we’re not only celebrating a vibrant music ministry that we’ve had in the past, but the treasure we carry forward into the future!