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   /   Ministry & Liturgy - Volume 38 -2011   /   June/July Issue   /   Inside ML

Ada Simpson


The toughest job you’ll ever love

Way back in the 1960s, when the Peace Corps was launched, someone came up with their slogan: It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love. That may be true within the realm of government posts, but when it comes to positions in parishes, for my money it’s the musicians in our churches who have the toughest job. I suppose I don’t come to this conclusion with complete objectivity. I’ve been a pastoral musician for more years than I care to admit to. I can tell you this: parish music ministry is not for the faint of heart. It is demanding beyond most people’s comprehension. Being a pastoral musician wouldn’t be so difficult if the only thing that one had to do was simply be a musician. In most parishes, that is not the case. Musicians are called to wear a multitude of hats — sometimes simultaneously! At times the church musician must be a secretary, counselor, janitor, babysitter, sacristan, graphic designer, librarian, chauffeur, courier, computer expert, copier repair person, referee, peacemaker, or nurse. Musicians are the first to come and the last to leave, to quote Jackson Browne.

In 2011 ML has been exploring journeys, those we take in our lives and those we take in our ministry. This month we examine the journeys that those in music ministry are taking — or will be taking shortly. Our own David Haas shares with us his personal insight into the changes of the new translation of the Roman Missal and how we as musicians, liturgists, and ministers might approach the demands those changes place on the church assembled. Noted composer and musician Paul Inwood sheds light on the challenges and frustrations that composers have been faced with in light of the new translation, and he offers advice to parishes and composers regarding the adaptations at hand. David Fedor offers an historical overview of liturgical changes in the church, reminding us that the problems and dilemmas that pastoral musicians face are not unique to the 21st century. Rounding out our music ministry features, Virgil Funk examines the clergy-musician relationship and identifies some necessary components of a healthy working relationship.

A friend and colleague of mine often asks me this question when the going gets tough in parish music ministry, “Tell me again: why do we do what we do?” Some days I just don’t have an answer. The demands placed on musicians are incredible, and the stakes are often high. Musicians work longs hours, often for short pay. They serve at the whim of the pastor and have little if any job security. They are often undervalued and disrespected. They work weekend after weekend; their families often take a backseat to the demands placed on them by their ministry. This causes strife and tension within marriages and puts a strain on that sacred bond. In spite of all these things, most pastoral musicians go forward and continue to serve the church. Why? I can only speak for myself. At the end of the day, I know who I serve. Not a pastor, not a priest, not a bishop nor a pope. I serve God and the people of God. It’s just that simple. It’s not always easy to be a pastoral musician and it’s not always fun, but when I hear the church assembled raise their voice in sung prayer, I know that I am precisely where I am supposed to be, doing what God has called me to do. Is it the toughest job? Well, it’s really not a job at all. It’s a vocation that gives more than it takes and fills my heart with love. ML

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