This week I am sharing some of my remarks from Notre Dame Vision’s inaugural Summer Conference for Liturgical Music Ministers. Today’s thoughts were part of a workshop titled Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New: Echoing the New Song of Christ.
When one works in ministry there is often a misconception that one’s job is to sit around and be nice all day. There’s nothing wrong with being nice, and certainly relationships are crucial to what we do (though they shouldn’t be reduced to the overly simplistic “nice”). But there is an expertise needed to do ministry well which is more than just having a prayer life and an appropriate disposition.
This is nowhere more evident than in music ministry, which is unique in that it brings together both the abstract relational skills needed for ministry and the very concrete skills of musicianship. We absolutely have to be good at what we do. Not every music minister needs to be a concert pianist or an operatic tenor, but we have to have the kind of facility that allows people not to notice us.
I’ve spoken before about my relationship to my skill. When I was younger I invested too much in it and used it to meet my emotional needs rather than putting it in the service of others. There is nothing wroth girth naming our talents. I think one of the lonely challenges in life is learning to live with our gifts in a healthy way.
We are not supposed to talk about them and we are supposed to cloak them in insincere humility. So we don’t ever think about or figure out where those gifts fit in our lies, and we’re left wondering if our striving is unbecoming.
There is a great moment in Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddell says “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.” God makes us singers, pianists, organists, guitarists, conductors, and it’s OK to want to excel at those things. We give them back to God through our service and that is no small thing.
What are the skills you put into service?
I talk more about this idea of our relationship with our talents in this interview: