by John Weit
Proclaim member and Deacon serving as the Program Director for Music in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA
I have long sensed my calling to be a leader of the church’s song. Growing up in church I was amazed at how a single person could sit behind an organ console and use the various buttons and keys to make a multitude of different sounds. What was even more incredible to me was how that one person behind that instrument could help a large group of people sing together.
Music can unite a gathered assembly, form memory, and serves as a vehicle to conveying theology. It is sometimes daunting knowing that the words that I choose to be sung and through my leadership I am essentially putting theology in people’s mouths. Through song, sung together in worship, our prayer, proclamation, praise, and lament are shaped and given communal voice. It is not about what I as a leader like to sing and what styles are comfortable to me. In whatever leadership role we have, we need to move beyond ourselves and consider what best proclaims the gospel and shapes the prayer of the church.
With communal song at the core, there is often other music that enriches the worship life of the church. Choirs, soloists, and instrumentalists offer music to glorify God, as well. Silence can also surround our music. All of this works together to shape and support the song of the people.
The vocation of the church musician is something I have cared deeply about these last few years. I’m happy to currently serve in a call with the ELCA that, in part, offers tools and resources to help church musicians think about their vocation and craft. In my role I work very closely with the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM). In 2016 as part of their 30th anniversary as an organization, a statement titled Called to Be a Living Voice was crafted to reflect on the varied role of Lutheran church musicians, often called cantors. I encourage you to read and reflect on this statement and share it with the musicians in your context.
It is true that not all musicians come to this work as a career. Many church musicians I know are bi-vocational. Some musicians may see working for a church as a way to some make extra money or to build their resume. Musicians will take on different levels of responsibility depending on the context. I pray that musicians who serve our assemblies continue to feel strengthened in their sense of call to their vocation and feel supported by their ministry colleagues.
In 2018, ALCM is helping to support the vocation of the Lutheran church musicians by organizing several one-day workshops around the U.S. and Canada under the theme Hearts Hands Voices. The ELCA is pleased to be partnering with ALCM to offer an extended skill-building session in Valparaiso Ind., July 23-26. These events will cover a multitude of styles, instruments, and topics. Visit alcm.org for more information and please share this with the church musicians in your lives.
May the church continue to be blessed with musicians who faithfully lead our assemblies, surrounding word and sacrament with song.
Deacon John Weit serves as Program Director for Music in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. He lives in Chicago with his husband, the Rev. Matt James, and their cat, Buddy. John also serves as Assistant Organist at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.
Photo at top: Emily Ann Garcia
Bio Photo: Provided by John Weit