copyright 2000
Cleveland Chapter
American Guild of Organists

Dean's Message, January 2000

By the time you read this you will know, in mid-January, what I do not know in mid-December, that is how the Y2K problem will unfold. In any case, blessings of the New Year and New Century to you. I hope that all the hoopla over all the potential computer problems will not obscure this as a possible real time for celebration and renewal. What a momentous occasion! All those 0s! We will have to have a whole new category of 21st century music! What will be the role of the church musician and church music in this new century? Will the organ be an anachronism?

Paul Westermeyer, in his preface to Donald Hustad's book, True Worship, speaks of the musician as prophet. He writes: "What Hustad is doing points to the curious situation which now pertains, namely, that church musicians like him are the most prophetic voices among us. They are far more prophetic than many preachers who have collapsed their message into that of the culture on the premise that it will sell and attract the most customers." He goes on to write: "Hustad is unwilling to collapse the Christian message into the cultural envelope of our time and place or into a single theme such as 'praise.' He is also unwilling to use music as a manipulative tool. Such a position is what makes him and church musicians like him prophetic. They and the rich heritage of the church‰s music point to a God whose grace is not identifiable with one time, one place, or one theme."

What would it be like if you were a prophet in your church? One quality of a prophet is the gift of discernment. Musicians by right of their training, experience, and dedication, need to exercise this gift without apology. We do make choices of music based on what we know. Most musicians try very hard to include the best of music from different traditions in their selections and congregations need to realize that this is so. Prophets are not really nice. Not that we want to be abrasive, but it is not possible to please everyone and attempts to do so will fail.

Instead we need to make it clear that integrity in our worship is not to be taken lightly. There is a difference between entertainment and worship. Prophets are grounded in the traditions of the past. Innovation and creativity cannot come at the expense of the theological undergirdings of our traditions.

We all need to be open and respectful to the needs of others, to be careful of elitism and a false slavery to "good taste." But within those confines, and with a sense of humility, we will be more respected if we tell the truth as we see it and are true to our principles.

Prophesy, my friends!


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