copyright 2000
Cleveland Chapter
American Guild of Organists

Dean's Message March 2000

Last week I played for a memorial service for an elderly woman. She had left notes requesting some favorite music, "Be Still My Soul," "Let not your Heart Be Troubled" from Elijah and a "hymn medley." Learning that she was a minister‰s daughter, I chose some choral preludes based on old hymn tunes and "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" for the recessional.

I am now planning a memorial service with the family of one of the charter members of our 52-year-old congregation. The man was a music lover and left requests for Albinoni's "Adagio" and Bach. The postlude will be the Widor "Toccata" from the 5th Symphony, which has become a tradition for memorials at West Shore Church for charter members.

The memorial service this past Sunday was more difficult. It was for a young man who had committed suicide. I planned the music together with his mother and 14 year old sister. They had a list of favorite hymns selected by the grandparents to which the mom added "Morning Has Broken." She requested some Debussy on the piano because her son liked it. The congregation sang "Amazing Grace" and the sister requested "No One Is Alone" from Into the Woods, one of her brother's favorite musicals, for the recessional. While I was afraid this was too emotional a choice, I couldn't deny her request.

It is at these times that I believe that a church musician comes the closest to doing pastoral care. Music played at memorials, and funerals can be extremely meaningful and bless the families. I am sure you have been to funerals where the music was canned, bland, and did not add to the occasion.

Joyful music that honors the deceased's spirit and reflects their taste is the best music. If we church musicians see our jobs as ministry, then we will use these opportunities to be with families and find out how we can minister to them through music.

We might use these occasions to find out what music people from our congregations like. We can encourage them to pick music that is meaningful to them and their loved one and not just use something because they think it is traditional to do a particular kind of music at memorial services.

Do you see a pastoral care component to your church position? One of our colleagues was given the duty of delivering the altar flowers to a shut-in on Monday mornings. That doesn't seem like the kind of pastoral care that fits the musicians job description- or is it? I think if we view the times at which we provide music for the sacraments of a family‰s lives-memorials and yes, weddings, as one of the most important things we do and do not allow them to just become a routine gig for us we will find our true mission in the church.

Yours in Ministry,



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