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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.