Director of Music AND Liturgy?
  • A question to you, colleagues:

    How many of you are directors of music and liturgy in parish settings? This meaning that in addition to all musical responsibilities at the parish you are also responsible for coordinating and managing all liturgical apostolates: lectors, extraordinary ministers of holy communion, ushers, sacristans, liturgical decor, the cleaning of linens, etc., etc.,. I'm trying to figure out where this notion has come from. I can't believe that it is the traditional practice and model for parish directors of music.

    For example, I know of many parishes that do use this model, but this is usually accompanied by something like the Gather hymnal, "come as you please" choirs, "that's cute" children's choirs, etc., etc. They certainly are not reform-of-the-reform parishes, and are more in line with maintaining the status quo. In other words, serious sacred music programs usually don't seem to bother with, no less have the time to deal with any of this extra coordination. Serious (and no doubt, large) programs also seem to have 2 to 5 or even more people on their musical staff: director, assistant director, organist, principal cantor, admin assistant, etc.--in addition to having someone who takes care of all of the other liturgical matters.

    Can anyone share their experience or insight into this?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,369
    Shhh..... Adam, don't let it out, in this economic climate, that good music costs more than lousy music.

    Just be quiet about this!!! :O
  • athome
    Posts: 31
    I commiserate, Adam (being in your diocese too :) I am currently both, and it creates for a job load that borders exploitation, if not pure insanity.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,132
    Well, I am both and you are right. It creates for an unbelievable load sometimes. But it does one thing for me: I control the agenda completely and by heavens I do it. Give me 10 years.:)
  • j13rice
    Posts: 36
    Well, I do both, my choir is certainly not "come as you please" and my youth choir is anything but cute (that is, the kids are cute of course, but they don't sing cute music!). Having done this now for several years it can be overwhelming, but if you are organized you can control so much more. The key is to have excellent volunteer coordinators of the various ministries. I have excellent ones who have been in place for a while, are organized, well-catechized, and responsible. At this point I think I might have trouble working in an atmosphere where I wasn't responsible for all liturgical ministries. That isn't to say I wouldn't mind a staff member or two to assist (not going to happen... we only have six staff members total). The key is organization and planning. You can't be doing things at the last minute that you should have done in advance because there are inevitably unavoidable things that come up that must be dealt with. Also, it's easy to pretty much check out during the summer, but I find this is the best time to get a lot of work done.... not as many distractions, better practice time and score preparation, etc. Take advantage of the summer to get prepared.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,369

    How did you first develop the volunteer coordinator team?
  • j13rice
    Posts: 36
    Some were in place and doing a good job, so just luck there. Others were members of the ministry (for instance, my lector coordinator) who I eventually invited to serve. In the case of the lectors, I was looking for someone who was a talented reader, took preparation seriously, loved scripture, was charitable and prayerful. He or she would also have to be organized and communicate well enough to handle scheduling. The gentleman I invited fit my criteria perfectly and over the last several years he has formed (mostly by example and gentle guidance) an outstanding group of lectors, including some wonderful high school students.

    I have had to "fire" a coordinator that I inherited. That wasn't fun, but it sort of worked out mutually because he knew it wasn't working and didn't want to continue. These types of conversations are always difficult and sensitive, but I have found that often the person involved, be it a ministry coordinator or choir member, is not enjoying the ministry anyway, but think that if they don't do it, no one will. Sometimes asking them to step down (or sometimes just asking them to reevaluate their position) relieves some pressure and it turns into a positive.

    There is one thing that I always keep in mind when it comes to those stewarding their time to the parish. Their time is precious and needs not to be wasted. That means choir rehearsal must be organized, purposeful and efficient. That means my lectors need to know which reading to prepare when their are more than one option in the workbook. That means I must respond immediately when someone has a question. It also means that everyone in the liturgical ministries needs to know why they are doing what they are doing, why it is essential to the parish. Everyone comes into ministry with their own reasons, which are generally all valid and good, but it helps to supplement that with a common purpose. Every year with the youth choir I begin by asking them why they are there at rehearsal and I get back good, legitimate reasons like because my parents made me (obedience!), because I like to sing, because I like being with the other kids in the choir, because I want to praise God. All excellent... but then I give them our common purpose... when children work hard and sing up to their potential, they sound like angels, it is the sweetest most divine sound, and when the people in the pew hear this, they can't help but be lifted upwards towards God, which is exactly why they are coming to Mass. So then, the next time I ask them why they are in the choir, they give me the original reasons, but they also say something like to bring people to God!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,471
    I am director of music, the pastor is director of liturgy. That works extremely well. There is a "liturgy committee" which handles items like programs, flowers, ushers, and any logistics of liturgy. The liturgy is fixed by the Roman Missal and the GIRM, and there is nothing a committee can do to it. the pastor also trains readers, etc. I train cantors.