Timeline for church in *transition*
  • SarahJ
    Posts: 54
    Hello all,
    I have been lurking for a few weeks here, and have learned so much. I'm so glad this community is here. I'm am still very much ignorant about many matters concerning music and liturgy, so please be patient with me.

    I'm the music director at a church that for many years has been using piano, amplification, OCP, you get my drift...

    We have a new priest and some good changes have already been made: in two weeks I will only be playing organ (no piano), the choir is moving back up into the choir loft. We have started implementing the communion antiphon (SEP).

    Future plans: learning some Mass settings in Latin. Implementing entrance antiphon and offertory antiphon. Changing our hymn book and misalette to something of higher quality.

    I am really excited that our new priest wants to move in this direction! I am nervous about how our congregation is going to handle this. (We have mostly older members in our parish.) When I told the choir we would be learning a Mass setting in Latin, someone actually cried (and they weren't tears of joy).

    For those of you who have witnessed or overseen this kind of transition, how long did it take? What did you change first? What sort of things can be done to help people understand the changes, and make the transition more smooth?

    Thank you for any advice.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,669
    If your priest isn't yet singing his parts STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
    Get him to start singing the chants of the first degree (see Musicam Sacram).
    Keep things as they are as he begins chanting his parts. Then start changing your stuff in 6 months.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    I'll second that. The MOST IMPORTANT part of any solid Catholic music program is sung prayer, most notably from the celebrant. It may be an adjustment for your pastor too, so he may need to begin learning those too.

    Begin with the dialogues such as "The Lord be with you" and the sign of the cross, the three collects, and the preface. and from there, he can stretch out more with the Our Father, prayers between it and communion, and perhaps even the gospel on feasts (or more often).

    That is the most important part.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    How long does it take? Longer than you'll be there for.

    At my present job, I've committed myself (informally) to the position for about 10 years. It gives me a wide berth as far as "reforms" (which aren't needed so much where I am, but there's always improvement to be made), because nothing is urgent, and if anything is, I can do it next year.

    To turn a parish like you describe into its total opposite is a multi-generation effort in terms of time. With respect, I assume you don't understand the political, interpersonal, and historical realities that led to the current state of affairs at your particular parish. You'll want to find those out, and act wisely.

    For now, don't worry about getting orchestral high Masses in 3 months. Just worry about doing things the best way you can right now with the resources that exist. Things will improve, but never as quickly as we need them to.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood eft94530
  • SarahJ
    Posts: 54
    He is already singing a lot during the Mass- the greeting, the preface, Our Father, the dismissal. That part is not new to him.

    Do I suggest to him that we slow down with the changes? The changes we have already made at his request took place in just a few weeks.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,225
    Are you getting any pushback yet? You're still playing piano, right? Not that many of the changes have happened yet, it seems to me. You might encounter some real hostility if you go from happy-clappy to chanted dialogues, chanted Our Father, SEP Communio, organ only, choir in the loft, Latin ordinary...all at once.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,470
    Expect pushback. Expect hostility. It happened at our church. Some people left. Some people came.... It wasn't "happy-clappy," we had organ, we were using the loft, still... some unhappiness. "They" say it is too solemn. "They" say it is not joyful enough. "They" say the music doesn't "move" them.... just sayin'
  • SarahJ
    Posts: 54
    The last few weeks I've been at the piano a little bit, but mostly the organ. Easter Vigil was all on the organ. There has been some positive response to the communion antiphon being sung (as we still sing a communion hymn afterwards. If we had not kept the hymn, I think people would have been very upset.) No one has complained to me yet about those things (I know people might be complaining, but just not to me.)


  • SarahJ
    Posts: 54
    Canadesh, yes, I can imagine people reacting that way :/
    Heck, one priest once told me he dislikes the organ because it sounds like "the instrument of guilt"!
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "They" say it is too solemn. "They" say it is not joyful enough. "They" say the music doesn't "move" them.... just sayin'

    And something to keep in mind is that deep down, these complaints often aren't really about the music! Often what's really at work is that the last organist, Left-Foot Lucy, was there for 40 years and played meemaw's funeral... or this is the first priest without a Polish last name... or so-and-so used to sing in the choir, and everyone loved her voice, but she decided (without any ill feeling) that she was just done with it at her age... etc, etc, etc.

    Almost no one likes change. Even if all that changes is a name and a face.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,368
    I suggested a timeline here, in a blogpost called 10 steps to the Gradual http://www.chantcafe.com/2013/03/10-steps-to-gradual.html
  • SarahJ
    Posts: 54
    Kathy, thank you, that is very helpful!
    Thanked by 1Kathy
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    Lovely to have new people on the forum, Sarah, welcome. Not much to contribute, I will leave that to more experienced people than me...but one thing I would advise. The younger members of the congregation are likely to be more sympathetic to a hermeneutic of continuity approach than the older, so make sure you get to know them, and recruit their support, if not them and their children. Very helpful when old Missus so and so complains, to be able to have young Mrs such and such, who attends with her six children to offer an alternative.
    Oh yes - start a children or family choir. But make a space for teaching children how to chant and read music (neumes as well as modern notation). Your parishes future musical direction is in their hands, and at the moment, they are in yours.
    I have a childrens schola, who do not sing Mass to much work) but do a singing lesson an Eucharistic adoration. It teaches them the music of the church and the faith.

  • Ignore the negative comments.

    Do only what the priest says.

    It does not matter what the people want or think. He is on a mission and you are either for him or against him...and you have to act accordingly.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,669
    Noel brings up a good point - make sure he's on the same page as you.

    I've changed music programs without the pastor being on board successfully before, but it's much MUCH easier if he's with you.
  • It is a blessing to have a priest like that. Support him in anyway you can and pray for him. I agree with Noel, he is the pastor.
  • SarahJ
    Posts: 54
    I've been wanting to make some changes for awhile, but with our old priest it seemed like little would happen. Our new priest is on board, and not only that, he is eager to make these changes. He is the driving force. I have never felt so excited about the music at our parish. But this is going to be hard on some members of the congregation, and the choir.
  • doneill
    Posts: 200
    I would only add two points: (1) invest in a strong children's choir program. People will tolerate a lot if cute kids are doing it, and they see that you care about their development. Over time, they will be impressed with what they will be able to do. (Wow - our kids can sing in Latin?!) (2) a strong educational component from both you and the pastor is crucial. I have been writing bulletin columns. They need to know that what you are doing is the mind of the church, not just yours and the pastor's personal preferences.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,797
    one priest once told me he dislikes the organ because it sounds like "the instrument of guilt"!

    sarahj wins the Forum for today!
    And I wonder if this isn't a key to the problem. Organ sounds like Oldchurch. Oldchurch is about guilt. We don't want to feel guilty.

    But you ARE guilty, grasshaopper. That's why you're a Christian: so you can have your guilt washed away.
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    Timeline- think in terms of YEARS. I did this a while ago, with a very supportive pastor. We had a very resistant congregation (initially, but I would say unfortunately there was a large amount of turnover in the congregation- many people left, but more came, and at least a few hearts were changed,) but I would say it took about 5 years to go from bongos/keyboard (my predecessor!) to: chanted English introit and offertory, congregation heartily singing Latin Ordinary, schola members of choir singing Latin communion proper.
    Thanked by 2Gavin SarahJ
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    In fact, I'm pretty sure I typed out in this forum at some point in the past the actual timeline showing more exactly when we introduced the different elements, I just can't seem to find it here now.
  • SarahJ
    Posts: 54
    I think things are going pretty well. The most negative member of the choir seems to have had a big turn around. After Mass he told me how much he loved our organ. There were no tears (and actually no complaining within earshot) when I told the choir that we are learning Credo I. Our priest talked to the choir last week, I think he won them over. We are very, very fortunate. He also gave me permission to write a little something about the music every week in our bulletin.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen