Playing for Protestant services
  • donr
    Posts: 944
    My wife has been asked to fill in for one of her piano students at his church.
    Although I realize that this is not a strictly Catholic forum not is it a Catechism or the Catholic Church forum.
    I was wondering what your opinions would be.
    I know that we are not supposed to go to communion at a protestant service because we are not "in communion" with them and it might cause scandal but what about playing music. Is it not close (if not similar) to the same thing?
  • Ruth Lapeyre
    Posts: 338
    I sang for the Protestants for years as a soprano soloist. Later when I decided to quit singing for the Protestants and sing at my current parish (great music liturgy) I was offered a Temple job on Friday evenings. My pastor said it was alright. If you are a musician you need to make money at your craft. That means Church jobs. As long as your wife does not take communion with them and fulfills her Sunday obligation there should be no problem.
    Thanked by 2donr E_A_Fulhorst
  • Cantate
    Posts: 33
    Agreed with Ruth. I was an organist at a Methodist Church for years. They were good people and paid me well for relatively little work....I went to Mass on Saturday night and played for them on Sunday morning. I actually heard some thought-provoking sermons....although I also heard some stuff I knew was silliness and fluff. Still, they were very kind to me, treated me very well, and had great respect for my faith. They even offered prayers for the Holy Father when he was attacked that one Midnight Mass....As long as you attend Mass as well and don't take communion, there's absolutely nothing wrong.
    Thanked by 3donr CHGiffen ghmus7
  • Allan DAllan D
    Posts: 43
    My bishop has a weekly radio program where he answers questions from listeners, and he was once asked if a Catholic organist could substitute at a Protestant church. The bishop said yes, that is fine, and that it would be a nice ecumenical gesture. Obviously, a Catholic cannot receive communion there. I substituted at a UCC church several years ago, and had a slightly awkward experience when communion time came, so I'd advise making sure they understand before the service that you will not be receiving.
    Thanked by 1donr
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    I played for Protestants for years, and they were great people. The working conditions were often better than in Catholic churches. We both learned a great deal about each other's faiths.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen donr
  • As Charles has will find great satisfaction in the admiration that you will find there for musicians, much as opera singers and conductors find when spending time in Italy and even Germany.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Might even learn how Catholic music should be...
    Thanked by 1benedictgal
  • How is the situation you describe here different from Asissi?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Hi, Donr!

    There's a 1993 document from the Holy See, "Principles and Norms on Ecumenism", which sheds some light on the question. It describes what Catholics may do in relation to services of non-Catholic Christian communities.

    It treats two cases: if the non-Catholic service is non-sacramental in nature, it's fine for a Catholic to present a reading or preach, if invited. (paragraph 116-118) The text doesn't explicitly mention musical performance, but it's reasonable to extrapolate that permission to cover music.

    If the service is sacramental in nature, the permission is more limited. It's fine for a Catholic to present a reading in an *Eastern Orthodox* service, if invited. (paragraph 126) I'll assume that this permission applies to music too.

    So if a Protestant church is not conducting a Holy Communion service, the first case applies and you're all set. But if they do celebrate a Holy Communion service, the permission doesn't appear to be automatic. So if you want to be on the conservative side, your wife can ask your pastor for his OK. He will likely give it, with the proviso that she not receive Holy Communion or any other sacrament there.

    [PS: One more proviso: she still has to attend Sunday Mass too, of course.]
    Thanked by 1donr
  • Chonak!!!! CHONAK!!!!

    Exactly. If your pastor says permission is not needed, it's no big's time to find a CATHOLIC pastor.

    Purely as an aside, when a pastor is asked to hear a confession of someone who has not confessed for 27 years, the correct response is not: "I'm in the confessional on Friday mornings."
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Wow, hey, Noel; thanks for all exclamation points! I was running short, so I'm glad to get a few extra from you! :-) Oops: I just used up two of 'em.
    Thanked by 1E_A_Fulhorst
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    Chonak's reading seems to suggest that it's "more OK" to participate musically at evangelical or otherwise "less Catholic" churches than at a Methodist or Episcopal church that celebrates a weekly Sunday service with communion.

    Maybe this is the right reading, but it seems like a strange position for the Church to take.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,827
    Here is a theological stance by a Dominican priest. Let me know your thoughts about this.
    Thanked by 1mattcavoto
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,827
    It is also wise to understand what heresy is. We don't want to act out of ignorance being Catholic musicians.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641
    I think if your wife has doubts about this, she should seek some spiritual guidance from her pastor or confessor. If she's asked you to look into this, it might mean that she is not comfortable doing it or has some moral hesitation.

    On a side note, I was once substituting at a protestant church and a nice gal came up to me after the service and said something like, "so you're Catholic? Doesn't it get boring doing nothing but those boring chants?" I believe my response to her was that I wish we did waaaay more of those boring chants.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    If only Catholics did nothing but chants.

    Did anyone else ever notice that when someone doesn't like something, it's "nothing but"? Nothing but chant, nothing but folk, nothing but broccoli... Just interesting.
  • Actually, Gavin, many of us may have heard that we 'do nothing but' chant... or whatever else we may do that the cinder-minded cranks in our churches don't like.
    But! I rather doubt that anyone has ever been told 'you do nothing but folk music'. Likewise, one hears it said of introducing a little chant that 'there is other kinds of music'... but I rather doubt that any of our plunky plunky electronic keyboard 'musicians' have ever been told that 'there are other kinds of music'. It does seem to me that this is a one way street, and the police are always on the look out for some hapless lad or lass who is going the 'wrong way' (which is actually the 'right way').

  • Why shouldn't one play for Protestant services. Really! Why Not?
    Doing so is an education in tolerance, a strengthening of one's own faith, growth through respect of others, and a chance to grow as a professional church musician which few Catholics have. AND, I think it was Gavin who said it: you get to play some real Catholic music (which the Protestants [unlike the Catholics] consider a badge of honour).
    I played for an historic Lutheran Church (LCMS) for seventeen years, first as an Episcopalian, then as a Catholic. Wonderfull music and instrument and choir and people. I did a gamut of music there which I could not have done in the Catholic Church because it was too Catholic. All the while I tried to nudge them into classical Lutheranism, the best thing they could have been: conscious of their Catholic heritage. This was not a total succes, but the legacy of it is still there. I was wondrously enriched by this experience and so were those whom I served. And the Pastor was one of the most loving and Christ-like clergyman whom I have ever known, Catholic or Anglican. In a very real sense Protestants strive to be Good Christians. Catholics strive to be good Catholics. These are very different things, the result of which yields people who put a very high premium on living a beautifully Christian life, while Catholics (who DO raise up there own store of saints), concentrate more on following the rules and fulfulling their liturgical 'obligations', and are largely unconcerned with whether or not they are a 'Christian' person. They just have to be Catholic. Most Catholics whom I really know do not fall into this mold, but still, there is an undercurrent which takes its toll.
  • It's ironic how many Roman Catholic parishes require (have seen this in many job descriptions) that their organist or music director be "a practicing Catholic in good standing... bla bla bla". Just sayin...
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I know of MANY Lutheran churches (all Missouri Synod) which, as a matter of policy, will only hire Lutheran musicians. Their musical culture is stagnant and dead. Their musicians are hacks. And yet, I know many Lutheran musicians who are very talented and play for Lutheran churches - not because they restricted their pool of potential employees, but because they wanted to hire the best.

    Interestingly, some of the most stagnant of the restrictive parishes are trying to enhance their liturgy with the Gregorian tradition. But they still won't let a Catholic get involved. The result is, in a word.... sad.
  • Why shouldn't one play for Protestant services. Really! Why Not?

    Why not?

    For the same reason that one does not attend Masonic events in which people might think that you, a Catholic, are a Mason.


    Their musical culture is stagnant and dead. Their musicians are hacks. And yet, I know many Catholic musicians who are very talented and play for Catholic churches - not because they restricted their pool of potential employees, but because they wanted to hire the best.

  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,370
    And I personally know of Missouri Synod Lutheran churches that have indeed hired non-Lutheran musicians. As a case in point closest to me, an excellent rather high-church Episcopalian friend of mine was the organist at a LCMS church across the river in Minnesota for quite some time, and I often played oboe (descants and such) and sang with her there. Her husband is a Lutheran (and a trumpet player and baritone) and was active in that church. It would be both an insult and very far from true to describe them as hacks.

    They sometimes played at the Episcopal church where I was choir director for awhile, and she played at the funeral for my father-in-law at the local Catholic church, which otherwise would not have had any decent music at all (I was the only singer/cantor). Interestingly enough, they left the LCMS church about a year ago because of church politics there and her having to deal with some serious health issues. No one there thought she was an Episcopalian or I a Catholic, although we were treated most warmly and cordially, especially by the clergy and other musicians there.

  • Noel -
    Surely you would concede that there is a real and substantive difference bettween a Mason and a Clavinist or Methodist, etc.!?
    I do believe, in fact, that membership in the Masons is not allowed by many Protestant denominations. I can vouch that it isn't in the Anglican church. Masons are not, and do not pretend to be in any way Christian... even though (cough!) they may often excel more in good works than do some Christians.
    The Thirty Years War is over (Deo gratias!), and it behooves us to act like it even while we are careful not to 'paper over' genuine causes of separation. The world is bigger than Christendom's internal strife.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,109
    I've had very happy experiences playing for LCMS churches myself, both as a sub and and interim organist, so Gavin can only be describing a local situation.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Noel has a point: one shouldn't give scandal or mislead anyone about one's identity as a Catholic. So Catholics who perform in Protestant churches ought to seek ways to keep active and visible as Catholics.

    One friend of mine does this effectively: he directs music at a Protestant church and is openly known there as a Catholic: openly enough that some members of the congregation suspect him as a Papist influence.
    Thanked by 2ryand francis
  • You are, of course, right, Chonak -
    My identity as a practicing Anglican, then as a practicing Catholic, was known and respected amongst the wonderful Lutherans whom I served. And, they knew that I respected their heritage (more than some of them did).
    There was a funny incident once: I had been to lunch with a teacher who was new to this congregation, and as we were getting out of my car she said huffily: 'You can fool some people, Jackson, but you can't fool me'. When I asked what she was upset about she said that she had seen the Book of Common Prayer on the back seat of my car... and I said, 'Oh that! Yes, I'm Episcopalian... everybody knows that'. Gavin is right, though: as a rule Lutherans (especially MS) will only consider Lutherans to be their musicians. It is noteworthy, too, that the choirmaster of a prominent Lutheran church (ELCA) here (home to Houston's acclaimed and European-travelled Bach Society [which he also directs]) is Catholic.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen toddevoss
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    I made it clear when I interviewed for jobs with the Protestants, that I am Catholic and can't receive communion with them. It was never a problem.

    Noel: Call me masonic, Calvinist, heretic, even worse - a Democrat. Just get my name right on the check. :-)
  • hahaha lol
  • With LCMS there is no problem about receiving: if one isn't Lutheran one doesn't receive. It's not so simple with some other denominations.
    In my youth the Episcopal church practised 'closed communion', but that began slowly to change in the 60's and 70's: a sure sign to me the end was near.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'd hoped it was clear that I referred only to a majority of churches I had run across (in the state 2nd most heavily populated by Lutherans), and did not intend to make any statements about the whole LCMS. In fact, one Lutheran friend told me that many of the Lutherans with whom I associated were "very, very strange" and not at all representative of most Lutherans. So take it as one experience.

    My larger point is regarding the stifling of the musical culture in these churches. Interestingly, I know of one such church that has a thriving music program, with an extremely devout Lutheran organist (with a very strong Marian devotion, also...) Very strict Lutheran parish, but I recall how the organist and I spoke vigorously about Gregorian chant in an "ecumenical dialog" of sorts.

    I'm concerned about a musical culture that turns inward and suffocates itself. It happened in the Catholic church, and the result was Glory & Praise. I don't want to see it happen again.
  • donr
    Posts: 944
    Well as it turns out the church is Pentacostal.
    My wife just wants to do what is correct so she asked me about it.
    I have read all the posts and and I thank everyone for their docs and opinions.
    I did give her the advice to discuss with our pastor but that I thought it would alright.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,827

    The musical culture did not 'turn inward and suffocate itself'. The "faithful" (well, at least those who were in leadership) wandered off into the wilderness of their own imaginings (G&P) and left the source of oxygen (authentic liturgy and music) and suffocated. That is why most RC churches are lifeless, have no vocations, and the reform is strongly afoot! We're headed back to clean air, boys and girls!
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,027
    Everyone should check the website of Westminster Abbey and see what the affiliation of their master of choristers ain't Anglican!
    Thanked by 2Gavin ScottKChicago
  • My brother is a monk at Westminster Abbey, Mission BC, Canada. It’s a Benedictine monastery west of Vancouver. Check it out! Wonderful music and chant. Reverent!
  • What an unusually gladsome bump!
    Westminster Abbey in Canada!
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 352
    I sometimes play at Protestant services. During things like Offertories, or before the service starts I often play pieces of plainchant. Sometimes people come and ask what I played and I am happy to tell them, and that they can hear it sung at the local RC cathedral.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,221
    " I did a gamut of music there which I could not have done in the Catholic Church because it was too Catholic."
    That's exactly the point!
    Thanked by 1MarkS
  • Catholic here, have only worked in Protestant churches since I answered my calling to church music ministry five years ago. This wasn’t by choice, it was simply what was available at the time. The director I worked with in my first position was also Catholic. We were at a Presbyterian church. Now I am a music director for a United Methodist church. They are a good deal more curious about me than the Presbyterians and ask lots of questions sometimes, which I think is a good thing. Maybe they’ll come and check out a Mass one day. Would a Catholic position be ideal? Yes. Is one always available where I live? Rarely-and pay is usually much lower.
    Thanked by 1MarkS
  • Fidemin -

    Say a little about the churchmanship of your Methodists. Methodists, as a denomination are quite varied in their worship and 'liturgy'. Some are hardly different from Baptists or worse. Others are more and less 'liturgical', some even ape the Anglicans to some extent.

    Some have outstanding music programs and outstanding choirs, whilst others are best left un-remarked on. In Houston, St Paul's across from the Museum, which has Houston's most impressive Gothic pile, has one of the best choirs in the city and regularly offers evensong out of the BCP. St Paul's, and St Luke's just outside River Oaks, are pretty similar in the 'formality' of their worship. Others could only be described as very low church Baptist. (St Paul's has a large Schantz, which may be of interest to our colleague, CharlesW.)

    What are your Methodists like, and what is the name of their church.
  • I don’t have much to compare them to, except my previous position and my late grandmother’s Free Methodist church where I was brought up. I don’t know the difference between the free Methodists and the United Methodists (latter is church I work at now).
    My Methodists place a high priority on their liturgy. The traditionally Baptist hymns that have found their way into just about every hymnal of every denomination are not welcome there-No escapist hymns (When We All Get To Heaven, Ill Fly Away, etc), they also don’t like “blood” hymns either (Rock of Ages, Nothing But The Blood, etc). The reason was explained to me but I don’t recall exactly why these texts aren’t used in the Methodist church. There were similar complaints about such hymns at the Presbyterian church but the pastor there ignored them and chose a lot of Baptist hymns. (Not surprisingly, I’ve heard they may be considering a change to “non denominational”-mainly because of the dire financial problems and hope of keeping their doors open). Back to the Methodists. They follow the liturgical year (Presbyterian church didn’t), Gospel readings every week are the same as they are for us Catholics (nice when I am unable to attend Mass-I don’t feel totally out of the loop).
    The church has been in the same location for almost 100 years, but the old building was beyond repair and they built a new one about 15 years ago. It was a rush job, so I was told, and many things went unplanned or unaccounted for, including an organ. The current pastor is new and young, and very much interested in restoring some traditional things that have been lost. I just got word from my aunt, who still attends my childhood church, that they are no longer using their organ and their “hipster” pastor (who apparently had all of the old pews removed and started a “worship team”) wants to sell it. I am hopeful that something good will come from this, and it would be lovely to have the instrument that had such a profound impact on me as a child. (Dear old Ruth, you couldn’t imagine what my Grandmother’s church has turned into now! God as my witness I will not allow anyone to destroy your organ.)
    It’s not a huge church, average attendance is around 125-150 every Sunday, more for holidays of course. Dressy “Sunday” attire is expected, they don’t do “casual” church-and you’ll hear about it if someone thinks you aren’t dressed well enough. My choir isn’t enormous either, 21 if everyone is able to be there, but we average 16-18 right now. All volunteer, and quite good for such a group. They are very motivated, capable, and continuously strive to improve. I would say that the liturgy is in transition at this church. The congregation wants it to be better, and now they have a pastor and music director who are invested in making that happen. Does that always go over as well as it sounds here? *spits out coffee*....Of course not. For as much as they want better liturgy, they are deathly afraid of even the tiniest changes.
    We aren’t high church in the way you are accustomed to it. We aren’t located in a big city, we don’t have a fancy name, just “Name of Town First United Methodist Church”. But we are doing a lot better than our more “modern” neighbors. They’ve taken in several new members recently who left the local non-denom “mega” churches because they wanted a “real church experience”. I guess it’s a start.

  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641
    I've never had a regular Protestant job but have subbed around from time to time...

    I've always been curious if Catholics who regularly work in music for non-Catholic churches experience a conflict of interest... isn't part of a church musicians job to try to grow a congregation through excellent music? What if that growth is coming from stealing Catholics away from Catholicism? How does one deal with that?
    Thanked by 2FidemInFidebus donr
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    I played for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Lovely people, but not growing much. Their oldest church in town closed recently because the congregation had shrunk to 50 or so. That building seated 6-700 people and was tagged as a historic piece of architecture. No sheep stealing going on there. I played for chapels at the Baptist university where I studied music. Those were assigned to different musicians each week so I played and never felt part of the congregation. It was like going to another class. Catholics are not over 5% of the population here to begin with.
    Thanked by 1FidemInFidebus
  • TCJ
    Posts: 696
    I have always considered playing at a protestant service to be assisting in their worship, so I have never played at one. I did have the opportunity of playing at the ceremony in a Lutheran church for a new pipe organ, but I declined. Same reason. Could I get more money? Yes. But what I do is not about the money, and if I have to find some other means of supporting my family, I will do so. I don't think God would require me to assist at false worship to support my family, so therefore I never have (and never will) believe that someday I might need to. God provides.

    Also, your children may wonder why you, a Catholic, spend more time in a protestant church. I choose not to give them the opportunity to even wonder at that.
  • @matthewj: If someone shows up at work and is a Catholic thinking about becoming Methodist:
    1. They aren’t going to tell the choir director all about their spiritual crisis.
    2. If in the impossible circumstance they do and they’re talking to me, I would have NO problem pulling them aside or giving my number to speak with them later on and hopefully change their mind about their silly idea.
    3. I have no problem with getting on my boss’s craplist or getting fired for #2. They knew I was Catholic when they hired me.
    4. I don’t control people. I only have control over my own actions and decisions. I don’t think “gee I bet THIS will really make our guests want to become Methodist!” every time I program a hymn or anthem. They will choose that on their own and I have nothing and want nothing to do with it.
    So yeah, I don’t have any conflict of interest. It’s a calling (no matter what denomination I happen to work for), but it’s also a job. I didn’t stop being Catholic when I worked at a country club, and I didn’t stop being Catholic when I started working at Protestant music jobs. My identity is not, and never will be (unless I really go off the rails and turn to drug dealing or prostitution) tied to where I work.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    Being a Byzantine playing in a Latin Rite parish, I sometimes have to assure other easterners I am not assisting at false or illicit worship.
  • Protestant chuches tend to leave Catholics and others working for them alone, after all, they were not able to find someone of their faith the play or direct, so that are happy to have you.
  • Can you really make a living playing music for a Catholic Church???? The only full time employees I've seen at Catholic Churches are, wait, I've never seen full time employees at a Catholic Church. Church Secretary? Part-time pay, full time work hours RE Director? Part-time pay, full time work hours. Liturgy & Music Director? Part-time pay, variable hours. Youth Director? Volunteer. Everyone else? Volunteer.

    Is this unusual?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    Sad to say, it's the norm and not unusual at all.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641
    Can you really make a living playing music for a Catholic Church????

    Where are you from?

    Full time Directors of Music are pretty much the norm here with many churches having two full time musicians.

    Prior to moving to the USA I lived in Canada where it was very rare to find full time DM jobs.
  • I don't think God would require me to assist at false worship to support my family, so therefore I never have (and never will) believe that someday I might need to.

    There is a marked difference between false worship (eg wicca, paganism, flying spaghetti monster, Sunday-assembly) and your average Presbyterian / Methodist / Lutheran church-service!

    The latter may not enjoy the fullness of the Christian truth. But they clearly have at least a good dollop of it, especially when compared to some of the options out there.

    If the Catholic church regards baptism in a particular church as valid (and therefore not repeated if the person later becomes Catholic), then I'd see no difficulty in serving that church's worship - whether by working as an electrician / plumber / carpenter on their build, as a secretary in their office, or as a musician in their sanctuary.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    Full time Directors of Music are pretty much the norm here with many churches having two full time musicians.

    It is all dependent on where "here" is located. Some places, true. Others, not so much. Larger cities tend to pay more and have more opportunities.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen