The mission of the American Guild of Organists is to enrich lives through organ and choral music. To achieve this, we
August Dean's Message
Before I became a full-time musician, I trained as a biologist, specifically concentrating on animal evolution. I was particularly interested in the development of mutualistic symbiosis, a relationship in which two different species coexist in a way that benefits both. Think clownfish and anemones, or the bacteria that evolved to become the mitochondria – the power plants – of our own cells. In the truest form of mutualism, one cannot live without the other. Such is our relationship as sacred music professionals with our churches and temples, or at least it should be… in an ideal world. How many of us have faced conflicts and stress in our dealings with ministers or priests, church councils, and congregations? Have any of us been spared the collateral damage of ‘worship wars’ within a congregation?
It’s hard to avoid the bad news about organized religion in our midst. Mainline denominations are aging and shrinking, the ranks of the ‘nones’ – people with no religious affiliation whatsoever are swelling. Add to that the cultural anemia brought on by school budget cuts and the unrelenting corporatization of the arts. We, the advocates of the dynamic, living tradition of church music, are too often portrayed as dinosaurs, part of the problem rather than an integral part of the future of our faith. Now, more than ever, we must reaffirm our roles as musical evangelists within our churches, temples, and institutions of learning not just as performers but as people, building personal connections with our increasingly diverse, multicultural, and multigenerational community.
We are, for the most part, rather accomplished at preaching to the choir. How can we better connect to those in our midst who are no longer able to speak the language in which we craft our poetry? How do we address the withering of congregational singing in so many of our congregations? How can we, as musicians, be at the forefront of renewing energy and interest in our worship traditions? We are comfortable with building our repertoires and our performance techniques. How can we better hone the skills necessary to be the best ministers of music we can be, working together with our parishes and cathedrals to advance the greater Mission of our faith(s) and our Guild alike?
It is my hope that this programming season will help us face these issues head-on, inspiring more open dialogue about how we can shape the future of our profession, not just face it. To that end, we will begin with a Clergy-Musician Potluck Dinner and Evensong on Monday, September 14 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 4805 NE 45th St. Seattle. All you have to do is invite your clergy colleagues – your partners in ministry – to join us, and bring a dish to pass. As we share our meal, the Rev. Jeffrey Gill, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Seattle, will lead a discussion about our ministry and our future in the changing landscape of the church. After dinner, we will move to the sanctuary where we will sing and pray as one worshipping community.
I’d like to thank everyone who has helped to organize this season, including Norma Aamodt-Nelson, Doug Cleveland, Penny Lorenz, and Sam Libra, and those who I’m inadvertently and invariably forgetting to mention. Please stay tuned for news about our upcoming chapter events, including guest artists, a members’ recital, exciting new instruments, educational opportunities… and a pipe organ in a brew pub.
SDG, Henry Lebedinsky