Jimmy Mac brings up an important point many music directors struggle to address. Should parish music repertoire reflect the comfort level of the people? Or should it urge the pew folk forward where they would not go were they not elbowed ahead? My sense is that a pastoral musician must be sensitive to both aspects.
There are times when upheaval has come to our faith life, and if music (and liturgy) is to be the source of our strengthn in the spiritual life, then perhaps comfort is the proper presumption. I choose not to press during the immediate planning of funerals because I know there are other aspects to which the grief-stricken are attending.
On the other hand, faith communities: parishes, religious communities, monasteries, schools, universities, and even the curia, can become hidebound and stale in their faith. Such times require a certain shaking up. And there are times when the music in such a community has grown stale. Those would be the times when people might need to have presumptions challenged.
That requires a leadership that can be trusted, a leadership in which such decisions are not all about them and their wishes or discernments.
One element I think we need at my parish is a chant Mass setting. I’m a bit grateful I have a few years to discern this with my music committee and choir directors–until the Ordo Missae is determined. Already, though, I have otherwise liberal parishioners saying, “We really need to look at this, don’t we?” Once I get the whole committee on board, the decision isn’t about me, our pastor, or our bishop, but it’s about good worship and the parish community.
When I read and hear stories about drastic new directions in parish music–and I’ve heard a lot of them over the years–most often such turns are not about God or about adherence to rubrics or directives. It’s about the leadership. Power because power can be exercised.