SttL on the Formation of Music Ministers

The US Bishops’ document Sing to the Lord writes of the need to form music ministers. It should go without saying that music directors and liturgists should have a thorough grounding in music and liturgy. Or at the very least, pastors are committed to providing for the continuing education of those who are discerned to have a lack in one or both areas.

Sections 48-53 are read under the title, “Leadership and Formation.” The implication is that these two are parts of a single reality, namely that leaders possess a competence, an expertise, in matters they attempt to guide the faithful.

A reinforcement of the notion of ministry in SttL 49:

Liturgical musicians are first of all disciples, and only then are they ministers. Joined to Christ through the Sacraments of Initiation, musicians belong to the assembly of the baptized faithful; they are worshipers above all else. Like other baptized members of the assembly, pastoral musicians need to hear the Gospel, experience conversion, profess faith in Christ, and so proclaim the praise of God. Thus, musicians who serve the Church at prayer are not merely employees or volunteers. They are ministers who share the faith, serve the community, and express the love of God and neighbor through music.

 As human beings, we are flawed. We suffer mixed motivations, distractions, and other qualities that get in the way of authentic ministry. That said, over the long-term, it is essential that music ministers have the grounding in faith, the sacramental life of the Church, and core Christian experiences such as conversion, sharing faith, an ability to hear and receive the Word, and so on. Perhaps individuals who aren’t formed in faith can serve a worshipping community, and perhaps such persons serve touched by the context of the music and leadership they offer. But can we call it genuine ministry?

In SttL 51, the bishop take a page from their document on lay ministry, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, to lay out four aspects of formation:

Human qualities critical to form wholesome relationships and necessary to be apt instruments of God’s love and compassion

• A spirituality and practice of prayer that root them in God’s Trinitarian life, grounding and animating all they do in ministry

• Adequate knowledge in theological and pastoral studies, along with the intellectual skill to use it among the people and cultures of our country

• The practical pastoral abilities called for in their particular ministry

Pastors and bishops are entrusted with the responsibility of encouragement for liturgical musicians to be formed as ministers, especially given that they oversee many universities & colleges, seminaries, and ministry formation programs–not to mention the budgets for these operations. I have no real criticism of this section of SttL. Initial and ongoing formation is essential for good ministers. Do you have any other observations or comments on this?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to SttL on the Formation of Music Ministers

  1. Liam says:

    “[M]usicians who serve the Church at prayer are not merely employees or volunteers.”

    This is regularly belied by the ever-present temptation – often acted upon – for parish leaders (clerical and lay) and member to deal aggressively or (more commonly) passive aggressively with music ministers.

  2. Gavin says:

    When I direct a choir, I try to make sure the group is about service, devotion, and learning. That is to say, rehearsal should begin and end in prayer. I’ve toyed around with beginning or ending the rehearsal with vespers or compline. I think that’s something people should consider.

  3. Liam says:

    Slacker…no office of readings?

  4. We’re going that direction soon, too, Gavin. Probably with Compline.

  5. Gavin says:

    I will attest that I didn’t introduce it well, and choristers thought it a waste of time. I’d suggest simplifying it A LOT. Invitory, psalm, preces, nunc, pater, leave. Or something like that.

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