When Worship Ends

north-w-space-afternoonI saw this essay linked on CMAA’s forum, and a discussion there ensued.

I can’t speak for the details and rubrics of Methodist worship. I do know that many church musicians have a certain understanding of tradition, denominational or local. Sometimes clergy and/or parishioners do not share it. Sometimes, ministers have a sense that they are entitled to certain behavior from those who sit in the pews.

Liam’s comment is an accurate assessment of the state of affairs in most Catholic parishes:

Most Catholic PIPs in the USA would greet such an admonition with non-cooperation, shall we say. It’s a function of the governance culture of the Catholic Church: the PIPs get an overt say in very little, so when faced with a new command that is gilding the lily, they tend to exercise their power of non-cooperation. It can take a while for new pastors to learn this hard lesson, let alone lay ministers. Organ or musical solos before and after Mass survive on the sufferance of the PIPs.

Another interesting comment:

The only thing that bothers me is when people get very loud in their talking after Mass. I have been known to stop a postlude, turn around, and shout from the loft: “You are still in church, and the Blessed Sacrament is present in the tabernacle. Please be quiet in church and go into the vestibule or outside to talk, thank you,” and then begin the postlude again from bar 1 – even if I’m 3 bars from the end.

I suspect such passive-aggressive methodology would not be well met.

Somehow I think the Lord is less offended by the talking than by the shouting. One may or may not be deliberately or consciously disrespectful. The solution seems to be so, especially if people involved are significant in numbers or even simply hard-of-hearing. Such shouting on such topics also feeds into a sense of entitlement too many ministers share.

I find it to be a simple matter of people leaving worship for reasons ministers do not share. They have to get to work. They have an appointment that is personally significant. The kids are restless. They are restless. They assess nothing of importance remains for the gathering, and they got what they came for, be it a sacrament, a message, or a good feeling. Sometimes these reasons may be objectively poor. Sometimes the reasons we might wish people would come early and stay late are objectively poor.

When people come early or stay late to listen to our music, does it edify our egos, burnish our credentials with the finance committee, justify our long hours of preparation and rehearsal, make a pastor feel his parish is more devoted than his seminary classmate’s in the other town?

My own attitude is to let go. My parishioners don’t owe it to me to come early and listen to preludes, or to sing all the verses of the final song. If they do, I hope they will derive some spiritual benefit. If they will derive spiritual or other benefit from some other pre-Mass activity, or scooting quick because they need to talk to a priest who leaves during verse one, I don’t mind their choice to do what is none of my business.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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9 Responses to When Worship Ends

  1. Liam says:

    Warning: Rambling rant.

    I have an odd tangent that just came to mind about preludes and postludes. In a former community of mine (3 communities ago), we had many occasions to have meetings of representatives of the community to open-chew Things That Bothered People. They were typically in the wake of a less-than-elegant (to put it charitably) moment of Change. One of the things about these sessions is that by nature, while they had topical focus and process facilitation, they tended to feed off a culture of complaint.

    And I have a particularly vivid memory about a complaint about our then-organist, who was a gifted organist and harpsichordist (she once gave a sublime concert of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and took requests for repeated movements as her encores; perfectly accessible and charming). She engaged the community’s “mixed repertoire” in programming (a mix of contemporary and traditional Catholic liturgical music). She also regularly provided her own improvisations as preludes and postludes, one of the most traditional parts of the church musician’s art and service. We also had a legendary organ.

    During one our struggle sessions, a member of the community complained that our organist was not offering us enough “music of our own time” and made some loaded rhetoric about inclusion (the complainant was an older white straight woman; diversity in our community came in odd ways, but she was not representative of it). I replied: have you ever noticed our organist’s improvisations? And that our organist is a woman and then some? The complainer apparently hadn’t, and we moved on.

    It’s but one example of many I’ve witnessed where people with twist anything into the nail they wish to hammer.

    * * *

    For myself as a complainer (I need to bookend an illustration by reminding myself that I am not so different from those I am critiquing), I am finding a tremendous distraction with my current pastor. He’s a wonderful man, and a pastor with a genuine love for his flock. He’s itchy with rubrics and ritual texts, and his homilies have too much first-person-singular in them and a near inability to allow any Gospel pericope about a miracle to be left without the miraculous being drained from it. Yesterday and the past couple of weeks, he’s taken to rewording the Gospel as he goes (yesterday, it might have charitably been called a lower-register paraphrase of the Good New Bible paraphrase – lots of contractions, “gonnas” and “bosses” and a variety of other changes in tone and words; his final homiletic questions were worthy, but what preceded them jumped all over the place); he’s done that occasionally in the past, but I am concerned, with the advent of the new university season (we’re also a parish for a few nearby universities and colleges), that he’s feeling, um, inspired. It’s *so* distracting. I am accustomed to having to go to my special place at various points in the liturgy as I’ve encountered all manner of celebrant idiosyncrasies over the decades, learning as I did at my mother’s knee how priests’ gifts varied. And I am certainly inured to not having liturgy “done my way”; I don’t think I’ve ever been able to sustain an expectation about that to nurse a grudge about it. Rather, it’s when things like this come out of left field and distract the ability to maintain a radical openness and receptivity (in the contemplative sense). Boom! Nope! However progressive he is, my intuition and from from what others have said to me is that he doesn’t take feedback on his liturgical style well unless its praise or gratitude.

    Thanks for (maybe) listening.

  2. For one Mass gifted with an extraordinary organist:
    1. Ditch a sung recessional.
    2. Organist prepares “killer” postlude, performs it upon ministers exiting sanctuary.
    3. Most parishioners leaving then do NOT talk generally or loudly, unlike how disruptively they do during the sung recessional, as they can’t hear themselves above organ/schola. Funny how they respect the organ postlude.
    4. Don’t worry about the PIP’s demeanor, but make darn sure your choristers remain polite and appreciative.

    • Liam says:

      Alternatively, assuming the music for the Mass itself is suitably glorious, go for something like this:

      • Liam says:

        Monteverdi ravishes.

      • Liam says:

        The postlude can be a perfect place for shorter sacred music jewels of this sort that might seem to grab disproportionate attention *during* the corporate worship in the Mass, but can be more effective as free-will offering of the music ministry after the Mass (which allows congregant who wish to leave to continue leaving, quietly).

    • Melody says:

      Liam, thanks for the lovely Monteverdi link. Unfortunately a piece like that is way beyond the skill level of our little parish choir (I include myself in that, since I am a member and sometime accompanist). We have started doing a prelude prior to Mass. It is usually acapella, four-part harmony; the congregation seems to like that. The last one we did was “The King of Love, My Shepherd Is”.

      • Liam says:

        Of course, it would be far out of the ordinary. But, just as a way to expand the imagination, imagine being a congregant hearing that erupt after the liturgy of Pentecost (it’s Psalm 147):

        Lauda Jerusalem Dominum,
        Lauda Deum tuum Sion,
        Quoniam confortavit seras portarum tuarum.
        Benedixit filiis tuis in te
        Qui posuit fines tuos pacem, Et adipe frumenti satiat te;
        Qui emittit eloquium suum terrae, Velociter currit sermo eius;
        Qui dat nivem sicut lanam,
        Nebulam sicut cinerem spargit,
        Mittit cristallum suam sicut buccellas,
        Ante faciem frigoris eius quis sustinebit;
        Emittet verbum suum et liquefaciet ea,
        Flabit spiritus eius et fluent aquae.
        Qui annuntiat verbum suum Jacob,
        Iustitias et iudicia Israel.
        Non fecit taliter omni nationi
        Et iudicia sua non manifestavit eis.
        Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto
        Sicut erat in principio
        Et nunc et semper
        Et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

        Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem;
        praise your God, O Zion.
        for he has strengthened the bars of your gates.
        He has blessed your children within you.
        He secures peace in your borders and fills you with the finest of wheat.
        He sends forth his commandment upon earth: his word runs swiftly.
        He bestows snow like wool,
        he spreads hoar-frost like ashes,
        he dispatches his ice like morsels:
        when he produces cold, who can endure?
        He sends forth his word and melts them;
        he causes his wind to blow and water flows.
        He declares his word to Jacob,
        his statutes and judgments to Israel.
        He has not done the same or any other nations,
        nor made known his judgments to them.
        Glory to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit
        as it was in the beginning,
        is now and always,
        and for ages of ages. Amen.

  3. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    Last summer, while back in the UK on home leave, I attended the Eucharist, on the Feast of the Assumption at Westminster Cathedral. The full choir was on holiday, but there was a cantor; the Introit etc were all in Latin, though the Mass was in English. There was no recessional, but the organist accompanied the departure of the celebrant and other ministers with a restrained accompaniment. When that finished I expected the congragegation to start leaving, instead many sat in their places, as the organist launched into a voluntary. Along with the confrere who accompanied me, we began to move out, only to encounter another confrere visiting the UK to attend an academic conference. He smiled at us as he saw us heading out. Later over coffee, at a coffee shop near by, he explained that the organist’s voluntary at the end of that particular Eucharist is well known, and many stay to hear it. Unless I’m mistaken, and there has been a change of organists at the Cathedral, the current organist there, was formerly at Westminster Abbey, and is an Anglican. His predecessor at the Cathedral, now serving as organist at the Abbey, is, in turn, a Catholic.

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