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Is Being a Christian a Prerequisite to being a Professional Church Organist?

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  • #16
    Originally posted by iPlayKeys View Post
    I may still start a new one specifically about how LGBTQ organists relate to their churches. I'm curious to hear the experience of others as I know I've had an interesting road myself.
    Mark,

    That thread topic has been started as well, and it was not beneficial to the Forum. It created animosity between some members that still exists today. Partially as a result of that thread, some members left the Forum.

    What I might recommend is that because we now have Groups, perhaps that discussion could take place in a Group of like-minded people (like the Allen Organ Owner's Group). I'm not sure if it is visible to the general public, just Forum members, or only Group members, though. You wouldn't want to have trolls in the group.

    Hope this helps.

    Michael
    Last edited by myorgan; 01-29-2021, 06:28 PM. Reason: Fix grammar.
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

    Comment


    • iPlayKeys
      iPlayKeys commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Michael. I saw one of the threads and the direction it went. I would be open to starting and moderating such a group if you feel like that is the place to have such a discussion. Those of us in the LGBTQ community that serve churches definitely have unique challenges. I'm not meaning to imply that the person that started this thread is a part of LGBT community, but it's not uncommon for our faith to be questioned by those who believe they know the only way to know God.

    • Admin
      Admin commented
      Editing a comment
      Happy to report there is now an Organ Forum Group for members of the LGBT community and friends hosted by iPlayKeys. The Group is open for reading to all Forum members, but you must Join the group, by clicking the Join button, in order to post there.

  • #17
    If every member of a church had to believe 100% the same thing, then there would be one church for every human being. Each of us has our own understanding, and no two match exactly. it seems to be human nature to form clans, but churches with wise leadership accept differences in us.

    Comment


    • #18
      I realize this post is not exactly brand new and probably has every angle of opinion on the subject. However, I just wanted to "weigh in" with my thoughts because I thoroughly enjoy good dialogue between fellow musicians, especially church musicians in this case. I'll try to keep this brief. Is it absolutely necessary to be a Christian in order to be a church organist? Technically no, because every church will set their own parameters and requirements. It all depends on the denomination and then even more on the particular church in that denomination, and then on the particular pastor or committee within that individual church. Some will say yes and some will say no. Personally, I have played organ in a number of different church denominations which include Baptist, Independent Bible Church, Evangelical Free, United Church of Christ, and Lutheran. I myself am a professing Christian (defined specifically as one who has received the gift of forgiveness of sins and salvation through belief in the gospel message - the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ). I can say that in my own Baptist upbringing, there was absolutely no question that being a Christian was a prerequisite for anyone who served in a capacity which placed them up in front of the congregation doing ministry of any kind whether it be teaching, singing special music, or playing the piano/organ. The philosophy behind this was the fact that the whole premise of church ministry is to ultimately lead others to salvation and then to further growth in Christ. To have someone leading/serving who has never made the decision to accept the gift of salvation was considered to be counterproductive to the mission of the church. It's kind of like the equivalent of having a republican or a democrat serving on each other's platform. The two are extremely opposite in values and beliefs. Could it be done? Absolutely, but it's rather counterproductive and does not properly represent what that party is all about. Could a non-Christian serve in a place of leadership in a church? Absolutely, and it is probably done way more than anyone ever realizes (I would go as far to say that there are also many pastors in particular denominations that are not even saved or have no understanding of the teachings of scriptures). Are they serving there? Yes. Are they doing the church any favors? Probably not very much when you consider what the ultimate mission of the evangelical church is. I think the reason for the requirements is all about the integrity of how leadership is structured according to the Bible. There are particular qualifications for pastors and deacons (I Timothy 3:1-7). Lay workers are not under quite as strict of guidelines, but I believe that they should at least be professing Christians who understand and have believed and accepted the gospel message. If a person doesn't believe these fundamental elements, then what exactly are they doing in the leadership positions? What I'm trying to say is that it comes down to theological convictions. Each church (and denomination) has a different set of theological convictions which are based to some degree on what the Bible has to say about church ministry and service. I think that the issue is a matter of integrity. Do you want a communist to teach a course on capitalism? Could they do it? Sure they could, but their heart is not really there. It would be counterproductive to the cause. It's the same with a non-Christian teaching and serving in a church. Sure, they can do it, but their heart is not in it for the same reason as someone who is a genuine believer and has a dedicated commitment to the cause of Christ and His gospel.
      This is challenging because as Christians, we are called to love our neighbors and show mercy. At the same time, we are also called to follow the scriptural mandates and values that are taught within its pages. There are multiple references to the issue and problem of teachers within the church who profess to be Christians but are not. It is never looked upon as a good thing but rather as divisive. Anyone who serves in a ministry capacity that impacts the whole congregation needs to seriously evaluate where his/her heart is. What is your ultimate goal in serving? What motivates you to serve in the church? If your goal is not to glorify God and lead others to salvation and growth in Christ, then why are you serving. If you don't embrace the very thing for which you are supposed to be serving, then why are you doing it?

      Some things to ponder and consider.....
      Craig

      Hammond L143 with Leslie 760

      Comment


      • musikfan
        musikfan commented
        Editing a comment
        Folks, my apology again for the poor formatting on my post. Honestly, I'm kind of ashamed of myself. Please don't take this as arrogance, but I do pride myself on being a proficient writer which includes knowing how to "present" your thoughts in a legible way that is easy to read. I should have gone back over my post with a more critical eye. I failed to do that here. I think in this case, I got carried away with my thoughts and forgot to separate them out. I get so preoccupied with the content of my posts that I often will forget to go back and check for the presentation. Your comments are helpful because in the future, I will remember to check my posts for "readability". I also should probably try to make my thoughts more concise. I have to admit that when I see a long post, I tend to skip over it because it takes extra time to read it... I guess it depends on the content....

      • jbird604
        jbird604 commented
        Editing a comment
        Craig, I noticed long ago that newspaper editors break long articles into paragraphs almost randomly. I've adopted that method when I reread one of my long posts.

        Just adding white space with a few paragraph breaks makes it easier to read, even though the thoughts continue across paragraphs.

        See what I did? I "think" that makes people more likely to read the post.

      • Organkeys Jones
        Organkeys Jones commented
        Editing a comment
        In many online formats, if you hit the "Return" key to start a new paragraph you have just sent the message. I like The Organ Forum because it uses a word processor and reacts as expected. So, Musikfan, edit your post and hit the Return key at the end of several sentences.

    • #19
      My feeling has always been that yes, if you are going to play music in a Christian church and help lead the people in worship, you should be a Christian. Apart from whether or not the church would even want a non-Christian to do that job, I think it certainly would affect the quality of the music provided by such a person. There is no way one can play for Christian worship effectively, if that person thinks what is going on is actually foolishness.

      As a non-Christian, someone who plays very well, even at a virtuoso level, will never impart the reverent feeling to the music that is demanded and expected. And I really can't imagine how that person would even begin to know all the Sundays and seasons, and the proper music for them with real understanding of what all is going on in a given service, without actually living the faith.

      I'd also suppose that someone who is non-Christian, but plays for Christian worship services, would be quite conflicted in their head. And I think that just might show up in the level of seriousness and care that goes into planning music for any service. A worship service is Not a concert, and I think a non- Christian could be temped to consider it one.

      As always in things of this sort, that is my opinion. Back when I was still living in the Milwaukee area I refused an organist position ( that was going to pay very well, and they were even ready to change service times to accommodate my schedule ) in a church of a "denomination" that I consider too far "out there" for me to be able to live with myself, if I were to play for their services, thereby validating their beliefs in some way. I just could not square their beliefs with what I know to be the truth about God. So I cant see how an unbeliever could support beliefs they obviously do not agree with, by playing in a Christian church.
      Regards, Larry

      At Home : Yamaha Electones : EX-42 ( X 3 !!! ), E-5AR, FX-1 ( X 2 !! ), FX-20, EL-25 ( X 2, 1 chopped, 1 not ). Allen 601D, ADC 6000D. Baldwin 626. Lowrey CH32-1. At Churches I play for : Allen Q325 ( with Vista ), Allen L123 ( with Navigator ). Rodgers 755.

      Comment


      • #20
        Larrytow, you are making assumptions about people that I think are incorrect. Do you really think that all non-believers think that a worship service is "foolishness?"

        I'm a non-believer and in my professional music life I have performed in orchestras and chamber ensembles for church services in various denominations and I and my colleagues always strove to provide the best music we possible could. All professional musicians always strive to do the best they can, no matter what the circumstances. I find it a little insulting that you would downplay that level of commitment to professionalism.

        I can listen to a hymn and appreciate it's beauty even if I don't believe the words. I can love listening to or playing a Bach cantata without believing the words. I played in a performance of the Fauré Requiem at St. Thomas church in New York City with Gerre Hancock as the director. It was one of the most perfect and moving experiences of my professional life. I used occasionally go to St. Thomas Evensong not only to enjoy the great music, but to use the experience for contemplation and meditation. Just because I don't believe literally in the words of the Bible or the music doesn't mean I can't find meaning or beauty in them nor to produce musical beauty from them.

        In the extremely remote possibility that I would ever find myself in a position to play organ for a liturgical service, I don't think you would be able to perceive my beliefs from my playing.

        Comment


        • Larrytow
          Larrytow commented
          Editing a comment
          I'm sorry I don't have more time to spare today to respond to your post - it's snowing here. I think that you are confusing several issues that I pointed out. I most certainly was not referring to "guest" jobs as a part of a ensemble. I was talking about taking a job as "the" organist of a church. A lot more goes into taking that job than just playing the right notes, in the right order, at the right time.

      • #21
        Some of the opinions expressed in this thread remind me of a Gandhi statement, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so not like your Christ.”

        He once tried to attend a Christian service, but was turned away because he was not white. You can read more of the story at this link:

        https://godofhope.net/2015/09/21/oh-...ay-turned-off/
        Bill

        My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

        Comment


        • #22
          I can't directly speak to the question, as I have only played for churches to which I belonged and shared their beliefs. Before I changed denominations about 10 years ago, I found myself at odds with the preaching in my church at the time. I consoled myself with the idea that this particular preacher didn't necessarily represent the denomination as a whole, but I sure did find it hard to give myself fully to the ministry of that church, which I felt was headed in a terrible direction under that leadership.

          Upshot -- I left and determined never again to play for or even attend a church where I could not condone what was being preached, and to find a place of service where my heart tells me I am at home with folks whose hearts are filled with love. So glad that I have done that!

          From what I've seen around me, having known a lot of organists of various stripes, the worst mismatch is when someone is a truly talented, gifted, trained, remarkable player but lacks the discipline necessary to do the job with dignity and respect. For example, one hugely talented young man that I knew could play circles around most everybody else. Truly had all the skills needed to make music and to head up any kind of ministry in a church. I don't know much about his faith, but I do know that he had some sad personal problems involving alcohol and drugs. He was fired from more than one church after showing up "under the influence" for a service and unable to do his job. He was evidently in an emotional spiral and didn't get the help he needed, and eventually ended his own life.

          In that case, it was not necessarily a problem of not believing what the church's creed called for so much as being unwilling or simply unable to behave as a responsible person. It's possible that the two are related or spring from the same root, but I can't be the judge of that.

          Bottom line -- It's at least vital for a person taking a job to play in church to be able to control his/her actions so that any personal problems do not spill over into behaviors and habits that prevent the performance of the job. Ironically, a church should be the very place where a troubled individual might hope to find help, proper counseling, direction for living, but sadly that isn't always the case.
          John
          ----------
          *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

          https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

          Comment


          • #23
            Originally posted by Larrytow View Post
            As a non-Christian, someone who plays very well, even at a virtuoso level, will never impart the reverent feeling to the music that is demanded and expected. And I really can't imagine how that person would even begin to know all the Sundays and seasons, and the proper music for them with real understanding of what all is going on in a given service, without actually living the faith.

            I'd also suppose that someone who is non-Christian, but plays for Christian worship services, would be quite conflicted in their head. And I think that just might show up in the level of seriousness and care that goes into planning music for any service. A worship service is Not a concert, and I think a non- Christian could be temped to consider it one.
            I disagree.

            Among the organists in my area, I'm probably one of the least devout, but among those congregations who pay their organists and who have the most demanding job requirements, I'm still a desired commodity. At least three of those congregations have asked me to apply for their jobs when they became open. But I'm very content where I am and have no intention of leaving my current church position.

            As I said, I'm probably the least devout of all the other organists in my area, but I do know that my training and experience have given me more knowledge and understanding than the other organists about liturgy, hymn-playing, choral conducting, organ repertoire, etc. I involve congregation members in more ways than the other churches do. We cover a broader range of music and our musical presentations are not nearly as lifeless as some of the more 'devout' organists. I can play reverently and I can rouse the spirits so that people leave the service with renewed energy. Local churches have hired me to teach their organists how to improve their organ-playing, whether it's for hymns or classical repertoire. They considered it an investment in their own staff.

            I should add that with the last two ministers I worked with, I had a better understanding of the church year and elements of Christian worship than they did, in spite of their seminary training.
            ****
            LABELS - We must always be on guard that we don't assign the wrong attributes to any particular label.

            A Christian is simply someone who has chosen to follow Christ, however they describe that for themselves, even if another Christian or group of Christians declares it to not be true. It is not for us to judge their faith.

            I understand how my congregation wishes to express its faith. Although I don't follow their beliefs exactly, their approach doesn't turn me off or disgust me. We share enough positive direction that I can work with them.
            ****
            Labels don't describe all. We're led to believe that "a spade is a spade" or "a rose is a rose is a rose." Yes... and no. As an organist, I've played a number of organs. One of the first things I check is the quality of the 8' Principal. Some are ho-hum, others are gorgeous; some do their job well, some are too loud or too soft. While the label gives me a sense of the stop, it doesn't tell me all its qualities. We cannot assume that a particular label automatically comes with certain attributes beyond some basics.

            The same is true of labels that apply to faith groups, professions and specific employment positions, which is why the posts on this thread offer a variety of opinions. Each of us ends up viewing the questions through our own bias. It is hard to tone down the 'subjective' and move toward the 'objective'. It is important to remember that what is 'right' for me is not necessarily 'right' for everyone else.
            ****
            I will admit to Larrytow that there are moments of 'conflict in my head.' Usually I can find a way around them.

            Although I'm a non-believer, I realize that a service is not a concert but it still requires that we strive for excellence in whatever we do.

            Because I am a responsible employee, I do plan the services with care.

            I'm gay and my congregation has no issue with that, nor have the local congregations who tried to head hunt me had any issues with that, including a Baptist church.

            I'm a cheerful employee and fellow-congregant, someone who takes the time to talk with those that I work with and for. I make them feel important.

            My label is "organist" and like the Principal 8', I try to be the best I can.
            Last edited by regeron; 02-15-2021, 05:21 AM. Reason: an attempt to be more objective

            Comment


            • tbeck
              tbeck commented
              Editing a comment
              Thank you, Regeron. You said it so much more eloquently than I.

          • #24
            Very well said, regeron. And a good summary of the situation as I see it too. Though I came from a background in which the "profession of faith" was everything, and church membership strictly required, I learned a long time ago that not all Christians shared my particular outlook.

            Being in the organ service business for the past 45 years has of course been eye-opening. I remember being rather surprised the first time I encountered an organist who wasn't an adherent of the faith for which he played. Before then, I assumed that Methodist churches hired Methodist organists, Lutherans hired Lutherans, as I'd never heard of a Baptist church hiring anyone but a Baptist for a musician.

            You can imagine my surprise upon frequently encountering gay organists (and even music directors and pastors). In my world, growing up, basically anybody who was anybody in the church was a straight male with exactly one wife (ever). Any variation from that probably would disqualify you from holding any position in the church. But as Dorothy said to Toto -- "I don't think we're in Kansas any more!"

            So it's a big wide world out there, and I'm happy to have a better view of it than I once did.
            John
            ----------
            *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

            https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

            Comment


            • #25
              Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
              "I don't think we're in Kansas any more!"
              Unfortunately!;-)

              Michael
              Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
              • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
              • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
              • 11 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 7 Pianos

              Comment


              • #26
                Originally posted by sandstone42
                So there is no absolute standard of right and wrong? Even Hitler believed he was right.
                I think there are universal truths that are pretty much universally accepted by diverse human societies, such as one form of the Golden Rule or another. But even in a homogenous society, there is no absolute agreement as to what is right or wrong. For example, how many pious adherents to "Thou shalt not kill" support capital punishment? In some contexts it's wrong, and others its acceptable. Moral standards are fluid and are based on societal consensus.

                The maxim "History is written by the victors" should always be kept in mind. If Hitler had prevailed, most of us would believe he was right, just as many of in US have a distorted sense of the racial prejudice and genocide that existed in its past. We're taught what to believe. Being a thinking human being requires re-evaluating what we were taught, keeping an open mind, and attempting to understand why differences of opinion exist, while seeking common ground on which to grow.
                -Admin

                Allen 965
                Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
                Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
                Hauptwerk 4.2

                Comment


                • tbeck
                  tbeck commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Admin, you have much more patience than I.

                • myorgan
                  myorgan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Admin,
                  If Hitler had prevailed, most of us would believe he was right, just as many of in US have a distorted sense of the racial prejudice and genocide that existed in its past.
                  Did you miss a word or two? This sentence, as written, is a bit confusing.

                  Michael

                • Admin
                  Admin commented
                  Editing a comment
                  It should read:

                  "just as many of us in US have a distorted sense of the racial prejudice and genocide that existed in its past. We're taught what to believe."

                  or "just as of many in US have a distorted sense of the racial prejudice and genocide that existed in its past. We're taught what to believe."

                  Take your choice

              • #27
                Right vs Wrong. By this, I meant something very basic, as Admin suggested, like the Golden Rule or the Great Commandment. I did not mean all the additional cultural rules that various groups of peoples have added, especially when those rules are meant to create division or to establish "us vs them." Even simple things like how you dress or how you behave, as long as others are respected and no harm is done.

                Going back to the original topic, this is also one area where we as organists can decide whether we feel at home in a place of employment, by seeing how it treats other people.

                Comment


                • #28
                  My Catholic church has actually asked this question (the general question of this thread) over the last 3 hires of music directors/organists. Our pastor, known as one of the best in a wide area, basically developed this theory based on the teachings of the Church and logical thinking.

                  - An employee is supposed to build his/her coworkers and community up. Somebody not practicing the morals and values of Christianity would not be a good choice to fulfill this role.
                  - An employee working for a system that he/she doesn't support is going to lead to unrest and unhappiness in the employee and those around him/her. This isn't always true, but I can see how this would definitely be a problem to consider.
                  - Just like an office building, you want coworkers to, well, co-work. Work together constructively. Having an obvious religious difference in a religious "office building" would obviously lead to problems.
                  - Practicality: You want somebody with experience. Non-Christians have either never been in/experienced a church setting or are quite "out of shape".
                  - This sort of references my/my pastor's first point; when you look up at somebody directing a choir or playing the organ at church, you don't want to think, "Oh, he's just here for the money" or "he's doing this for himself". Those comments are judgemental but it brings up the truth that church music is for the glory of God most importantly. And if the person leading the Worship isn't worshipping, we have a problem.
                  “I play the notes as they are written (well, I try), but it is God who makes the music.” - Johann Sebastian Bach
                  Organs I Play:
                  - Home: Allen 2110 (currently being MIDIfied)
                  - Church: M.P. Moller 1951 (Relocated 2015) 3 manual, 56 stop, 38 ranks (Opus 8152)

                  Comment


                  • m&m's
                    m&m's commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Exactly. Your comments are right on target.

                • #29
                  Originally posted by Philip Powell View Post
                  - An employee is supposed to build his/her coworkers and community up. Somebody not practicing the morals and values of Christianity would not be a good choice to fulfill this role.
                  You don't have to be a believer, no less a Christian, to practice and have morals that are espoused by Christians. In fact, I'd argue that the morals and values of some Christian denominations are corrupt, immoral, and at odds with the teachings of Christ.

                  - An employee working for a system that he/she doesn't support is going to lead to unrest and unhappiness in the employee and those around him/her. This isn't always true, but I can see how this would definitely be a problem to consider.
                  The real fallacy in this argument is that it is not unique to belief systems. Unhappiness for any reason in a job can have the exact same consequences whether that dissatisfaction is due to unreasonable working conditions, a stupid boss, lack of appreciation, or personality conflicts with co-workers. Most people don't seek employment in jobs they know will make them unhappy. Could be a problem is not the same as always will be a problem.

                  - Just like an office building, you want coworkers to, well, co-work. Work together constructively. Having an obvious religious difference in a religious "office building" would obviously lead to problems.
                  Essentially the same argument as the previous one. See my point above.

                  - Practicality: You want somebody with experience. Non-Christians have either never been in/experienced a church setting or are quite "out of shape".
                  That is just silly, First of all, experience is a desired trait for hiring anyone, not just church musicians. As humans we are capable of learning without direct experience. A competent musician should have no problem navigating a church service. In fact, any working Christian church musician has likely played services outside of the denomination they identify with.

                  - This sort of references my/my pastor's first point; when you look up at somebody directing a choir or playing the organ at church, you don't want to think, "Oh, he's just here for the money" or "he's doing this for himself".
                  I wonder the same thing every time I see a televangelist.
                  -Admin

                  Allen 965
                  Zuma Group Midi Keyboard Encoder
                  Zuma Group DM Midi Stop Controller
                  Hauptwerk 4.2

                  Comment


                  • regeron
                    regeron commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I second this motion.

                    Philip, I'm glad this works for your situation, but I know of far too many exceptions and successful situations that contradict what you have said.
                    Last edited by regeron; 02-23-2021, 12:31 PM. Reason: clarification of an idea

                • #30
                  Originally posted by Admin View Post
                  I wonder the same thing every time I see a televangelist.
                  Ha! You took the words right out of my mouth.

                  Comment

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