When I joined the staff at Faith church in 2005, I became part of one of the hardest working, most enjoyable group of folks you will find in a church, or anyplace else. It did, however, become evident that they were used to thinking of the organist in the manner in which churches often think (or don't think) of such a position.
It isn't that anybody was mean about it. This also was obvious from the beginning. Nobody was trying to shun me or box me out of anything. It's just that, if you are an organist in a church in many many churches, there is a pretty good chance that you simply don't enter into the consciousness of the other staff members. You are just there. On Sunday.
As I mentioned last time, this can manifest itself in a variety of ways, usually not good. Some of these things are small. That first year we had a "ministry fair" with tables and displays. One of them listed the music staff at the church--everyone except the organist. I mentioned this to the choir director, and she got a magic marker and added me. Problem solved. Later, when we got a new music office, I also asked to be listed along on the door so people would know that that was also my office.
Forgetting to mention the organist is not unusual in churches. I can't tell you how many times over the years I've had some reason to want to get in touch with an organist from another church and find that the church website or bulletin doesn't list an organist. Dear churches: please list your organist! Someone might be trying to contact them (or just be curious). I don't mean put their name in lights or rechristen your church the First Church of [insert name of organist], I just mean, along with everyone else, mention that they have a role, too.
Getting left off a list is not the end of the world. But sometimes people can make decisions that affect your job, in absentia. In those first years, our office assistant would sometimes print the church bulletin a day early and, having informed the choir director (who chose the hymns and anthems) forget to mention that to me. When I came in a day later with my selections for the week--oops! Meant to tell you! Well, we can try again next week. Still, there were other times when things got a little dicey. Because the Saturday night service took place in a different sanctuary than the one in which weddings occurred, said office assistant would sometimes reason that it was ok to schedule weddings at the same time. The problem there was I had just been double booked. The same thing nearly happened once when two worship services in different sanctuaries were also going to be scheduled simultaneously. The staff discussed the potential noise problem (the two facilities are across the hall from each other and it was feared noise from one would leak into the other space) and concluded that there would not be a problem. I read this in the minutes from the staff meeting that I had been unable to attend and quickly realized that not being physically present meant that it had not occurred to anybody that they were thinking of having me play two services at once. (I'm pretty good, but sheesh!)
I can grin about it now. In fact, while this may seem like a list of grievances, I'm really typing this with a smile on my face. First, because I know they meant well, and second, because the situation today at Faith church is very different than what it was then. I know none of those things would happen today. How did the change come about? Gradually, to be sure. And in a lot of wonderful ways I'll explore next time. But the short answer is relationships.