Friday, January 29, 2016

for organists -- Changing the culture at your church (part two)

So what's it like being an organist? That's probably a question few people even think to ask. And the answer is, it's different. How different? Consider this illustration.

The congregation is singing a hymn. Everybody in the building who is able is standing.

The organist is sitting.

Everybody is singing,

The organist is playing an instrument.

Most of the people are bunched up together facing the same direction.

The organist is off in a corner somewhere, unseen. (note: in our church, the organ is on the opposite side of the chancel from the choir so I don't even sit with them) Sometimes the organist has a balcony all to themselves, or a chancel area, or is off to the side someplace.

The people, if they know the hymn and are willing, are making a fairly healthy noise between all of them.

The organist could drown the entire congregation with the touch of a button.

And that's just during a hymn! The organist is certainly a specialized position, like a goal keeper in soccer (futbol!). He or she may even be wearing a unique uniform to make the distinction evident (I ditched my robe years ago because it made it really hard to get around and nobody complained).

These are all relatively small distinction, really. But if an extraterrestrial were suddenly to be dropped into a church service, these might be the first signs that the organist was unusual. The reality is that these difference continue into the daily life and functions of the organist in ways that aren't so visually obvious.

At my church, everyone has offices down at the south end of the building. But the sanctuary, where I spend most of my time, is at the other end of the building! I soon learned that if I didn't take a walk down to the south end of the building every day during a practice break, my colleagues would never see me! And I would probably not learn a lot of what was going on in the church because it was often done via face to face meetings in the hallway, or just by walking into someone's office to have a chat.

I also have a desk, but am not at it very much, unlike the rest of the staff (except the custodians). My hours are somewhat similar, but only because I like to prepare during the daylight hours. My rehearsals and services are on evenings and weekends. There is some overlap with the rest of our dedicated staff on that one--not everyone works 9 to 5 weekdays, or does so exclusively. But organists can have schedules that virtually preclude face to face meetings with their colleagues. We'll have to discuss ways to overcome that, because the consequences of this kind of built-in invisibility are not generally good.

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