Doctor, Heal Thyself!

Christmas remains for me such a powerful season of Christendom. Its symbols of new life, humility in Christ’s coming, and the powerful hope of having "God with us" - Emmanuel - are always renewing. Thankfully it comes at the end of a year, when energy, budgets, and time all seem to run out simultaneously. Renewal couldn’t seem to come at a better time.

For the many ministers and directors of music who are the vast majority of our readers, it seems an especially appropriate time to try to fathom what all has just taken place. We have geared up to produce all sorts and forms of special Christmas music, from children’s musicals, to bell choirs, to cantatas with orchestra, to ecumenical combined concert events. You name it, and many among us have worked very hard over the past few months to bring it about.

During this Post-Christmas time leading to Epiphany, we do more than take down our lights and write "thank you" notes. Those in music ministry (as well as the other pastors in our churches) take a deep breath, give thanks for the help they got from so many people, and wonder how they got the strength and the time to make it through yet another Christmas season.

One of the most amazing things about recurring ministry - and especially musical ministry - is that somehow, we find the energy to "get up and do it again" every week. Even so, it remains a challenge to find effective ways to keep the excitement in the making of music and the process of worship. I’m reminded of the phrase, "It’s not where you’re going, it’s the quality of the journey that’s important." When it comes to worship, I don’t think I agree with that old phrase. (Like so many adages - it seems to justify someone’s particular agenda at a particular time, and that’s when it gets hauled out.) I believe both are important. We must "arrive" at a place of effective and meaningful communion with God. And if we get there via a musical, dramatic, scriptural, preaching or prayer experience that is too much performance or other technical "execution," then we’ve missed the boat.

Since music is a primary aspect of what our publication is about, it’s appropriate to express that we’ve got to keep finding ways to keep the joy in what we do. As humans, our strength has limits. Every year older I get, I lose a little more off my vertical elevation. (That’s how high I can jump toward a basketball hoop for those who don’t live in Indiana.) It’s no admission of failure as Christians that we sometimes run dry - regardless of what kinds of music we love to make. Keeping the joy among our music teams, and in our music-making process is a challenge well worth addressing at this time of year.

Therefore, in this issue’s feature article, we explore some of the ways different music leaders try to prevent burnout - all too real a risk for even the most inspired individual - and keep their team’s musical support of worship an experience that is joyous in and of itself.

As Rev. Dr. David Neff states in his "Pastor’s Study" contribution, the essence of worship is "... the recognition of miracles daily within us." When we succeed as ministers of music in imbuing our worship with genuine joy in the Lord, and have kept the experience joyous for the music makers, it is a small miracle which we are privileged to witness every week of the year.

Tom LeFevre, Editor tlefevre@soundandsong.com