Liturgical calendar aside, this time of year feels like the final stretch of an annual race for many church musicians.
Lent? Check. Holy Week? Check. Easter season underway? Check.
First communion, confirmation, Pentecost? On the starting blocks or partially complete in some communities.
And then… the sweet sigh of summer relief. God knows we need that respite, especially those who have day jobs outside of the ministry where we’ve been called to serve.
But let me make the case that summer may be just the time to invest in your productivity – and it’s not about being busy. Invest in yourself and your ministry with these three summer tips for music ministers.
If your weekly music ministry responsibilities change during the summer, change your perspective. Consider spending quiet time before Mass in your community’s chapel or prayer garden. Or attend another parish where you might be less distracted by the familiarity that sometimes breeds frustration. Go with the intent simply to pray.
As you embrace the rest between the notes in your ministry, reflect on where you are and what God may be inviting you to next. Ask yourself these questions or others that are on your heart:
- What recent moments or music moved me, inspired me, or deepened my faith or my calling?
- Does a break in summer bring relief or longing (or both)?
Sometimes it’s enough to ask the question and listen, as the Benedictines say, with the ear of the heart.
As our lives change – new jobs, no jobs, expanding families, or shrinking nests – we may want or need to refine where and how we apply our talents and energy. Given some space to breathe, consider your role in music ministry and whether you can gear up to recommit or may need to redirect your efforts.
- How can I grow in my ministry? Would greater musical skill increase my enthusiasm?
- Do I hunger for more collaboration or opportunities for leadership?
- Do I want a deeper connection to the liturgy and the music that shapes it (and us)?
Sometimes when we aren’t sure, a retreat experience can provide powerful guidance. Over many years, I was exposed to new music, new ideas and big moments at some of the larger conventions for music ministers. I got to see a lot of acquaintances each year, and it was always fun. But deeper moments of transformation came elsewhere, often at weeklong institutes for church musicians or personal silent retreats.
At institutes like the CLEF Summer Program and similar programs in prior years, I gained my sense of what it meant to be called to music ministry. I built skills and knowledge, too. More important, though, I was inspired by others who were following a similar calling, often in more difficult circumstances — and some became lifelong friends and mentors.
Those experiences involved some financial tradeoffs and creativity, as well as family support. But the fruitfulness was something I could never have imagined when I went to my first week-long institute more than 30 years ago.
So, how will you invest in yourself and your calling this summer? Embracing these summer tips for music ministers will look different for everyone, but we encourage you to spend some time this month thinking about how you can use the summer months to reflect, refine, and refresh.
Kathy Felong is a musician and director of liturgy in Erie, Pennsylvania, who also works full-time as a corporate vice president of communications, change, and culture. She is a regular CLEF Life contributor.
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