Musicians for the Churches: Reflections on Vocation and Formation

Every year or two I read through the collection of articles published by the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale on the Formation of Church Musicians.  download here.


Here is a section that really struck me this time.  There is a lot of talk right now in the pca about how/if  we can/should form worship leaders at the seminary level.  Our denomination has a strong track record when it comes to equipping and training pastors, but we’re still not quite sure what to do with musicians.  We treat their professional development  with an uncharacteristic laissez-faire…largely relying on them to be trained up in other spheres of life – whether via acadamia or ‘on the job.’  While many of my friends have gone and gotten seminary degrees…it still takes quite a lot of independent work to connect the dots in the pastoring of congregations through the full gamut of worship (sacraments, music, aesthetics, cultural exegesis, etc)…what Witvliet refers to as a need for more interdisciplinary courses and  “liturgical scholarship with a wide-angle lens.”

“What I imagine is an interdisciplinary course that provides in-depth reflection on liturgical case studies.  Imagine looking at a given worshipping community past or present, to discern how its liturgical life embodies theological commitments, social relationships, cultural values, linguistic patterns, implicit aesthetic judgments, and kinetic patterns.”  (Witvliet, p20)

Here is a list of books that  every worship leader should own that provides a look at some of these areas of study that most of us won’t get at the conservatory or seminary. Some of them are tough, but even a cursory reading will benefit greatly. 

1. The study of Ethnomusicology: 31 issues and concepts.  by Bruno Nettle

2. A Sociology of Christian Worship. by Martin Stringer

3. Fools for Christ. Essays on the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.  by Jaraslov Pelikan

4. Resounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music.  by Jeremy Begbie

5. Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic.  by Nicholas Wolterstorff

One thought on “Musicians for the Churches: Reflections on Vocation and Formation

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  1. Cool stuff, and the only thing I would add is the need, post-seminary, for churches to recognize that a “worship pastor” that is focused on music and the arts is a valuable and vital thing. I’ve spoken with too many pastors in our sphere that assume such a thing is unnecessary, a luxury, not biblical, sends the “wrong message” to people or for whatever reason is beyond the comprehension of their view of the church.

    I was encouraged last year in talking with a west-coast church planter in a very liberal area who had built into his budgeting the need to hire a full-time worship pastor in year 3 (their 3rd full-time hire).

    Hopefully this will change sooner rather than later. In another conversation I had recently with a pastor, he mentioned how much more important it is to teach theology (verses simply ‘doing some good music’). I told him yes, theology is important – but worship is what we’ll be doing for eternity, so I think teaching that is fairly important too :) Fortunately he had a good humor about it and agreed!

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