Musicians and Hospitality
"...Liturgical music, vital to any liturgical gathering, is linked closely to hospitality firstly in its choice of songs. We speak of hospitality regarding music and its role in the service of the liturgy and assembly..."
"...musicians show hospitality when they work collaboratively with other ministers and let the assembly know what is expected of them..."
The full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensible source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit (SC 14).
In our weekly celebration of Eucharist, we, though many individuals, become one Body in Christ. This kind of transformation demands hospitality. The word hospitality is often implied by liturgical ministry. We are invited each week to gather at table with others to praise God, to lift our hearts in song, to listen to the action of God in human history, to receive the gift of Jesus Christ. We are sent forth each week to gather at the ‘tables of our lives’ to witness to what we have received in word and sacrament. How does an attitude of hospitality shape us for this task?
Liturgical music, vital to any liturgical gathering, is linked closely to hospitality firstly in its choice of songs. We speak of hospitality regarding music and its role in the service of the liturgy and assembly. For example, our coastal parish has very many visitors, especially at Easter and Christmas. Our music becomes hospitable and inclusive in holiday times by being very well known. In this way we express our welcome and our desire for full, active and conscious participation by all, even those who are visitors.
Secondly the parish needs a strong sense of hospitality towards and within the group of parish musicians themselves. In their 2007 document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, the American bishops reiterate that liturgical music draws on three judgements - the pastoral, liturgical and the musical (STL 126-136). How can these ‘judgements’ apply to the musicians as well as the music itself? What can we do to ensure liturgical musicians are pastorally cared for, liturgically formed and musically trained? Liturgical musicians are first of all disciples, and only then are they ministers (STL 49). How can we help our music ministers to become ‘disciples’ above all else?
Here the music coordinator steps in with his/her best skills in hospitality. Such hospitality means knowing the musicians beyond just giving them a list of songs to sing. It will include coming together regularly for prayer, formation, learning and discussion. Pastoral musicians should receive appropriate formation that is based on their baptismal call to discipleship; that grounds them in a love for and knowledge of Scripture, Catholic teaching, liturgy and music; and that equips them with the musical, liturgical and pastoral skills to serve the Church at prayer (STL 50).
Thirdly, musicians show hospitality when they work collaboratively with other ministers and let the assembly know what is expected of them. It would be helpful to encourage the musicians to attend different Masses so that they get a sense of the music scene in the whole parish. If a parish has more than one church, joining the assembly in the other church(es) will also expand their understanding of the community they serve. Music coordinators could help them to reflect on this experience, using the feedback as a peer review. What a wonderful formative experience for members of the music ministry!
Let us see how mutual hospitality can work. In our parish, the musicians meet throughout the year to prepare for Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter and, during Ordinary Time, to choose and learn new music. After prayer and reflection, the annual review identifies areas of need, for example, psalms, gathering songs or communion songs. The coordinator selects a number of options and the group listens, evaluates them for their pastoral, liturgical and musical significance, and helps choose the songs best suited to the assemblies. Musicians learn the new music for some weeks prior to its introduction. Each year, perhaps three new songs are introduced, though in the last few years, emphasis has been on the introduction of new Mass settings. That music is centrally planned for the whole parish represents a strong element of hospitality in music. Whichever Mass parishioners attend, the repertoire will be familiar.
Let us take a practical example of how our music preparation demonstrates hospitality to the music, the musicians and the assembly who will sing it. The parish liturgy group spent time with the scriptures of Lent and listened to the song Beneath the Tree of Life by Marty Haugen from the album of the same title (GIA, 2000). The refrain of this song can be heard at: www.mycatholicvoice.com/media/rjTreo. We noted links between the lyrics and the Lenten Scriptures. The song began to shape imagery for the worship space, suggested intentions for the Prayer of the Faithful, and developed into the gathering song for the Sundays of Lent. The music helped integrate the Scriptures, our lives and the various elements of the liturgical celebration. Through the song, the season became a connected whole. When such strong lyrics are chosen, a service of hospitality is rendered to the liturgy, the ministers, and the assembly. All are drawn by osmosis into the theology of the season and its images resonate in their hearts.
In return for the hospitality they have been shown, the parish in turn expresses hospitality towards liturgical musicians. Through the music coordinator, it provides the music program well ahead of time to support them in their ministry. The priest or other parish leaders attend practices where possible and provide opportunities for formation and prayer based on the source documents regarding liturgy and music. The music coordinator should be part of the roster, work to build an atmosphere of trust and respect, mentor new musicians and singers, and make decisions collaboratively for a greater sense of ownership. The parish office can maintain and facilitate contact via email and phone. Thus musicians are valued and acknowledged for their role and their place in the assembly and its liturgy. The service of pastoral musicians should be recognised as a valued and integral part of the overall ministry of the parish or diocese (STL 52).