An introduction to Paul Westermeyer’s Church Musicians: Reflections on Their Call, Craft, History, and Challenges
by Kelly Dobbs-Mickus
Have you ever met Paul Westermeyer? As I was reading his book Church Musicians: Reflections on Their Call, Craft, History, and Challenges, I recognized the direct but impactful style of his discourse from the many times I have talked with him, worked with him, and heard his presentations. The breadth of his knowledge and experience as a musician, pastor, theologian, editor, and teacher is astonishing, surpassed only by his sense of commitment to the ministerial life.
The brevity of Dr. Westermeyer’s book of essays belies its depth of content and layers of meaning. He cuts to the core of the concepts and terms church musicians live with in a direct way, articulating issues in ways we may have been unable to and thus opening the door to a deeper understanding. While written from a Lutheran perspective, these reflections are applicable for a much wider audience and would make an excellent tool for personal or collegial study and reflection.
Here are some quotes to whet your appetite:
…the Christian faith is not about being drawn in by some kind of music or any other manipulative ploy, but is about the way of the cross… not about what turns my crank, but about serving my neighbor. (p. 4)
[Church musicians] learn from one another across denominational boundaries and relate to one another and to the whole church with a generous freedom. (p. 37)
By the craft of their musical vocation cantors are at the center of a people’s heartbeat. …They become one with the community in a way that nobody else does. (p. 38)
[Church musicians] can live out their vocations musically, and the truth that comes with that living in the best way possible, which may bring with it the painful discipline of the cross. (p. 73)
I believe that if we take Dr. Westermeyer’s words to heart, it will have a profound impact on how we view our ministry. I found his emphasis on the cross particularly compelling. We who work in the service of God’s people are not immune from hardship or mistreatment, even in that service. He reminds us that embracing the cross—not shying away from it—is part of who we are as Christians.
It is important for us music ministers to remember why we do what we do. As Dr. Westermeyer puts it, “music is for the glory of God and the good of the neighbor.” Take the time to delve into his expert context and insightful elaborations on that simple statement—you won’t regret it.
And, watch for a new Westermeyer book being published in 2018: A High and Holy Calling: Essays of Encouragement for the Church and Its Musicians
Kelly’s work at MorningStar Music Publishers focuses on resources for Catholic communities. In addition, she is organist at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago.