In August, we bid farewell to Woosug Kang as he begins the next step in his ministry. Before arriving and before learning of news of his departure, I was excited about working with him, as I perceived in him many traits that make for a great music director. Theological grounding, a commitment to excellence, a sense of the drama of the liturgy, and a keen heart for using music to serve the community are all wonderful gifts to find in one person. As we give thanks to him, we naturally turn our minds to what comes next in our music ministry.
In the coming weeks we will announce the members of our Director of Music Ministry Search Committee. As someone new to this community, I am relying heavily on the wisdom and guidance of those who will be on that committee. Once we have had a chance to meet, we will lay out a timeline and announce our formal process. In the meantime, Professor Tom Cockrell, who served us prior to Woosug’s arrival in an interim capacity, will return as our interim adult choir director. Kimberly Waigwa, a UA senior in Music Education, will be interim director of the St. Nicholas Choir. Given Tom’s skill, experience, and professionalism plus Kimberly’s experience and enthusiasm, paired with the gifts that Jeffrey Campbell brings, I have the utmost confidence that this will be a smooth and life-giving transition at St. Philip’s.
Of course, searching for a new person to fill such a position naturally leads to deeper questions and provokes thoughts about the nature and essence of musical ministry.
The heart of a Christian community is worship and the essence of worship is singing — and this comes from the heart of God’s creation itself. The ancients thought there was such a thing as the “music of the spheres”; that the planets made music as they spun through space, almost as if their dance was choreographed with the song that is the beating of God’s heart. After the so-called Enlightenment, this was thought ridiculous, but recently an experiment by physicists divided the orbital periods of the planets in half again and again until they were literally audible. The piece was named “Carmen of the Spheres.”
So perhaps it wasn’t such a silly concept after all.
There is music at the very heart of Creation and in the halls of Heaven, and the Bible makes it plain that music is at the very heart of worship, and therefore at the heart of God. There is no preaching in Heaven; it isn’t needed. There is no edifying reading in Heaven; it isn’t needed. There is no social work, no pastoral care, not even any Bible reading, and certainly no Biblical Criticism in Heaven; they aren’t needed.
The only thing that we know about Heaven for certain is that Heaven is the presence of God and that he is worshiped by all there, and that that worship is cast in song as Angels and Archangels and all the company of Heaven sing in adoration.
Our search process for a new director is about finding the person who will tune not just voices or instruments but our hearts to sing in accord with the song of Heaven. She or he will help lead us deeper into the unfolding mystery that is the anthem of creation and the song of salvation. I came to the Episcopal Church because of tremendous music — the music of our home church was the Still Small Voice of God speaking over earthquake, wind, and fire. It was speaking over the bitterness, strife, anxiety, vulgarity, and busyness of the day-to-day with an ancient melody that seemed to be echoing from catacombs, caves, and cathedrals of centuries past.
I want to close with a special thanks to the many of you who are involved in our music program in one way or another. Whether you volunteer, or give, or lead some aspect of the music ministry, your time, talent, and care give me tremendous confidence that we will find the next right person whom God has in mind for us — that person will be drawn, in large part, by your dedication, generosity, and warmth, just as I was.
—Yours in Christ, Fr. Robert