Three decades of music ministry. Hmm . . . which sounds older? Thirty years, or three decades?
Today I name names:
Henri Manasse, friend, boss, music chair. Karen and I called Henri my godfather. We sat next to each other in the choir at the Village Church. He hired me part-time while I was a student, to do some record-keeping work at the U of I College of Pharmacy, where he was Associate Dean. Later he hired me to manage his office staff. As chair of the music committee at the church, he also arranged for me to be the assistant to the minister of music.
Don Doig, minister of music, Village Church of Western Springs. Don was Chicago’s sweetest-voiced tenors, a professor at Chicago State University, and our choir director. He traveled to sing, and as his assistant I had the privilege of directing his fine choir. As assistant in the church, I also directed the children’s choir, worked with a high school ensemble, and directed hand bells. I did this for three years, then when I went back to grad school part-time, I continued as a volunteer substituting with the choir. Thanks to Don, I had some experience to offer as I was called into full time church music work. Shortly after we moved back to Illinois 11 years later, Don was diagnosed with cancer, and he died way too young. I still regret that I didn’t have the chance to use him as the tenor soloist in oratorios at College Church.
John F. Wilson, friend, collaborator, mentor. I’ve mentioned John several times in recent posts. He set me on the worship pastor track, and encouraged me all along the way.
Jerry Sheveland, pastor, Berean Baptist Church, who took a risk on an inexperienced candidate in 1985, when there were plenty of older, experienced options. I served with Jerry for four years, and when he left I felt that I had worked through a probationary period. It was good for me to begin this life with a man who really did not understand music, but well understood his congregation! Jerry took a church in southern California, and from there became the “pope” of the Baptist General Conference.
Steve Thompson, friend. Steve could have done my job at Berean, very well indeed. That he did not want to was something of a mystery to me in 1985. Later, I understood his wisdom. Steve was a friend, colleague, co-conspirator, and confidant. Steve was also a cycling buddy, and now is among the cloud of witnesses.
Gary Allen, elder, Berean Baptist. When Jerry moved to California, Gary was head elder. Under his leadership, I was given the responsibility of where the buck stops in worship. I did not exactly have free rein (or free reign, ha!) but I did blossom in ways that surprised me and others. During this long interim—16 months—I made a lot of mistakes, and had some amazing successes. Gary was a good leader.
Roger Thompson, pastor, Berean. Roger’s arrival was a timely breath of fresh air. I was beginning to tire of holding the bag alone. We understood each other. He once said, “If I tell Chuck, I think this should be orange, he knows what I mean.” Well, we never did talk to each other that way, but you know what he meant, and I (usually) did get it! Also, Roger could read music, but did not consider himself a musician. We only had five years together, but they were good ones. I learned a lot, and enjoy the rare times we can be together.
Kent Hughes, pastor, College Church in Wheaton. More than a year before I landed at College Church, Kent had preached a sermon, “Vision 2000.” I picked up a copy of this sermon in August, 1995, read it in October 1995, and was impressed with his articulate vision and the church’s commitment to historic worship. Imagine my delighted surprise when I ended up a candidate, then a staff member on Kent’s team. With Kent, I had a pastor with a strong aesthetic sense to go with his keen theology with a vibrant ecclesiology. We shared a decade of ministry on which I look back with gratitude and amazement. It was not always easy, and no we did not always agree. But I trusted Kent, I admired the staff he assembled, and I thrived musically, pastorally, and theologically.
Greg Wheatley, friend, collaborator, coffee conspirator. Like Steve, Greg is a guy who, when I arrived, I wondered why he wasn’t doing this job. Lucky for me, he wasn’t the least bit interested, but was always available to fill in for me, talk about the work, and inspire me. Happily, I have lived long enough for Greg to finally take on this work and is currently serving a congregation as their music director.
Interns. These young people get their own post.
Josh Moody, senior pastor, College Church. The two-year interim between senior pastors at College Church was not the season of thriving that I had experienced at Berean. That’s a whole different story, probably best left untold. The short version is that, whereas earlier the interim prepared me for the long haul, the later interim convinced me that this part of my life was probably wrapping up. Josh’s ministry, and our work together, did nothing to disabuse me of that conviction. We had a good relationship, but did not have the “connection” that I had with Roger and with Kent. Perhaps I was more tired than I knew; probably I misunderstood and misread the culture of the staff and the elder team. Ultimately, it really seemed the right thing for me to step away while everything was “OK.” Through the process, Josh was understanding, encouraging, and affirming. Many people in ministry don’t get such a gracious exit.
So many more people I could call out. I hope I will over time. And of course, there are still people of great influence in my life—some continuing, others are new in the past three years. Each, like these I’ve named today, are God’s gifts to many, and thankfully I can say, also to me.