Did you hear the one about the vicar and the organist?

No? Can’t be helped I suppose. Ever since I read about the Reverend Persimmon in An Alien at St Wilfred’s and his continuing interaction with his organist, I’ve shied away from discussing this sort of relationship.

It’s tough when you have to provide musical accompaniment to a church that your choices are subject not only to that internal moderation which identifies the sorts of things which “will not do”; but also to suggestion and even instruction by the minister in charge. If you’re lucky, the minister is approachable and sensitive. Even if they’re tone deaf, they can see the need for good quality worship material and the relevance of specific lyrics to specific occasions.

The danger is a clergyman who either by virtue of wide musical experience or a cultivated ignorance of that entire sphere (or, more likely, somewhere between the two) deems their own opinion to have intrinsic value and will not allow the musical life of the church to proceed without supervision or even intervention.

Of course, I’m being ridiculous. In the vicar, there is no enemy, there is no danger. We may (as the Revered Persimmon) fail to communicate effectively between one another, but the responsibility lies in both quarters. It is as much the vicar’s remit to direct musical worship as the readings, sermons, prayers, and most importantly the work that happens outside the hour or so we meet up to renew our sense of community, connect with God and celebrate together.

In fact, the joke about the vicar and the organist is that often one or other has a sense of pretension about their role and responsibilities that they have no right to bear. I see no need to instruct an equality of all people under God. God himself is ruler and judge. If he gives the responsibility for worship to one, and the responsibility of music to another, that’s how it is.

There’s a fair chunk of New Testament scripture which seems to tell us collectively and specifically to get over ourselves, submit ourselves to Christ (however one does that – I’ve never seen the instructions for that bit) and serve each other. The point about loving one another cuts both ways. In being a useful part of our church in concert with our fellow people, we serve God and His plans for us.

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