Regularly I received emails with organist/music director vacancies. Details about what is expected are included, and in one case, applications were to be emailed to the “search committee.” Makes me wonder: how do our churches search/find organists?

When ministers are leaving, a calling committee is appointed. Their task is to propose candidates based on input by church members. The committee is usually given some guidelines. They evaluate and analyze, review, and do reference checks. Not every person is suitable for a position. And not every person who is offered the job (“called”) will accept the position.

But if a church has a hard time finding a pastor, they don’t change the pastoral position, even when it takes a long time to find the right person.

Similarly, passing the high school accounting class does not qualify for church treasurer – instead, an accounting firm may assist the church. Churches want the right person for this important job.

When office bearers are retiring, biblical guidelines indicate what suitable candidates are. We don’t select people that just like to run around with a collection bag or people that love to shake the minister’s hand on Sunday morning in front of the congregation.

Now, let’s look at the position of organist. When there is a vacancy on the organ bench, churches have instead created an open position for a pianist (or a combo). Rather than looking for organ playing skills, or training people to play the organ as required, some churches have lowered their expectations. In some cases accompaniment does not enhance the singing and the worship experience anymore.

Perhaps the approach to organist vacancies is intentional. In that case, I am not challenging the congregations’ direction. But when it is not, I suggest appointing an Organist Calling Committee. This committee can collaborate with stakeholders, other congregations, other local musicians to define what the congregation needs and how to get there. If this would be done in all Can. Reformed churches, it could result in an exchange of information and knowledge and collaboration federation-wide.


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