Pastors and musicians: Utilizing the Psalms for relational ministry and moving from dissonance to dialogue at First Presbyterian Church, OKC
TABLE of CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vii CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 The Problem 2 Pastor and Musician in Function and Practice 3 2. BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS 5 Jesus Walking on the Water: Life in the Boat Mark 6:47-56 5 The First Church Fight: The Divide between Peter and Paul in Acts Acts 15:1-11 8 Worship: Dissonance, Harmony, and the Holy Spirit 12 Psalms as a Metaphor for Togetherness 15 3. CONTEXTS 20 Our Demographics: Who are we? 20 Structures 21 Our History at First Presbyterian Church: Narratives of Dissonance and Harmony 23 Christian Formation 25 Staff Relationships and My Context 26 Narrative of Opportunity 27 4. THE RESEARCH 28 Lay Advisory Committee 28 Current Congregational Dynamics 29 Narrative Methodology and the Project 31 The Psalms Class 34 Discoveries 45 The Interview Process 46 Systems Theory Analysis 53 Evaluation 59 5. RESULTS 60 Saying Goodbye and Grieving the Past 61 Synergy of Collaboration and New Harmony 62 Imagining a New Future: Creativity and Permission-Giving 63 Healing, Wholeness, and Newness of Life 64 Spiritual Development 65 Illuminating the Dissonance in Our Youth Ministry 65 Strengthening of Pastor/Musician Relationships in the Community 68 v
6. ASSESSMENT OF THE METHODOLOGY 70 Assessment Through Questionnaire 70 Assessment Through Post-Project Interviews 73 Learnings 75 Implications for the Practice of Ministry 76 7. CONCLUSION 80 APPENDIX A. Psalm Encounters Syllabus 82 B. Psalms Encounters - Poetry for the Soul 83 C. Psalm 23 (From the 1640 Bay Psalm Book) 85 D. Informed Consent for Participants in Research Projects 86 BIBLIOGRAPHY 88 vi
Acknowledgments There are so many people that went into making this Project possible: My heartfelt thanks go to John Edwards, Rose Kuntz, Helen Kemp, and Charles Bassett. Without your support and encouragement I never would have made it. You truly have been the source of my inspiration and strength, lifting me up when I was down, and through your friendship, love, and concern have radiated the love of Christ in my life. To the Session of First Presbyterian Church, Oklahoma City and Dr. Carl Bosteels: for allowing me the freedom and space, the encouragement and nudging I needed along the way. To Elaine Chard: for sharing your creative spirit and love of Psalms with me. To Karrie Oertli: for your listening ear, proofreading, and letting me borrow that sharp mind of yours for a while. To my other proofreader, Rose Kuntz: your attention to detail has truly been a gift of time and insight. To Drs. Bill Presnell and Robert Duncan: without your expertise, guidance, and excellence in ministry none of this would be possible. You both model the welcoming Spirit of Christ in the midst of the sometimes ruthless world of academia. And to the entire Lay Advisory Committee, but especially Janet Eselin, Nita Cadenhead, John Becker, Boyd Fees, and the maestro John Edwards: I give you my wholehearted thanks for a job well done. vii
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Pastors and musicians work together in ministry every day in churches all across the globe. That close proximity in ministry does not always translate into healthy working relationships. Sometimes it is as if pastors and musicians are on completely different trajectories of ministry, or operating independently, or at worst working toward different ministry goals to the detriment of the local church. As a former church musician and now as a pastor, and having worked in a variety of church settings in a variety of roles—as organist, as director of music, and as pastor—I have experienced and witnessed a variety of ministry settings for pastors and musicians. In some churches, the working relationships between pastors and musicians have been better than others. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets for those situations that are not working. This doctoral project and thesis is offered in hopes of bridging this gap, exploring how musician/pastor dynamics can present a challenge for the local church, applying a narrative methodology at First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City by utilizing Psalms as a metaphor for togetherness, and learning how to move from dissonances into a healthier relational ministry and collegiality. First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City offered a wonderful place to do this exploration of musician/pastor dynamics. First Presbyterian has a long and varied history of over one hundred years, and as with most churches of that age has had successes and failures, ups and downs, triumphs and challenges in its ministry. They also had history, not 1
2 surprisingly, which included times when musicians and pastors had been at odds with one another. The current program staff, however, has built a fair amount of trust, and seems to be working reasonably well together. This good working relationship travels from the senior pastor, to the director of music, to the organist, and to me, the fairly new associate pastor of congregational life and learning. Could we build on this strength? From a congregational development and family systems standpoint, the time seemed ripe to address the past head on and chart out a new course into a more healthy future. The Problem When I came to First Presbyterian in 2006, despite the good relationships of the music staff and other program staff, the education programs were functioning in a way almost completely separate from the music programs. In my first couple years of ministry, I was unable to help transform these well-established cycles of individualized programming. Something new was called for. How could we effectively synthesize the learnings and build bridges between the music ministry and Christian formation programs? This Doctor of Ministry Project began that work. The Project, rooted in narrative research and an exploration of the Psalms, sought to enhance the congregational life and spiritual formation of First Presbyterian Church members, combining forces of the musicians and pastors, and thereby aiding in a synthesis and confluence of the music ministry and Christian formation efforts. Through a six-week Psalm study that engaged people in creativity, narrative exploration, and art, and then an interview process, we sought to transform the past into a bold new future of togetherness, rather than continue past narratives of divisiveness, dissonance, or separation. Through this process, we sought to help call forth a narrative
3 which charts a new future, one in which the different ministries of music and Christian formation may more effectively meld in purpose and intersect in people-power.1 The yearning and energy in the air at First Presbyterian for this very thing also met with favorable conditions. Indeed, the time was ripe for change! This project sought to bring church people together, not just musicians and pastors, but to model collaboration for everyone in a new, fresh, and exciting way. In a culture that relies so heavily on independence, self-reliance, and personal choices, this seemed like a tall order. In many ways, developing a cohesive theology, vision, and practice of togetherness in today's world is increasingly scarce. And yet it is needed, if we believe that Christ calls us into community, even if, perhaps especially when, we do not always agree. In this respect, the discoveries of this project are meant for the wider church, as we all struggle with a lack of togetherness. Pastor and Musician in Function and Practice When entering into a new church system, each new leader brings a host of personal and professional characteristics, and will inevitably have a certain ideal in mind with regard to church structure and function. These divergent views inevitably collide with the current culture, situation, and needs of that specific congregation at that specific time. Each and every leader also comes with different personalities, attitudes, assumptions, trainings, affiliations, and also understandings about models for ministry, professional goals, personal goals, etc. Some come to church work treating it as a business, others as if church should be a monastery. 1 Carl Savage and William Presnell, Narrative Research in Ministry (Muskogee, OK: Indian University Press, 2006), 7-10,43-83.
4 Pastors and musicians come with often very different trainings, affiliations, professional goals. It would be reasonable to assume that often there are other divergent understandings of church. What are our goals? What is the function of the church? To equip leaders? To praise God? To learn about God? Furthermore, who am I in the midst of First Presbyterian's particular way of "being church"? These are questions that every minister struggles with and every church has to answer. This project sought to raise awareness of these divergences and address them in a narrative methodology whereby transformation of relationships and attitudes can more readily occur.2 Additionally, with my background and training both as a musician and as a pastor, my hope is to be a catalyst in this area. 2 Savage and Presnell, 90-104.
CHAPTER 2 BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS Jesus Walking on the Water: Life in the Boat Mark 6:47-56 I have long wondered why Jesus walked on the water. Even as a child I was uncomfortable with this story. As a child I remember asking my pastor about it, and he told me this was a story of Jesus showing his power and his command over the natural elements: air, water, fire, earth. This never made sense. If the purpose was to demonstrate power, then this story ends with a loud thud, as the story progresses not with the disciples' amazement, but with their fear. If the purpose is to show Jesus' power, why don't we see this theme revisited in the synoptic gospels? If this is to demonstrate command of the natural elements why not do the same with fire then, perhaps playing with fireballs? The story simply does not support this explanation, as I see no "Harry Potter" factor in Jesus, with some magical need in Jesus to "one up" everyone. Mark's version of these events helped clear things up. In Mark, Jesus has just lived through a good bit of trauma: he was rejected at Nazareth, practically run off. Then his good friend John the Baptist is murdered and his head ends up on a plate, so the disciples go get his body. Perhaps they have a funeral, and then Jesus feeds the 5,000. This is a lot for anyone to deal with. I am imagining if Jesus was an introvert, just the feeding of the 5,000 5
6 would be "people overdose," much less all the other recent events. So he retreats. He escapes from the world for a moment. The disciples get in the boat while Jesus dismisses the crowd. Then after saying farewell he goes up on a mountain to pray. We are told, "Jesus was alone on the land when he saw that they were straining" (Mark 6:47b-48a).' In Mark, there are certain themes: the messianic secret and the suffering servant. Another unique feature is simply his flow of story. Perhaps my pastor's answer was unsatisfactory to me because he was not thinking of Mark's version when he answered my question. Here there are no details about Peter or anyone else walking on the water out to Jesus. The focus is not on the water walking at all. Mark's focus is the tension between alone and togetherness. Jesus sees they are in trouble, "straining at the oars against an adverse wind" (Mark 6:48) and he realizes it is easier to encounter things together. They saw him walking out there on the water and thought he was a ghost. They cried out, and he spoke to them and said "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid" (Mark 5:50). And that is the end of it. He got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. The church today has its fears too. We worry about togetherness in a variety of ways, from denominationalism, to church size, to the decline of the North American church or its influence. Some worry only of division. Some of us get bogged down in the division before us in the congregation. We long for a way out of the conflict but lack the resources to do anything about it, or so we think. Others of us have hardened our hearts, believing the 1 All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV).
theological or relational divides in front of us are too much to overcome, and so it is easier to forget it. Jesus offers something else. In his declaration, "Take heart, it is I," he does more than express a divine self-revelation; he declares a solidarity with them. He offers togetherness, just when things are beginning to break down. Perhaps the Church of today should all stand up and read together Mark's version of Jesus walking on the water. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the similarities we have, for we all have Christ with us in our boat. And yes, the boat is small, and sometimes there are fears, sometimes separations—sometimes even folks who may want to throw others out of the boat. Or worse yet, we may be trying to throw others out of the boat. But we have all been called to togetherness by Christ himself. We must always remember we are not called to church allegiance, or denominational allegiance, but allegiance to the One who walked on the sea and then got in the boat with us, speaking the words, "Do not be afraid." In the midst of the current climate of theological divergence, I find it important to stay in the boat, especially along with those with whom I disagree. As a Presbyterian minister, I resonate with the Jesus who stayed in the disciples' midst, and who stayed in the midst of the tension in the boat. Jesus offers the same to us: that despite our tension or differences, we are called to remember that God's Spirit is among us, to stay in community with those around us in our boat, and to talk through our differences with those with whom we disagree. Being in the boat with others, even in the midst of tension, is not something to fear, but something that can be useful. One could argue that it is essential, for if a system does not even have a level of healthy tension, there is no growth, and the system is dead.
8 The fact is, Jesus realized that right in the midst of chaos and confusion was precisely the time to get in the boat with them. It was not the time to bail, but the opposite. And we follow a savior who demands that we think clearly, not panic, and stay in the boat together. The First Church Fight: The Divide between Peter and Paul in Acts Acts 15:1-11 Church fights are nothing new. In Acts we see a summary of the first theological issue to threaten to rip the Church apart. No, it is not a debate about the Trinity. That occurs much later in our church's history. It is not about which books of the Bible are in and which are out. It is not over the ordination of women or gays. Instead, we see the struggle over Jews and Gentiles, and the requirements for gentile Christians with respect to the Mosaic law. What will be the new requirements for Christians? Who is in? Who is out? Are we bound by the Old Testament regulations, or by the God who knows human hearts and testified to them in new ways through the Holy Spirit? Peter and Paul had divergent views on these questions. In Acts 15, we see Peter and Paul coming together in agreement! Something is at work, transforming the situation. Peter is preaching that"... we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." (He was speaking of the Gentiles.) In fact, Peter preaches some powerful words that the Church of today is still struggling to understand fully: "Why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?"
9 It is easy to succumb to the temptation that Christianity is all about rules. Sometimes we want to enforce codes of conduct and laud it over our neighbors. What we learn from Peter in this passage is that Christianity is much bigger than just rules. It is a story of faith and grace that broke all the rules. What Peter is saying, in not so many words, is that the law of circumcision and the law of Moses is not meant to be imposed on non-Jews, but to be reinterpreted as fulfilled in Christ. We will still follow the heart of that law, but it will not become an overwhelming burden for any of us, Jews or Gentiles. This was radical. It was almost outrageous. And despite their better efforts, many in our churches today have dismissed it. Love is never easy when it threatens the establishment, and threatens power. This is often the problem we face in church leadership and administration. Everyone has his or her views, and we have been raised in a culture of individualism where we innately sense our way must be THE way. Power and authority collide. That new volunteer in the soup kitchen, or that new Pastor, or that different voice on the Session causes anxiety. And why would this be? Potential change may be looming on the horizon. There is a theological rub as well, and anxiety exists because it reminds us that God is on the move, and that God is doing a new thing. We like homeostasis. Change causes anxiety. And when God is pushing and stretching us to see the world differently and to respond differently there is another level of anxiety. We cannot control God, and we like our control. Church leaders have much to learn from an examination of Acts 15. How are we to function? How are we to relate to others in times of tension or disagreement? What is to guide us? Who or what can bring us together and transform our differences? Should we
10 look to church structures to guide us? Should we be looking to the world for experts in conflict management? Should we look to our pastor for all the answers? Should we look to God? How? When? Peter's speech not only helps the early church articulate its gentile mission, but also models an understanding of grace. Furthermore, Peter and the others who engage in "much debate" help model for us how to "do church." It is no wonder people revolted against this configuration of church so reliant on the Holy Spirit, for it is unpredictable and hard to control. It means our power is diminished, and God is back in charge—free to change us and lead us in new ways. There is another aspect of the first century church that is worth examining. It is the church's tendency toward decentralization. In fact, I believe decentralization is one of the key markers of the first century church, and interestingly enough, a central marker of our postmodern future as well, brought about, in no small part, from the Internet. As Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom laid out in their book The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power ofLeaderless Organizations, the Internet has unleashed an incredible force on the world, knocking down entire businesses, transforming the way entire industries go about their work, and changing the way we relate to one another. Much of their book discusses the success behind Wikipedia, craigslist, Ebay, or Skype, and how their decentralized way of organizing, rather than a hierarchical top-down approach, is their strength. It is this way of organizing, with a decentralized core of leaders rather than a hierarchical top-down approach to leadership, that made the early church so powerful. When 2 Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power ofLeaderless Organizations (New York, NY: Penguin Group, Inc., 2006), 3-6, 201-204.
11 followers claim allegiance to Jesus Christ, but he is nowhere to be found as an earthly leader, and power is not held in a central location, it would be easy to assume the result would be chaos and confusion. But as the early church wrestled with their new reality, we see an early church that networked and organized power in a different way. It was decidedly decentralized. To strike or kill one Apostle was not effective at disrupting the power structures; in fact, it may have only emboldened followers. The Holy Spirit was configuring the early church in a way in which decentralization provided an uncomfortable level of unpredictability. God is hard to control. But God is also hard to stop. The same dynamic is at work with the Internet. In a related way, technology related to the Internet drives a change in how we think, just as the early church was required to change how it thought and worked. The power of chaos and the power of networking is at work. Think about the Internet. Its very function and nature is to blur centrality or focus. Those who try to regulate or reign in knowledge or information will only frustrate themselves. It is not a deconstruction of reality or truth, so much as it is a celebration of diversity and a validation of possibilities. I also think of the concept of fire. This is an early and prominent symbol of the Holy Spirit, due in no small part to Pentecost itself, with flames resting above each new Christian. I am, however, more interested in its function. What does fire do? It destroys. It cleanses and purifies. It also spreads. Fire can quickly change course with the wind, or radiate out in many directions. It is an example of decentralized power. So too, God's Spirit spreads wherever God wills. Just like fire, we see aspects of the early church becoming decentralized quickly and radiating out. 3 From Robert J. Duncan, Jr,'s Lecture 2, "Postmoderns Need Postmodern Theology," Christian Futuring Class, Oklahoma Regional Group, class in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Drew University, January 2008.
12 As Peter and Paul engaged in the first church divide, and the chaos of the addition of gentile believers ensues, we see the Holy Spirit shaping the church in new ways. With the Holy Spirit at work, an even greater diversity and expression of future possibility awaits. But hand-in-hand with this possibility is the reality that our power is first diminished, and that with God in control, God is free to change us and lead us in new ways. Worship: Dissonance, Harmony, and the Holy Spirit We worship God because that is what we were created to do. In fact, all of creation is a testament to God's divine glory. Psalm 19 declares that "the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork." Paul alludes to the fact that that many early Christians understood they were destined and appointed to "live for the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:12). It is within this context that reformed theology came to articulate that "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever," as is stated in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.4 In the Ten Commandments, we are also commanded to worship God, and throughout scripture are given models for offering up a ministry of praise.5 The question then becomes "How do we worship?" This is where much divergence comes, as between every culture and race, every time and people, worship to Almighty God is expressed in radically different ways. The Reformers felt very strongly that worship ought to be "according to Scripture." This meant an obedience to the Word of God as it was revealed in scripture, a principle put forth notably by Martin Bucer, an early Protestant reformer in Strasbourg who influenced many Calvinist, Lutheran, and Anglican doctrines and 4 "The Westminster Shorter Catechism" as found in the Book of Confessions, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Louisville, KY: Offices of the General Assembly, 2005), 7.001. 5 Hughes Oliphant Old, Guides to the Reformed Tradition: Worship that is Reformed according to Scripture (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1984), 1-3, 39-41.
13 practices. In the spirit of Bucer and many other reformers, Reformed Christians in every time and place strive to look at worship through the lens of scripture, but also through the lens of their context, and different expressions of worship emerge.6 The concept of worship "according to scripture" can seem almost archaic in much of today's popular culture where worship is mistaken as art, or worse yet, as entertainment. Rediscovering worship as a gathering force of oneness in the Spirit means moving from emotionalism or consumerism to a renewed sense of koinonia. This term means more than simply a renewed sense of communion or intimate participation with others, but a transformation at the core of community that integrates God, self, and others. Through true koinonia, God's Word is the unifier of choice because it holds the weight of God's authority. It is the common denominator in a world adrift with personal opinions and preferences. This is the tension for the 21st century church, bombarded with globalization, pluralism, technology, and an increasingly postmodern culture that nurtures personal independence and individualized preferences. Koinonia is the growing edge for the 21st century church and reclaiming a healthy sense of togetherness. How ironic that in an age of increased connectedness, it is the very concept of togetherness that is more challenging, and in which the concept of universality is itself put into question.7 John Calvin and other reformers in the church spent much time examining the Holy Spirit and how God works in bringing together the Church. In some ways we lack a consistent and cohesive theology of the Holy Spirit in today's church. We struggle with unity in the midst of our diversity. We don't know what to do with dissonance. Often we 6 Old, 3. 7 Walter Truett Anderson, ed., The Truth About the Truth: De-Confusing and Re-Constructing the Postmodern World (New York, NY: The Penguin Group, 1995), 6, 239.
14 simply remove ourselves from our local church context and venture out in hopes of finding peace and harmony elsewhere, forming other churches that more closely resemble what "we believe," only to discover the dissonance came with us. The disparateness and disconnectedness only multiplies and the unifying power of the Holy Spirit becomes harder and harder to grasp. There is also a level of grief in the midst of this context. John Calvin was also experiencing a form of lament and of grief in his context. This was not merely a disconnect of emotion, but a reflection on the community's failings in koinonia. One could argue it is as much a grieving of Calvin's spirit as it is God's grieving and longing for our worship to be a joyful expression of the reign of God on earth. Calvin was articulating God's will and the Holy Spirit at work in the midst of a broken world, and pressing for the Church to demonstrate most effectively what God intends for all of humanity. Dissonance is not just for the contemporary church. John Calvin arrived in Geneva and experienced a disconnect with the Holy Spirit in the worship of the church there. Having just arrived in Geneva, he commented on the lack of warmth of the Spirit. "Certainly at present the prayers of the faithful are so cold that we should be greatly ashamed and Q confused." His church was struggling with a healthy sense of koinonia, albeit in a different way than the 21st century church. In the context of the Reformation, and actively searching beyond the confines of Roman Catholic liturgy, the void that was left was threatening a healthy sense of togetherness, at least for Calvin. It was in the context of his work in Charles Garside, Jr., "The Origins of Calvin's Theology of Music: 1536-1543," (monograph) in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 69, part 4 (Philadelphia, PA: Independence Square, 1979).