My husband is going to school this summer. He's taking a class called "Composing for the Liturgy" at Concordia University-Chicago (formerly known as Concordia University-River Forest).
The irony is that he has been a parish musician for close to 20 years now and has been composing for the liturgy for almost as long. He has several compositions, including a hymn and two canticles, in the Lutheran Service Book, the new hymnal of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (my Lutheran friends can find them on pages 261, 486 & 929). And he is co-owner of an online music publishing company called Liturgy Solutions (see link at right), a company that includes in its bevy of composers one of the instructors of the very class my husband is now taking!
So what is he doing taking this class? Although he is an experienced parish musician (his official position is cantor), he was not trained in a synodical institution. He did not go to music school with the goal of becoming a church musician but imagined that with a master's degree in piano performance he would make his living through a combination of performing and teaching. But as I wrote in a previous post, God had other plans. Church music found him, and here he is 20 years later with a degree in church music from the School of Hard Knocks and On-the-Job Training.
But our society likes credentials and pieces of paper. So when my husband accepted his current position he agreed that he would also pursue a colloquy, which is kind of like a synodical certification or stamp of approval. That process was put on hold for a few years because until recently our church body did not offer a colloquy program for parish musicians and my husband would have instead had to pursue a teacher colloquy, not the best use of his time considering his job description. But the synod has now created an official, rostered position called Director of Parish Music, which means there is also a colloquy program for it.
I think if you were to ask most of the powers that be at our church they would say that no, Phil doesn't need a colloquy to be a better cantor. But the pastors have their collar, and the day school teachers have their synodical certification, and there are those who would think it unfair to excuse the cantor from a similar requirement. So off to school he goes. For us there is a benefit in that once he gets 10 additional hours of continuing education, there will be a bit of a salary bump. And I don't mean to suggest there will be no academic benefit. Certainly there are things he can still learn, and he will enjoy the exchange of ideas that comes from being in a college class. I'm also sure his presence there will benefit others. But in the meantime we have to pay half the cost of his tuition and all the cost of his gas as he travels to CUC three times a week for the next month. And he has to spend a lot of time meeting the requirements of the course when he could be planning worship services for next year, cleaning out his office, or hey, maybe even spending time with his family.
I must admit it was fun to send him off to his first day of class in "Composing for the Liturgy" wearing his official "Liturgy Solutions" polo shirt! I also enjoyed hearing about how one of the student handouts that day was a "Liturgy Solutions" copyrighted piece!