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Thank you for your article about professional singers in church choirs (“Bible Belting, 9/30). I suppose it is good to get the concept on the radar screen. In my opinion, it is a frank, rather secular, and not altogether flattering picture of church music. I don’t think I would share it with my rector as a rationale for spending the church budget on staff singers.
As a music minister, I do not consider what I do with my church choir to be a substitute for my own solo career, something to just get me by until I get my star on Hollywood Boulevard or a contract with Deutsche Grammophon. I do play solo recitals, but as a baptized Christian I consider singing in a choir as part of a Christian liturgy a joyful calling, not just a gig.
I am well aware of the fact that not all singers (paid and unpaid) are as committed to this purpose as I am, but neither will I sidestep what our identity and purpose is as a church choir. During my tenure in Arlington, I have welcomed a number of professional singers into the choir at St. Mary’s, and I am certain that their faith perspectives differ. My hope, however, is that our core identity as a faith community spills over in love and charity and is attractive to anyone who is seeking God within our midst (and we’re all seeking God, whether we want to admit it or not). The invitation to sing in my choir in the ideal sense is for anyone who desires to connect the musical ability that God has given with a thankful heart.
Minister of music
St. Mary’s, Arlington, Va.