The Continuity of Ministry Through Music
By: Anne Bullard
One of the great pleasures of Sunday services at Foothills is how the music and message complement one another to contribute to a full worship experience. As you might have guessed, this does not happen by accident!
Carol Paton is beginning her eighteenth year as Director of Music at Foothills. She also spent five years as Children’s Music Director from 1985-1990. Part of her job is to select music to complement the scripture passage or sermon message for the week. Music needs to be selected as far in advance as possible so that there is time for choirs and ringers to prepare. There is a schedule of sermons prepared weeks-to-months in advance. Although the sermon is not yet written, the pastor has selected the scripture passage or theme for the week. Then Carol can begin her process.
Many anthems are already in Foothills’ wonderful library of music, but Carol regularly considers new works to keep the worship experience fresh. When selecting music for Chancel Choir, Harmony Ringers, and Children & Youth Choirs, she first considers the integrity of the words and message before she even listens to the music. Carol says that she likes to “live with the scripture for awhile” and appreciates collaborating with whomever is preaching to understand how the sermon is developing. She says that sometimes a piece will come to her immediately because the melodic theme and words seem to serve each other to illustrate the sermon. Other times, the task is more difficult. That’s when she carefully considers an alternative anthem or prayerfully revisits the sermon concepts. Carol told me:
"The Holy Spirit has worked in numerous and wonderful ways over these past 17 years. Often there has been a moment in worship-planning with John that we lift the same biblical truth that neither one of us mentioned before and guess what, there it is in the anthem that has been prepared! Blessings in abundance occur!"
Carol has many favorite composers who effectively interpret scripture through their musical arrangements, so you are likely to recognize the names of the composers over time. When she is actively previewing music, she might look at and listen to over fifty pieces before she finds only one worthy of spending money to order for our music library. After anthems have been selected, the pieces are then incorporated into the weekly rehearsal rotation for choirs that will perform them.
Next time you are at Foothills on a Sunday, I hope you gain a greater understanding of the message as you listen to the music and think about how they complement each other.