Purpose Shining Through Experience
In the year 2000, I was a sophomore in High School (yes, I am old). It was the first year I joined my high school's choral program. Singing had been a part of my life since early elementary school, but I never pursued it beyond singing with the radio or rapping along with Snow and Kriss Kross.
It was in this context that another student who was two years older then I invited me to join a choir he was starting at our Church. A group of us came together and formed that parish's fledgling youth choir under the leadership of a very talented Senior. This young man, who was our leader, was one of the first attendee's of a liturgical music program for youth the summer before. Soon, I attended the same summer program, too.
I continued with that little choir at my childhood parish through high school and into my first two years of college. Then I struck out of my small world for the large city of Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota.
While on campus at the U of M, I was a part of the Pride of Minnesota Marching band, but I also sought out a faith life while being enrolled at the U. I began attending Mass at the Newman Center where I recognized a few folks from my summer program experiences. Before I knew it, I was part of a music committee that helped shape the sound of the Newman Center.
When I left the U to finish my degree at the University of St. Thomas, another connection from my liturgical music past presented me with an opportunity. I was offered a work study position as one of the Chapel Music Coordinators with Campus Ministry. It kept me going to Church every Sunday evening throughout the school year. By the time I finished my degree, it was 2007, and my B.A. in Music didn't provide me with much of a clear, direct career path.
I spent all of 2007 and 2008 teaching piano lessons to pay for some of my expenses when the Great Recession was in full swing. After being formally unemployed for those two years, not doing any form of Church ministry, I opted to start singing with a Church Choir. Then my wise oldest sister said something to me. "Matt, you've done all this Church music stuff. Directed the youth Choir back home for a few years, MMA, and Campus Ministry, maybe you should apply for a Church music job."
It wasn't until that moment that I realized the call I had been hearing but not pursuing — the call to be a dedicated musician for the Church. I applied to 15 different available music director positions, I landed interviews with 5 of the communities and finally found a place to start my public ministry at the age of 25.
When I reflect on those years leading up to this shift of vocational focus, I was oblivious to a passion that kept showing up in my life. Singing for the Lord and His people. I know it sounds hoaky, but the truth is, I just wanted to use my talent and see where it would take me. Little did I think it would lead me down the road of a decade of professional music ministry.
As I have journeyed a few years ahead of One Call participants today, I can see how God is calling us. If Tim Westerhaus hadn't invited me and Matt Reichert hadn't befriended me and then trusted me with our parish youth choir, God's call as a music maker would not have been for me.
My story is not unique. It is nearly identical to anyone who finds themselves in the vocation of music ministry. Someone discovered your talent and asked you to share it with God's people. That someone, even though they are human, still was a conduit for the work of God.
All this storytelling brings back the question of, "Do you hear it yet?" The one call all God's music makers hear at some point. The one call that brings us together as the partner voices of the singing assembly. The one call that brings youth from all over the place together on the campus of Saint. John's Abbey to deepen our resolve or perhaps hear God for the first time.
The One Call Institute is a place where you get to discover your love of God through music. If someone has invited you to attend, maybe you should? It might bring the beauty of God's blessing right into your life without noticing it!
As for adult advocates, I'd ask you to share in the comments - who was that voice for you? And at what age did you finally listen? I think we will have a lot of overlapping themes that allow us to bond as liturgical musicians and as witnesses for our young colleagues.