Welcome to March 2022!
When the pandemic swept the world two years ago this month, few of us believed it would 1) last this long, 2) keep our choirs at bay for the better part of two years, and 3) create such a difficult recovery for our choral programs and ministries.
Who among us does not find ourselves still struggling today amidst the chaos of not knowing, the uncertainties of uncontrollable factors, and the fatigue of planning, regrouping, and revising designs … sometimes over and over again? One factor seems common among us: We are all working to recalculate ministries and re-create programs in the face of formidable odds. Fatigue is almost universal, and days of setbacks and discouragement are about as predictable and cyclical as the seasons of the year.
Many of us find it difficult to distinguish in our memories what took place in 2020 and what happened in 2021. Looking back, there is quite a bit of brain fog, particularly when trying to remember the chronology of specific happenings and events. While the spring of 2022 is bringing a new sense of hope and anticipation, the unknown remains somewhat daunting and mysterious.
We’re stronger than we thought.
Among the surprises over the past two years has been this: Many of us are far more resilient and adaptable than we had ever thought! It has taken COVID-19 to show many in our tribe of musicians, educators, teachers, and ministers the degree of our own ability to improvise and innovate as needed. The irony is that most of us do not feel anywhere close to hero status, and, yet, we have survived and have even sometimes managed to thrive. Some of us are no longer serving churches or teaching in our former schools. We have resigned, retired, or relocated. When we speak of “thriving,” we now speak in broader terms than just programmatic thriving in our workplaces. Some of the best thriving we see is among those of us who have made significant life-changes and are finding new ways to be fulfilled, happy, productive, and at peace with ourselves.
The pandemic has been, and continues to be, the great revealer. As was said in YouthCUE newsletters early in the pandemic, COVID-19 has been the great revealer. It has exposed issues we did not want to see as well as shed light upon things we desperately need to face. Racial inequality, the need for police reform, cross-cultural injustice, and the very real presence of hate – these are a few of the big-picture maladies brought clearly into the open by the pandemic. Also revealing themselves have been prejudices and systemic disorders within our families, school boards, and even communities of faith … sometimes, especially within our communities of faith. Ministers of all kinds are leaving their posts in record numbers, and there does not seem to be an adequate pool of leaders to replace those who clear their offices and turn in their keys.
February’s Polyphony Conference taught many lessons and brought many blessings. A group of fifty-plus music ministers met in February 3-5 in Atlanta. The group was comprised of music ministry veterans as well as fresh, young faces in their twenties and early thirties. For some of these colleagues, it had been six, eight, or even ten years since we had been in the same space. For all of us, it had been over two years since we had been together in a large group setting.
What was present throughout the three days was a great deal of gratitude, appreciation, friendship, innovation, creativity, and collegiality. It was balm for the soul and healing ointment to the heart. What was not present was whining, negative head-shaking, nor defeatism. As I’ve thought back as to why this was a highly encouraging and productive time rather than a navel-gazing pity party, something clear emerges. What most people do not realize is how much self-discipline, diligence, patience, dreaming, designing, reorganizing, and just plain old hard work it takes to build and sustain the grown of a music ministry even in the best of times. Even when music ministry looks easy to the casual participant or the congregation viewing it at a distance of sixty feet, it has never … ever … been easy, even on our best days. This conference was a gathering of these hard workers and visionary leaders.
For some of us, the pandemic has admittedly pushed us over the edge and helped us to see, for whatever good reason, that we need to pursue other professional goals … or even retire completely. In the vast majority of retirement cases, our retirements were imminent before the pandemic ever struck.
But for many of us, this time has brought about a time of digging even deeper, drilling down our major underpinnings more securely for what lies ahead. YouthCUE network colleagues Doug Haney, Emily Current Floyd, Clark and Karen Sorrels, Adam Cogliano, and Vivian Hamilton were some of the excellent presenters at Polyphony. Each made unique, hopeful, and practical contributions to the gathering, and a huge thanks goes to each one!
We will share more about Polyphony in future issues of this monthly newsletter, in CUEcast episodes, and on our website.