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Musical Musings
21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year A
August 27, 2023
MD Ridge


In the movie Buck, about horse whisperer Buck Brannaman, his foster mother says of having so many foster children, all boys, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape!”


Be flexible: respect the taste of your music ministry and congregation.

I’ve told lots of people, “Flexibility is the hallmark of the pastoral musician.” (It ought to be a salient characteristic of pastors, too, but that’s another story and let’s not go there.) But musicians need to develop considerable flexibility if they’re going to keep their sanity, not to mention their jobs.

Say, for instance, that you have a favorite hymn, and you think everyone should know it. So you drill your choir on it, and you use it with your congregation a lot. For a while, but eventually you notice no one’s particularly enthusiastic about it. Be flexible: respect the taste of your music ministry and congregation and give that hymn or song some benign neglect. It may just not speak to them in the same way it speaks to you — and that’s fine!

But if you ignore what they’re telling you with their unenthusiastic response, then you’re being inflexible. “My way or the highway” isn’t ministry; it’s being a bully.

I suspect a good portion of what’s called flexibility involves noticing that something might be out of kilter, empowering people to be part of the solution, and listening carefully to what they’re saying. If rehearsal night attendance is dropping off, ask why. A rehearsal that no one has time to attend isn’t going to work very well. A different rehearsal night might be better, or even rehearsing for an hour before Mass; look at all the options.

It doesn’t matter how many degrees you’ve got or how many books you’ve read or how long you’ve served the parish; if you can’t be flexible, both you and the community you serve will lose out on creative solutions.

MD Ridge
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Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C).
This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go

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