Upcoming Performances

July 18
10:00 am Eastern

Collaborative Organist, Organ/Brass concert, William Adam International Trumpet Festival, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

August 25
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, Church of the Savior, Newland, N.C.

September 17
8:00 pm Eastern

Faculty recital, Rosen Concert Hall, Appalachian State University

September 22
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Statesville, N.C.

Fall 2019
Guest recitalist, Third Baptist Church, St. Louis, Missouri

December 13
12:15 pm Eastern

Music at Midday, National City Christian Church, Washington, D.C.

March 2, 2020
Guest recitalist, First Presbyterian Church, Knoxville, Tenn.

April 5, 2020
3:00 pm Eastern

Guest recitalist, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Macon, Ga.

April 18, 2020
7:30 pm Eastern

Concerto organist, Milligan College

June 21-26, 2020
Worship Organist, Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, Lake Junaluska, N.C.

« Recruiting, Part 6: A church organist's hidden agenda | Main | A few thoughts on teaching »

Recruiting, Part 5: The damage of 9/11

Churches have become fortresses.

The threats of pedophilia, arson, vandalism, and vendettas have always been with churches. But once the threat of terrorism came to the table, some churches retreated behind locked doors during the week and haven’t come out since.

As a kid, I met with very few barriers to walking into a church, asking to play the organ, and enjoying some time there, usually unsupervised. As a professional, I now meet with constant barriers to doing that. (Maybe my reputation precedes me.) Even if I try to make contact in advance, I am usually met with all manner of hemming and hawing. I can hear the hushed conversation on the other end of the intercom at the door: “There’s an organist asking to get in and play the organ. What do we do?”

There is a general panic abroad, one that does not befit the presumed openness of a church.

One organist was shut out of his 24/7 access to the sanctuary when the alarm system was replaced and the sanctuary was no longer zoned on its own. Repeated requests not to allow this were ignored or overruled.

Another organist cannot get in to practice at her church when the security force is not on campus. And Security is not present when there’s nothing on the church schedule. And one organist needing to practice is not sufficient grounds for being open for business. So this organist is out of luck outside of bankers’ hours. This means no Easter practice on Holy Saturday, no practicing between Christmas Eve and Christmas I, and no Saturday practice if there are no weddings. Repeated requests for access have been ignored or overruled. That organist has another fulltime job and can’t necessarily get to the church during bankers' hours. Without advance notice, security scheduling, escorting, air conditioning, and exact sign in/out procedures being followed, no one can be in the building when Security is not present.

At a former church of mine, at which I sub once or twice a year, in order to practice I have to be scheduled in advance. Upon arrival, I have to sign in and be escorted to the now-locked sanctuary. Once in a while, I am sent down the hall unescorted, only to discover that the sanctuary is locked.

You get the idea. The tail of Security is wagging a big dog in our churches. This is cutting off blood supply to all manner of hospitality, not to mention what it's doing to many organists’ philosophy of sharing the organs as much as possible. Perhaps we organists should get more involved in a compassionate way. Let us help our church administrators establish a better balance between protection and hospitality. It seems to me that a fellow in a suit, with music and shoes in a briefcase, is not a security threat. I doubt that any large-scale terrorist attack is going to occur at a church, especially during the week when there are only a few people there. And a kid showing up with his mother and asking to play the organ can be the best news a properly trained receptionist hears all week. (Hint: Organists, train your receptionists.)

We can’t allow 9/11 to choke off everything. A balance does exist, and each church should find its own. When in doubt, fling wide the door; unbar the gate.

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