Leading or enabling?

Last night I attended the last meeting of this season for the Kansas City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. Our guest was Robert Hobby, a well-known composer and church musician, who led us in an evening of his compositions (organ, choral, congregational…). It was a marvelous evening!

One thing he said, though, really caught my attention. He talked about how he saw his responsibilities as a church musician–not to lead congregational singing, but to enable it. There’s a lot of similarities between the two words, but there’s also a significant difference.

If I am leading congregational singing, that puts me in charge…and requires that the congregation follow my tempo, my breathing. The congregation doesn’t really have any responsibility–except to keep up with me. 

But if I am enabling the congregation, that makes our experience a shared partnership. I must be sensitive not only to the words and music but also to the needs and mood of the congregation. A hymn that might ordinarily be sung fairly rapidly might–because of circumstances impacting the congregation–need to be sung slower and more thoughtfully / meditatively.

And the congregation is then no longer a somewhat passive participant, dependent solely on what the worship leader(s) determine is needed. Instead, the members are actively involved, listening to and aware of the spirit’s presence–and responding to that presence.

Enabling….in this case, a positive way of looking at the role of the worship leader(s) in our congregations!

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