Journey in Faith
Religion has been an important part of my life since I was a child. Growing up in a mill village church in Greenville, SC, I was exposed to the style of worship that was characteristic of fundamentalist Baptist congregations at that time. As I matured and discovered more of the world, I experimented with other denominations, including Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Episcopal.
Through it all I was drawn to the power of music in worship; indeed, as a teenager I decided to make church music my life’s work. The majesty of the organ (even if it was an electric Hammond) and the thrill of congregational singing became embedded in my heart and convinced me that church music was a worthy calling.
Having explored varying styles of worship, along with the corresponding theology, my faith became broader. I grew to appreciate the teachings of Jesus in a way I’d never known before. I was able to separate the perfection of God from the imperfections of organized religion; I learned to nurture my spirituality by studying the scriptures and building a prayerful life.
Today I accept the teachings of the church as expressed in its creeds and believe in the power of individuals coming together to spread the gospel of Jesus through good works, service and tolerance. And, through integrating the guidance offered by twelve-step programs of recovery into my spiritual life, I believe more than ever in the power of God to redeem my life.
Working with Others
In any organization where people give of their time and of themselves, there is a delicate balance between the needs of the group and the needs of the individual. In keeping with my belief that religious institutions best serve others—and themselves—by practicing tolerance and being inclusive, we never want to disenfranchise anyone from our community.
That being said, there are times when certain individuals create difficulties for the group. Obviously, these situations require a fair and balanced solution. When children or adolescents continually disrupt rehearsals, I first attempt to address the challenging behavior directly—by speaking to him or her in private. I consult my colleagues about the issue and contact the parents. If no positive change in behavior occurs, then a decision has to be made regarding the person’s continuing participation in the program. Of course it is paramount to always exhibit compassion.
Whenever conflicts occur, it is important to be gentle; confrontation is harmful and destructive.
In almost every circumstance a solution to problems can be reached; for myself, I must constantly take personal inventory to determine my role in it, for no problem is one-sided; more often than not an apology—either to an individual or to a group—goes a long way toward resolution and healing.
When I first became artistic director of the Central City Chorus in New York, I privately listened to every singer. I discovered one lady who had obvious vocal challenges and was well past her singing years. I contemplated moving her into a supporting role—one that would not involve singing. After consultation with the board, however, I concluded that the political and personal costs were too great and I took no action. It was, in hindsight, the best decision.
In my dealings with others I always reach out to my co-workers and supervisors. All things being equal, the perfectionist in me would much rather avoid making a mistake. It’s not always easy for me to take advice (or as it is said in the program, a “suggestion”); I find, though, that whenever I do the outcome is always more successful than anything I could have done on my own.