On Sept. 8, I will have been director of music here for nine years. As I look back, I see many changes we’ve gone through together. Seasons as a collective body when we’ve had plenty and times we’ve been in want. The goodbyes and hellos we’ve said as a church staff. The faces that changed; those who have gone on to join the church triumphant, as well as new members and faces who are here today and those watching from home.
On the other hand, I think about what hasn’t changed: hospitality, warm, friendly greetings at the door and the hugs that finally returned after Covid. There are also other meaningful parts of being the church together that haven’t changed, and which rest at the very heart of who we are as a parish: our liturgy and music, this beautiful space, a strong choir and pipe organ leading our worship.
My first meeting as a new staff member was with Dena Whalen and Herb Gant, who talked about the continued vision for St. Paul’s. I knew of this parish’s strong and solid past, but I was intrigued to learn the expectations for the future, especially on a limited budget.
Herb and Dena were excited to tell me that the vestry, on a recent retreat, had discussed at great length that music and liturgy were one of our strongest areas and that, to survive, we’d have to continue to support those ministries and be who we were called to be in the city of Wilmington and beyond.
On Sundays, as I stand in the back of the church before the procession begins, I often think of that meeting. It’s been a joy to watch the pews fill over these past nine years with more and more people, who continue to feel a calling to this place. Whether you want to be involved in the service up here on the chancel, or just need a place to sit in a pew, pray and have your soul fed, there’s a place for you.
My organ teacher taught her students that, a church musician is pastor first, musician second, and performer third, in that order. I frequently mention to the choir the importance of our appearance, especially in the procession. Not for the sake of looking good, but, if what we do on the chancel, all the way from choir to altar servers, to clergy, to verger is smooth and rehearsed, it rightly draws our collective attention to God and off us as individuals.
St. Paul’s has forged ahead over time. This is evident with the call of Fr. Lee as our new rector and the addition of Mother Catherine and Fr. Singer as assisting clergy. None of this would be possible without your prayers, continued attendance, and financial support.
Later, this month you’ll receive, in the mail, a letter with next season’s music schedule. It will include a listing of organ recitals, evensong, choral concerts, plus events by the Wilmington Boys’ Choir. It will also mention the return of our chorister program for both boys and girls. Looking ahead, I hope you’ll come out in support of events we’ll host which help offset the cost of the choir’s residency at Wells Cathedral in England next August.
In closing, my prayer as we enter this next season, is that, not only will the music at St. Paul’s feed your soul, and enable your worship, but also the beautiful liturgy, which is at the core of our DNA.
Afterall, the very definition of liturgy is, the work of the people. Thank you.
—Ronnie Wise, Organist and Director of Music