“Why Does He Do That?” — An Honest Look at Clergy/Musician Relationships

Diane Meredith Belcher  (Mark Dirksen, reader)

Monday, June 20, 10 AM

Let’s face it: Clergy-Musician relationships is THE hot-button topic that we keep trying to address. Some would even joke that it’s the subtext for our organization. Most AGO chapters program an annual Clergy/Musicianship dinner, workshops at conventions are frequent, personal sharing on the topic occurs “whenever two or three are gathered together”, venting on social media has become rampant (hint – not a recommended strategy for keeping one’s job), and we even have books on the subject. Most of us know more than one horror story, and for an increasing number of church/synagogue musicians, the stories are personal. Not long ago I overheard a woman confessing to a colleague, “I only substitute anymore; I’ve had it with clergy.” It makes you want to cry, and we can only imagine what God thinks of all of this. “Why Does He Do That?”, we may find ourselves thinking – with emotions ranging from bewilderment to fury.

The presenter, a mediator for Clergy/Musician couples, will not be asking for more horror stories, but instead will explore aspects of the three basic types of work relationships: Healthy (a small but encouraging minority), Potentially Healthy but Miscommunicating and Misunderstanding (usually out of fear), and Abusive. She will suggest methods for clearing communication blocks, building trust and understanding, strengthening the relationship, and how to determine whether to take protective action and/or leave the job. An important part of the discussion will be how church musicians themselves un wittingly (or otherwise) get in the way of a healthy relationship.

With her Houston recital at Rice University, internationally acclaimed organist Diane Meredith Belcher is celebrating her fifth National AGO Convention appearance as a featured soloist. A church musician and teacher for over 35 years in addition to her concert career, she has served at Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, and Catholic churches throughout the Eastern United States, and has taught organ and music theory in music schools, colleges, and universities. As part of her spiritual journey, she has in recent years begun offering mediation for clergy-musician relationships, encouraging her colleagues in building and maintaining relationships of trust and mutual understanding.