Recently, you may have received our Spring Newsletter in the mail. In the newsletter, we had an article from the CLASP (Congregational Lead Advisors to the Strategic Plan) Committee. The team was charged with reviewing our established ministries to see what is no longer serving us, what we can do differently, and what we are doing well through the lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion. One area reviewed was the Music Ministry, and the language in the article did an injustice to our Music Director Phill Crowther and the musicians. Below is the article in question.
Music Ministry - Phillip Crowther
Music Ministry lacks diversity. One genre of music dominates our programming, and thus fails to capture a wider range of audiences. Recommendations: more young musicians, more genres, less fear of change. Possibilities: City Refugee Ministries Choir; Kri Martin (spoken word); AJ Clements.
Since I am the current spiritual leader of the community, I have taken complete responsibility for missing the tone and language during my proofreading of the article. I apologized in writing as well as in two dialogue calls on Zoom this past Monday created to listen to the music team’s concern and feelings. At the same time, we moved our Sunday Services outdoors due to the overwhelming ask at our Easter Service. This also affected the music team in a negative way, as the information was not communicated in a timely manner.
Phill and the music team are a major part of the Worship Ministry, which did receive praise in the article. Phill and the music team go above and beyond to create a spiritually uplifting experience each week by selecting congregational songs and special music based on the lesson title and synopsis. This is no small task. When it comes to special music, the artist often writes their own music and lyrics. I praise our musicians and especially Phill as often as I can from the platform because they are a true blessing to me and our community.
Phill has asked me to share some information which was discussed during the interview with the CLASP team representative:
“I am tremendously grateful to our team for showing up without fail throughout the past thirteen months of COVID, week after week along with Rev. Valerie and me, long before a vaccine was even developed. In the beginning, none of us knew how great the risks were, but we showed up anyway. It takes a lot more effort to sing with great enthusiasm and joy when there are no congregants in the sanctuary, yet the Music Team consistently achieved this, reaching out with love to those at home. So, it is only right that the team receives at least the same amount of commendation as the other ministries within the newsletter.
The Strategic Plan analysis of the music ministry is missing things we discussed in the phone interview. I shared my short-term vision for the future, which included bringing back some of our favorite Black singers and musicians. I had already scheduled R&B artist, Robbie Bartlett and jazz pianist, Harry Pickens for the Sunday service. Harry was also scheduled to present a workshop and afternoon concert. They both cancelled due to COVID. However, Ester Nichols did share her music and talk with us last year. Our beloved Tyrone Cotton has been willing to continue sharing his music with us throughout the pandemic.
In the CLASP phone call I also shared that it was not safe to introduce new congregational songs which require long rehearsals, as this is difficult to do in a mask for long periods. So, our music team had to stick with congregational songs that we already knew which required less rehearsal time during the pandemic. In addition, I said I looked forward to introducing more diverse and fresh artists as soon as the pandemic is over, as it is part of the Strategic Plan.”
Soon after the newsletter reached folks at home, we had the Easter Service with over 101 people showing up, most from Unity of Louisville. After the service there was an overwhelming ask for us to continue the outdoor services at 11 a.m. at Unity of East Louisville. Everyone misses being together for their weekly spiritual uplift. The initial Collaboration Team was scheduled to meet on Tuesday after Easter to continue the conversation after we brought the idea to both churchs’ Annual Meetings. The team talked about the feedback received and how we might move forward, working together to minimize expenses for both communities. We decided to honor the request for the outdoor services. The information was relayed to the staff at both churches. Since the music ministry had stated their discomfort with performing at in person services until everyone on the team was vaccinated, they were uncomfortable with performing at the Easter and subsequent outdoor services.
I immediately responded to emails from the musicians and set up two dialogue calls for staff and the musicians on Monday, April 12 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. During the call, I apologized to the team. The staff member who wrote the article also apologized to the team. I listened to feelings and concerns from the musicians. I invited the musicians to pick up the phone and call me anytime they find something amiss in our communications. Communicating during COVID has been extremely difficult. I tell Phill and the musicians each week how much I appreciate them. I am always available to talk with anyone in our community. It may take me 24 hours to return a call but I will always return a call.
The idea of the Collaboration of Unity in Louisville came about when I was asked by a staff member at Unity Worldwide Ministries if the two churches thought about coming together. Right before COVID hit the two executive boards met to begin looking at working together in various ways to enhance both communities. After the call, I reached out to the presidents of both boards to ask them if they were willing to talk with each other without me to see if they thought the two communities were ready to look at possibilities for working together in the future. They met, then they asked others (including me) to join in the conversations. We brainstormed and decided the best way to proceed was to create teams to build relationships and new possibilities. I put together the presentation, which was given at both Annual Meetings, where we asked folks for feedback and to join a team.
I want to clarify this is a collaboration between two churches, working together to better utilize resources and serve the congregations. A merger takes a vote from the members of both communities. It may happen if the members decide it is in the best interest of all. Mergers take time and details. If this were to happen it would be a few years down the road.
I invite anyone who has questions about the recent miscommunications or any future concerns to please call me at 502 338-3247. I am always available to have conversations. If you would like to submit a question for discussion in the next Fireside Chat, please email Board Secretary Liz Nussbaum at email@example.com.
Rev. Valerie Mansfield