Two of my three great loves – the Episcopal Church and classical music – seem to be in trouble. Fortunately my third and foremost great love, my family, is doing pretty well.
Institutions presenting classical music are struggling with deficit budgets, shrinking and graying audiences, and bleak futures. Or so the news stories tell us. The music world trembled with news last week of the shuttering of two institutions, the Minnesota Orchestra and New York City Opera. Carnegie Hall nearly shut down over a labor dispute. But at least one city, Los Angeles, has a different story to tell, so says L.A. Times writer Mark Swed. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-classical-bubble-notebook-20131009,0,6125581,full.story
Overhead, and not just at Carnegie, is a problem…But the music isn’t. Put music first, and solutions can be found. The orchestra in L.A. had a deficit and little endowment, but Deborah Borda, the orchestra’s president and chief executive, balanced the budget and raised an endowment by encouraging first music director Esa-Pekka Salonen and then (Gustavo) Dudamel to think bigger than they had ever before. The L.A. Phil gave people a reason to come back.
I’m guessing that you’ve already made the same leap of imagination that I have. Put the word faith in place of music and some of the same things can be said of our churches. You might then hear:
Overhead is a problem…but creating and nourishing people’s faith isn’t. Put faith first and solutions can be found….think bigger…give people a reason to come back.
It’s too easy to say that every church is dealing with the same issues of faltering economics and lower attendance. As with music in Los Angeles, that simply isn’t true. In the neighboring Diocese of Maryland the Bishop is heard to say that a third of his churches are shrinking, a third are staying about the same, and a third are growing. I repeat, a third are growing, some rather dramatically.
For Episcopalians, it begins with Sunday morning liturgy and a gathering that is nourished by the words, the music, and the bread of faith. Put that first and solutions can be found. Think bigger. Give people a reason to come back. That’s when great things can happen.