“Unless a tree has borne blossoms in spring, you will vainly look for fruit on it in autumn.” Walter Scott
Denise* contacted me in August with a strange story, but one I’ve heard before. We’ve gone back and forth, but now I’d like to ask your opinion. Her dilemma/question is this—should she re-interview/re-audition for a job she’s held successfully for three years? Her story starts in January 2020, ‘way before any of us had ever heard about COVID-19, but let’s start at the beginning.
Denise was hired in August 2018 as music director for a very nice Protestant church 20 minutes from her house. While Denise liked the position she had held before this one, it was over an hour away and she had young children. The pay was essentially the same but without the commute.
At the time she interviewed for the position, the congregation was in the middle of a pastor transition, with an interim in place. She would direct three choirs—adult, children, and bells—and play organ for services. She tells me she doesn’t like to brag but her credentials are impeccable, with her BM and MM coming from well-known institutions known for their choral and organ departments. The Interim Pastor was THRILLED to get her resume, CV and audition materials and Denise was THRILLED to be able to have a chance to apply for a position so close to home. She was hired, right after her in-person organ audition, on the spot. The choirs loved her. The congregation loved her. The CUSTODIAN loved her.
In the Fall of 2019, serious Pastor candidates were interviewed, finally narrowed down to two. The two candidates preached all the Sundays in October and November (one for each month), so the Search Committee and the congregation could make a decision based on multiple sermons and services. Denise had some input since she would have to work with each and was asked to share her opinions with the Search Committee. The candidate she thought was the best fit was chosen and began in January 2020, right after the New Year.
In the beginning, the New Pastor was pleasant and congenial, as she had been during her audition month. She quickly changed as the month of January 2020 went along, especially with Lenten planning. Denise had chosen music, based on the Liturgical year and what had been done the previous year, in early December. Denise wanted to get rehearsing right after the New Year and reasoned the Liturgical year would be the same no matter who would be the New Pastor. New Pastor was not pleased she had chosen music. And here’s where it gets a bit strange; New Pastor wanted Denise to re-interview and re-audition with HER, and re-submit her credentials, despite having been hired and working, with nary a complaint, at the church for 18 months. As Lent began, things were in place for Denise to re-audition, but when COVID-19 hit, those plans were tabled.
The first few weeks of lockdown were difficult, no one knowing what to do or what made sense TO do. Finally, the church council, along with New Pastor, decided they would have services via Zoom and Denise would play a Prelude and Postlude. They made this decision without Denise, but she readily agreed, since they told her they would still pay her regular salary. At first, Denise recorded her Preludes and Postludes from home—strictly piano pieces—and sent the files in. As things eased up a bit, she went in one day a week to practice organ, and the following day someone came to record her. This worked out and everyone was pleased, or so she thought.
New Pastor set up a Zoom meeting with Denise as Summer 2020 began. Things seemed a bit better, and the congregation was toying with the idea of parking lot services. But it turned out the reason for the Zoom meeting was New Pastor STILL wanted Denise to re-submit her credentials, re-interview, and re-audition, stating the “fact” she didn’t know what she was capable of as far as music was concerned. And, it also turned out, New Pastor was letting a fellow clergy friend influence her with what HE had done in his new pastoral position.
At that point, in-person interviews and auditions were out of the question, but Denise decided to “play nice” and emailed her resume, CV with music links of her organ playing and choirs she directed (including the previous Christmas Eve with their congregation’s choir and bells). That seemed to satisfy New Pastor for the moment, but still INSISTED she wanted to interview and audition her IN-PERSON when things settled down.
Which brings us to the present. Denise has begun in-person rehearsals with the adult choir (the children’s choir is on-hold for the foreseeable future) and New Pastor has shown up a few times. It’s always very pleasant, like she’s just dropping by, but it seems like an un-official audition to Denise. Not that she’s worried about the “pop in, drop ins,” it just seems strange.
Last week, New Pastor insisted it’s time for the In-Person interview and wants to schedule it for the end of September. Denise is hemming and hawing.
What gets Denise is this; after 18 months of working together in this difficult Pandemic-era, New Pastor STILL feels the need to interview her. Hasn’t she proven her mettle? Hasn’t she gone over and beyond and shown what she’s willing to do for the congregation? She isn’t sure she wants to do the interview and isn’t sure what will happen if she refuses. What should she do?
Until next week, be well and safe!
I am taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page but am not able to today. Hope to see you next week! ~MLGA