Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Music Lady Retires

After four years of service as the church primary chorister, I was released last Sunday.  I love music, teaching and art (primary choristers makes lots of visual aids) so this has been a good experience for me and I will miss it. 

For those of you not of my faith, allow me to explain all that jargon. In my church (I'm LDS), the primary chorister spends every Sunday teaching songs to children ages 3-11. Many of these songs are sung just for fun or to help teach some gospel principle, but some are performed for the congregation on various holidays or during a torturous annual event called the "Primary Program." (Think of a recital, but more religious.)

The church is operated by volunteers, in the sense that we do not get paid. However, in most circumstances, we do not volunteer. We get "called." In my case, shortly after getting a house in the neighborhood, I was invited to speak to the congregation. (This is another task that we are frequently called to do, since we do not have professional clergy.) My talk caught the attention of the primary president, who was looking for a new primary chorister.  She told me that she talked to her counselors and said that she thought the new girl who spoke that day would make an excellent new primary chorister, if she happened to sing.  Well, I do happen to sing, and tend to sing congregational hymns loudly, so her counselors had heard me.  They affirmed that I sing and I was called.

Many people of my faith believe that "callings" always come from God.  I believe that callings occasionally come from God.  I also believe that sometimes, God requires leaders to use their own brains and figure out who to call on their own.

I have only been involved in calling people once, when I was a teenager.  I was called to be president of my youth group and I had to choose my own counselors.  I prayed about my selection and received a clear answer:  God didn't care who my counselors were.  Any of my classmates would do just fine.  I could choose whomever I wanted to.

I do not know if my calling to primary chorister was inspired or just expedient, but it did give me opportunities to improve my talents and grow closer to my children and other children in my neighborhood, so I am grateful for it.

I admit that I have had other callings I did not appreciate as much.  For example, when I was in graduate school, I was called as a "ward missionary."  At the time, my local bishop was trying to get as many people involved in callings as possible, and there is no limit to the number of ward missionaries, so he called several.  Then the stake president (the leader over bishops) challenged all bishops to improve missionary efforts by doubling their number of ward missionaries.  The other bishops only had two to four missionaries already, so doubling bumped them up to four to eight.  My bishop had eight already and went up to sixteen.  There was not enough work for sixteen people, so I spent most of the time feeling guilty for not doing anything in my calling and wishing I could be released.

"Released" is LDS jargon for when your calling ends.  Like being called, being released usually comes as a surprise.

Four years is an unusually long gig for a primary chorister, but I do have a history of long callings; once I was a Relief Society (women's organization) teacher and I outlasted four different Relief Society presidents before finally being released.  That was another calling I liked, so I was fine with the long term of service.  I wouldn't have minded continuing as primary chorister, either, but after four years, I was wondering if those poor children weren't sick of me and ready for a change.

The current primary president pulled me aside a few weeks ago and asked me if I would like to be released, observing that my "hands were full" during primary time.  My husband was recovering from surgery so I was on my own to deal with my toddler, who is still a few months too young to play in the church nursery, and my three year-old, who just started primary and refuses to remain in his seat.

A friend of mine expressed her frustration with her three year-old who also doesn't sit still for primary.  In confidentiality, I told her that I would probably be released soon so I could focus my attention on my own naughty three year-old.   We were both surprised when that same friend was called as my replacement, in spite of her naughty kid.

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