Music, School of


Date of this Version

October 2000


Published in Musicians for the Churches: Reflections on Vocation vs. Formation (Yale Studies in Sacred Music). New Haven: Yale Institute of Sacred Music, 2000. Copyright 2000 Yale Institute of Sacred Music. Used by permission.


The inexorable erosion of purpose in the formation of U.S. clergy—which is of course a reflection of the current malaise in U.S. religious life—is both well established and well-documented. An article by Paul Wilkes in The Atlantic Monthly reveals the uneasy situation in U.S. seminaries of all denominational stripes:

The issue of personal spirituality of Protestant clergy has traditionally hardly ever been addressed in seminaries, and has not until recently been considered especially relevant. …faculty appointments are often made on the basis not only of scholarship but also of outlook. Religious beliefs are hardly considered. As for religious practice—attending or working in a local church? Please!… The curriculum is said to be driven not by what congregations might need but by what the seminarian wants or demands or thinks he or she needs to be an effective professional, as well as by faculty members’ interest in areas of their own specialization (Wilkes, 72-86).

Dr. Donald Webster expressed one effect of this malaise on church music and musicians in a lecture at the 1997 Three Choirs Festival in Hereford, England:

…of more immediate concern to musicians has been the fact that a high proportion of recent recruits to the ministry… have been either unaware of or are unsympathetic to the Church’s great musical traditions or are unconcerned about standards of linguistic beauty (Webster, 19).

Included in

Music Commons