Interest Time, LCEF News

The Highs and Lows of Life as a Parish Music Director

August 31, 2018 | Posted by Jeni Miller

You know them as the faithful musicians, cantors, organists and music directors who work together with the pastor to illuminate God’s Word through music in the Divine Service. They’re the backbone of the local parish. ever wonder what might take place in a typical day in the life of a rostered LCMS music director? Us, too. 

Emily Woock, director of parish music at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Elmhurst, Ill., since 2011, will be the first to admit that there is no typical day. “Every day is different, and that’s part of what I enjoy most about my job,” shared Woock.

A Typical Week

Most weeks are a mix of prepping for and leading choir rehearsals, playing the organ for worship services, preparing the worship bulletin, meetings, practices and the inevitable administrative work.

Since Woock leads the early childhood music program at Redeemer and serves a sister congregation’s school – Immanuel Lutheran School in Elmhurst – there are also the added tasks of lesson planning, teaching, communicating with teachers and parents and other odds and ends.

“You just never know exactly what may come up in a week!” Woock added. “There are always random meetings that pop up, and sometimes I play for nursing home services or take choirs to share music there. Lately, I’ve had a few opportunities to present at conferences. Last spring, I went on tour as an organist with Kapelle from Concordia Chicago. It was enjoyable to be on a bus with college kids – many of whom are future church workers. Of course, the occasional wedding or funeral get thrown into a week from time to time.”

Music is Personal

For better or worse, some days carry an understandable amount of stress and worry, especially considering how intertwined the life of a church worker can be with the lives of those they serve.

“I’m involved in the lives of my parishioners,” Woock explained. “I get to share in the joys of life but also some of the dark and hard parts. It is so difficult to see someone going through something terrible like cancer, divorce or losing a job, and not be able to fix it for them. I am honored to walk alongside them and pray for and with them, but I’m a fix-it kind of person and often feel helpless when tough situations come up.”

However, like all LCMS rostered church workers Woock knows and takes to heart the Gospel of our Lord. She works through her vocation to share that message with those she serves. She may be an expert steward of musical gifts in particular, but like all of the baptized, she is also a steward of every good gift of God, seeking to share those gifts with others and praying for them amidst all of life’s challenges.

Suffering Along With the Saints

“I know God is in control and that ultimately even horrible things like cancers don’t affect salvation, but it’s still hard to see people suffering in life,” said Woock. “It’s my job to calm and reassuring in such situations, but there are times where I have pulled off the road or shut my office door or gone home and cried and prayed for a parishioner or family. I love my parishioners so much. Musicians are often sensitive people. Music is very personal.”

Still, Woock knows that, sometimes, the hits keep coming. Between recent funerals and illnesses in the congregation, Woock once again walks that fine line between calming and suffering along with the saints.

While Woock serves the people at Redeemer through music, the Church at large, including LCEF, serves faithful church workers like her through prayer and support. Please come alongside us as we lift up our church workers,

Read more about Woock, her dedicated work and how she manages the joys and challenges of the parish musician life as we continue her story in the next issue of Interest Time.

Jeni Miller
Deaconess Jeni Miller is a member of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta, Georgia, and a freelance writer and editor for several LCMS publications and entities. She is wife to the Rev. Dave Miller and a homeschooling mother of three sweet little Lutheran children. In her free time, she enjoys serving her church, traveling with her family and hosting events and guests in her home.