To pay or not to pay

I appreciated the January article by Karen Kogler on the treatment of volunteers.

However, I believe there are times when the church should be willing to pay for work that is done. Many decades ago, when I was a college music major, I was asked to direct the student choir at my church. It was a town-gown situation, and a college classmate was asked to direct the congregation’s adult choir. I was told, “We can only afford to pay one of you.”

It was my classmate who was paid. I’ve always wondered if it was because my classmate was male and I was female, or if it was because I had grown up in the congregation. (My classmate was not yet a Lutheran.)

The first congregation to which I belonged after graduation also asked me to direct their choir. Again, I was expected to volunteer, and I never received any sign of appreciation. It wasn’t until my children were teenagers that I decided to seek a paying job as a church choir director. By that time, I knew I would have to go outside the congregation where I was a member. I received many gifts and thank-you notes from the congregation that employed me.

However, they, too, did not like to pay member musicians. For Easter one year, I hired a brass player from my home congregation, and that same Easter the choir director at my home congregation hired a member of the church where I was employed. Both musicians were highly trained, experienced brass players. Both were paid. Yet, neither congregation saved any money. How ridiculous!

I have often wondered why congregations are willing to pay secretaries and custodians who are members, while musicians with many years of training and toil are expected to volunteer. Many highly trained musicians are willing to volunteer, but it should be their choice.

Irene Eggers
Wheat Ridge, Colo.


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