Central has always had a band. This month, December, marks two years since the volunteer musicians decided not to play. The events I am about to describe marks a series of disrespect and deception from the leaders of the church. The purpose of this letter is not sow discord but to enlighten the reader on the events that took place. I can only speak from my own experience.
The Last Straw
On December 5, 2015, during a segment of the worship service, there was lull as the members on stage figured out who or what was next. My wife, the church pianist, filled the lull with some soft music to not highlight the disorder on stage. The First Elder, also on stage, decided he did not want music and instead of signalling to end the music, without tact, he chose to go to microphone and scold her. Without fuss, my wife silently left the piano and slips out the door behind the band and stage and heads to the car. I pack up my instrument to meet my wife outside as the lull continues for at least a minute. We went straight home.
My wife received calls from the other band members requesting we meet that afternoon/evening at one of the band members sister’s place that was near the church. We discussed our grievances and the fact that the pastor perpetually ignores our requests to meet. Most agreed we would sit out until we are able to get a productive audience with the pastor and his wife.
Pastor J comes to Central
Upon his arrival, Pastor J made a few announcements that caused great concern for the band. One of the first announcements that affected the band was the announcement that there was no band. Though Central always had an ensemble of musicians, in his eyes, the band was not official, therefore, the church had no band. Pastor believed that to be official, the church board has to select the members and have exclusive control over his/her ability to play. The instruments were to be dedicated. If you had a wedding to perform at you must gain church board approval to be able to play your instrument at such an event. This had frustrated the band. I suggested if the church had bought the instrument we would understand such a restriction. However it was impractical and unethical to restrict our personal instruments. We take pride in maintaining our personal instruments and the church had no interest in investing in similar quality equipment we brought to worship. At the time, We had no idea that these ideas were coming directly from his wife.
Mrs. J is considered to be skilled among the musicians. She can read music and play by ear. Her arrival with the pastor was thought of as a blessing for the music ministry of the church. The band found out the hard way. She became a menace.
She prefers to play with only the best. She would request herself turned all the way up in her mix so that she doesn’t have to hear the other musicians. She would use the praise team leader at times as her mouthpiece to speak with or correct members of the band. She would show up and play when she wants or when the praise team leader requested, without a heads up, while the scheduled pianist takes a back seat. On the pianist schedule, she first requested not to be on it since she was not a member of the local church. Then her excuse became, she was unsure her husband’s schedule. When the pastor asked why she was not playing. she complained she was not on the schedule. She did nothing to help build the band.
It was even said that she scheduled alternate practices so that band members “who did not practice would not be able to play”.
None of the above affected me directly. One time there was a special service that the “pastor” requested piano, bass, and drums. The trombone man didn’t notice this and showed up. I was signaled to let the trombonist know. He said, “OK.” He understood but will leave at the next break so as to not make a scene. No issues there. Mrs. J seeing him still there gets up from the piano calls him to the back and tells him about himself. After finding out what happened I vowed, I will never play with Mrs. J again.
Another island-wide crusade event was on the horizon with many musician teams and I was asked who do I want to play with. I said anyone except Mrs. J. So I was placed with Mrs D. After a week of the event we were told that only one team will play: the one with Mrs. J. was apparently chosen. This surprised most of us, because among the teams, she was not the most talented keyboardist, did not fit the style of the singing preacher, nor was able to find the key the quickest. But it was not a big deal; that’s what the singing preacher wants. We later found out from the singing preacher that it was not the truth.
Twice, I said I was not going to play with her and I turned back months later, rationalizing that I am doing the same thing that she is by not wanting to play with specific persons.
In 2014, I was selected to be the bandleader. I made my wishes clear: All the members of the band were not to do an audition but were to be members of the band. Also the music for the next week were to be given to me at a minimum of a week prior in order to prepare the band. At first it sounded feasible . The pastor later said that this was not doable; It was not under his control. I tried the music director. I even suggested to give them the music…
Week passed after week and no music. Just last minute praise team practice the night before like always and that’s it. I decided that if they just give me the music the last day then they are effectively telling me that they are not willing to give me what I need to be successful. So I decided if it is status quo they wanted then we will just show up and perform. I decided not to go to praise and worship practice since they selected the songs then and there giving no extra time for the band to perfect it. Note: the praise and worship leader was the music director.
I already was very busy at work and didn’t have time to waste, so I took a back seat. I was not the band director. I was the bass man. I became the band director only when I had music ahead of time.
I continually asked the Pastor to meet with the band to address some of the issues regarding his wife. There were a few meetings that the Pastor called were spread far between each other. There was a meeting that was scheduled on Veterans day that not much people could attend (funny that only the military Veterans and family members in the band attended that day…). I accept the blame on this one, I was not able to contact most of the band members in good enough time.
There was a much larger meeting in which the issue was presented as that members of the band were not speaking with each other. By presenting it this way, it was lost on the non-band-members that this referred to Mrs. J.
Fast Forward: In August 2015, Mrs J transfers her membership along with her husband (pastors do not need to transfer membership…) and becomes the Music Coordinator.
Fast Forward: The following week after the final straw. Except for my wife and me (off-island), the band members went to church and sat in the pews. A visiting pianist, and cousin of a band-member decides to play to fill the gap. Her cousin, instructs her not to play. Onlookers blew this out of proportion, I am told. This is told to the Pastor who is off island.
An emergency church board meeting is held to figure out what is going on. The pastor schedules a meeting with the band. The pastor decides to meet with us individually, and turns words of each band-member against each other in order to find out more information. We contacted each other to find the meaning of the confusion. I called the pastor and confronted him about blatant lies he had told on me.
There is now a letter from the church board, written in the pastor’s tongue, hand delivered to the members of the band. Imagine that, two emergency meetings in such a short period of time! However, the band members are at none. The pastor later tells us that the board cancelled his meeting with us. The “church board” letter dated 20 December, condemns our ” inappropriate actions taken that caused a disruption of the worship service.” It states that the future church board will deal with the matter. We are confused. To sit out of the Choir because of issues is noble. to sit out of the band is not. Through Pastor J., We replied to the “board” on 22, December to explain to us the issues we found in the letter and to give us a forum to hear our grievances.We also requested a neutral Pastor head the meeting. But the “board” never heard us out or responded.
That weekend before the letter we met the First Elder in the Super Market. He said he didn’t know he offended my wife. He added, “if ” he did anything he was sorry. (Not “Sorry for offending you, that was not my intent.”) He was not willing to accept responsibility. To be sure, I requested since the act was done publicly, the apology should be done publicly. He laughed and said he is not going to do that. I repeated my request and he said no and walked away. Respect Lost.
I was not sure if it was cowardice on his part, But I knew for sure his half apology was not be sincere.
In January of 2016 the new Church board agreed to “hear us out” but we knew better. Still we opted to give them a chance. When we attended the meeting the First Elder was the chair. When we would make a request to the chairperson, he would look to the pastor (who was in the room) as if for permission. Some times the pastor would blatantly take the chair from the First Elder. We found out the boards, old or new, had not seen our correspondence with the Pastor(church board). The board (the chair) refused to hear us out because of the presence of a band member. We appealed to the board. A Board member made a movement to vote on it and it went forward and almost had a majority. The pastor stepped in and requested prayer. We knew we were not going to be heard today. After a few more attempts we left the meeting.
We appealed to the higher church; The Conference committee heard our complaints individually and complimented on our professionalism. They were led to expect that we were contentious barbarians. The committee made a recommendation for the church to solve this and quickly.
Months later, we were told that The Committee was told that it had been solved. But we never got the memo.
How hard is it to do a sincere apology and to set things right among brethren. (especially Christians).
(This is my experience and by no means the whole story.)