Liturgical Music Ministry as Communion for Mission

By Harmon, Kathleen | Pastoral Music, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Liturgical Music Ministry as Communion for Mission


Harmon, Kathleen, Pastoral Music


Our assigned task is to take a critical look at what Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (hereafter STL)1 has to say about ministry in general and liturgical ministry in particular. We are faced at the outset, however, with a problem, for STL says nothing about ministry in general and nothing about liturgical ministries other than that of liturgical music. What I offer here, then, is not a commentary on the notion of ministry in STL. Instead, I take the image of communion for mission used in Co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord (hereafter CVL),2 the document on lay ecclesial ministry promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2005, to see how that image forms and fleshes out the notion of ministry in STL.

Our procedure is simple and unfolds in three related steps. First, we consider ecclesial ministry in relation to the Trinity, Christ's mission, and ordained ministry. Second, we consider how STL views liturgical singing. Finally, we pull the two together using communion for mission as our lens. In the end we will find that much of what STL asserts about music ministry can, in fact, be said about all liturgical ministries because all these ministries serve the same purpose: to enable the liturgical action initiated by the Trinity to transform the Church into deeper communion for mission.

Theological Foundations in Co-Workers

The bishops' statement Co-workers in the Vineyard is remarkable both for its endorsement of lay ecclesial ministry3 within the Church and for the theological foundations on which it bases this endorsement. We can summarize these foundations under three headings.

Communion for mission. Theologically, CVL builds on developments in ecclesiology and lay ministry which marked the latter half of the twentieth century, influenced the documents of Vatican II, and catalyzed an exponential growth in lay ecclesial ministry in the United States.4 The core of CVL's approach to Church and ministry is found in its integration of communion and mission: "Communion and mission are profoundly connected with each other, they interpenetrate and mutually imply each other to the point that communion represents both the source and the fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion."5

Both communion and mission begin in the Trinity: "The mystery of God is one of love, the love of Trinitarian communion revealed in mission" (CVL, 19). CVL defines the Church in the same terms. The Church, "a communion in which members are given a share in the union with God brought about by Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit" (CVL, 19), is "a mystery of Trinitarian communion in missionary tension."6 The Church, founded by Christ, "finds its source and purpose in the life and activity of the Triune God" (CVL, 19). The Church does not make itself, nor empower itself, nor determine for itself its mission. Rather, the life, power, and activity of the Church are gifts of the Trinity given for the purpose of leading all of humanity into the very life of God, that is, into that communion of self-giving love in which all have fullness of life.

Defining God as "communion revealed in mission" and Church as participation in this divine communion for mission opens up a new dimension in understanding the Church and its ministry. Church is communion in service of mission. Moreover, the mission is communion, our communion with God, our communion with one another in the Church as Body of Christ, and our communion with all humanity as brothers and sisters called to live divine life in the reign of God?

All are called to communion for mission. Because of baptism, all members of the Church are gifted to live out in some specific way this communion for mission which begins in the Trinity and is the source of the life and activity of the Church: "Baptism initiates all into the one priesthood of Christ, giving each of the baptized, in different ways, a share in his priestly, prophetic, and kingly work. …

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