Spiritual Direction for Musicians

The Very Rev. Catherine D. Hicks 

Can you remember when music took you out of yourself, beyond yourself, and carried you off to some transcendent place, into the presence of God? 

Music, truly heard, has a way of taking one back to the beginning, back to God.

Musicians are the ones who are called and blessed to break down the sound barriers, open the ears, and bring the voice of God singing resurrection and new creation into the world, and into the ears, hearts and minds of those who listen and hear.

But bringing the voice of God singing into the world becomes next to impossible if the day to day demands of being a church musician take precedence and the musician begins to suffer hearing loss, the voice of God lost in all of the loud and competing voices that resound through the halls and choir rooms and worship spaces of the parish.   

Spiritual direction can help the musician not only to listen for God’s voice, but to sort through the competing music, noises and voices that are constantly vying for attention and that drown out God’s whisper. In fact, God’s whisper is frequently caught up in all the competing voices. Another set of ears can open our ears to hear God, and God’s own music, even in the discordant noises and voices that seem to have nothing at all to do with God.

Spiritual direction for musicians provides the space and silence and the company of another in which to listen to what might be at first only the distant whisper of God’s voice, to tune the ear of the heart once more to hear the voice, the music, that draws one back to God, notes heard that bring refreshment, melodies that draw the listener more deeply toward home in God’s heart, where songs of praise and aweful silence create, as John Donne has said, “one equal music.” 

A spiritual director, listening to and with the musician, can create the space in which  the musician can once more feel God’s voice vibrating through the musician’s very being, a vibration that the musician may no longer be feeling and hearing within, that has been lost in the demanding din of work. And once that vibration is felt once more, and God’s voice can be heard again.

In the book of Revelation, a door stands open, and the seer enters and is before God. This heavenly throne room is a noisy place with its rumblings and peals of thunder. And the four living creatures, one on each side of the throne sing day and night without ceasing—“Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” And when the others gathered round that throne hear that song, they can’t help but sing themselves. And their song is “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

In the silence and space and the company of another, the musician with hearing loss may hear anew, may feel God’s breath and song vibrating once again through body and spirit, and may in praising God through God’s language of music, be transported into the presence of God. God sings and plays and transforms people through the music that vibrates in us when we release our own unique music out into the world in praise, and when we unstop ears, so that those who listen can hear God singing God’s endless song of resurrection and new creation out into the world. 

Catherine Hicks currently serves as the Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Port Royal, Virginia. She graduated from VTS in 2010, and completed a Certificate in Spiritual Direction Studies in 2011 at Washington Theological Union. She has served as a spiritual director in the Fredericksburg area as well as at VTS.