A Journey in the Wilderness – Self-Care for Church Musicians in Difficult Times


Words seem inadequate to describe the current situation that all of us are facing. Many of you have been let go from your church positions, wondering if and when you might get a church job again. Others are busy dealing with live streaming or recording your work to share with others. The grief, financial distress, and fears are all real. 

So, how do we take care of ourselves? I asked some composers to chime in on this question, here’s what they said:

“My dad told me once to ‘pour my pain into my pen.’ His advice helped me to redeem the valley I was walking through at that moment. So, as I compose during this season of shadows, I want to concentrate on the music of healing, restoration, and hope.” –  Joseph Martin

“Like so many others, I lost much in the last two weeks; but when I look back at how carefully God has provided for me in the past, how can I not feel loved? And when I remember how deeply God loves me, I have nothing to fear.”Heather Sorenson

“My entire travel schedule for this spring and most of the summer was completely wiped out – it went up in smoke in a matter of days, despite all my carefully laid plans. But it’s a great reminder that our plans are in the Lord’s hands, not our own, no matter how much we think or feel that we’re in control – so I take joy and rest in letting go. And I’ve tried to make the most of the unusual and unexpected opportunities that have arisen as a result of all this extra time at home: more time with my family, more time connecting virtually with all kinds of choirs, doing some really rewarding video recording for my church’s service broadcasts, doing Facebook Live concerts, getting lots of editing done, and doing lots of work outside in my gardens!”  – Dan Forrest

“At first, I was focused on canceling things and discerning and grieving all the things I can no longer do. Now, I’ve come to a place of imagining what I can do now that I might not have been able to do (or that might not have been needed!) before this happened.” – Tom Trenney

All of us are dealing with loss, grief, fear, anxiety, and concerns about the future. Tom Trenney made the point with us, all of this is a wilderness journey. The good news – even Jesus needed the help of the angels in the wilderness. Asking for help from God and your community is not a fault, but merely a step on the journey – a part of walking in the wilderness. It’s OK to have rough days, just know that you are not walking alone.

Take time for you; allow yourself to be creative. Grieve what you have lost, and dream about a time when we journey out of the wilderness into new uncharted territory. Your work still matters – always know, never doubt.

Chris Titko
Chris Titko
Chris Titko is a former Church Editor for J.W. Pepper. Prior to working at Pepper, Chris spent 35 years serving various churches across the US. He has a degree in sacred music from Westminster Choir College and a degree in choral conducting from Indiana University Bloomington, with further graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma. If you want current employment info: He currently serves as Lindauer Endowed Chair for Music and Fine Arts at Monumental United Methodist Church in Portsmouth, VA


  1. Wise and helpful words from all but I, having been laid off from my music director/organist position, is also feeling angry and I don’t like feeling that way towards my former ministry. I wonder, is there anyone else out there with that underlying feeling of betrayal from their churches?

  2. There is federal assistance for churches to pay their staff. Your church should apply for it, even large churches can apply.

  3. Thank you for describing, so clearly, what we as church musicians have been going through. It has not been easy, but I learned how to record my part for a virtual choir on my smart phone (taping it to the top of the desk). It has forced me to push myself, when I didn’t feel like doing it. Oh and my garden looks great!!

  4. Thanks for your insight and wisdom, Chris. It was helpful to read how my fellow composers are doing. We WILL get through this.


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