Michael and I are thrilled to be here at last! It’s been a long journey of time, discernment, prayer, questions, answers, and love. But, as I said to Fr. James on the phone in July, after 21 years of ministry in Harvard Square, I felt like the Holy Spirit was yelling at me. So here we are, and very happily so. Our 7-year-old kitty, Wills, wasn’t so sure when he reached the airport in Boston. But he is settling in and will undoubtedly love the Florida sunshine as much as our Australian blood does. It already feels like home.

Conversations during our visit in June revealed a common thread among everyone we talked to: that the people of Bethesda are warm, inviting, wonderful people. I’ve heard incredible stories about the music program under Hal’s phenomenal leadership, and I can barely wait to start working with the choir. The Austin organ is a treasure trove of tonal colors and expression, and, with daily time on the organ bench, we are making friends quickly.

My real passion, though, is congregational singing. I love singing and I love all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into planning, coaxing, and reveling in the synergy of a church full of people singing God’s praises. One of my driving forces is finding the hymn text that will remind us of a key phrase in one of the lessons of the day, or perhaps reflecting on the overall theme of the day; imagining different textures and arrangements led by the choir; hearing various shades of bright and dark in the combinations of stops playing on the organ to underline the meaning of each stanza; and, more often than not, adding to the overall shape of the hymn with a descant on the last verse.

We have great times ahead! Thank you for your welcome.

Dr. Stuart Forster
Associate for Music and Liturgy, Organist and Choirmaster