For a number of years, our local chapter of the American Guild of Organists held a clergy-organist dinner, a time when we could say ‘thank you’ to each other for working together. A date was scheduled for a similar event this year, but was cancelled due to lack of interest. This was most unfortunate, because the relationship between clergy and organists is sometimes contentious and strained, and the simple act of eating together can ease the tensions and even be enjoyable. And the meal can be an opportunity to open the door to all kinds of interesting conversations.
But an easing of tensions is not at all the reason that I invited The Rev. Paul Lillie of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church to be my guest at dinner last night, along with his spouse, Jayson O’Donnell, and Samuel Lam, the other organist who has functioned as an interim at St. Mark’s. Quite to the contrary — one of the gifts I received from Carl Crosier’s funeral was a very generous gift certificate to a Chinese dinner, so that’s where last night we enjoyed a seven-course meal, including scallop soup, peking duck, lobster, sweet and sour fish, honey walnut shrimp and all sorts of Chinese delicacies. Yummy!
Father Lillie is a “PK” — preacher’s kid, son of a Lutheran pastor, and one of those special breeds of clergy who was a church musician first before he went to seminary. He started piano lessons at age five and grew up in a family where music was always a part of the family’s activities. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in music from Milikin University (Decatur, IL). He was organist and choir director of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington, OH and when the program began to expand with a children’s choir, he was approached about going into the ministry. He further obtained a Master’s degree in Theological Studies from Trinity Lutheran Seminary (Columbus, OH), and a Master of Divinity from Bexley Hall Seminary (Columbus, OH).
He has been at St. Mark’s now for six years, and this past summer when it was getting so difficult to find an organ substitute, he even toyed with the idea of playing the organ himself and getting a clergy sub instead!
All in all, it was a most enjoyable and delicious evening. I hope that if you are a church musician, you invite your clergy to a shared meal, and perhaps you’ll have an equally enjoyable time.
P.S. In addition to being an accomplished organist, Father Lillie has a most beautiful singing voice!