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FAQ’s about being a Song Leader or Deacon at St. Lydia’s

Are you interested in being a song leader or deacon at a Saint Lydia’s service?  This FAQ sheet will give you a sense of what’s involved and what resources and support you will receive as you explore these roles.

Q: What does the Deacon do at Saint Lydia’s?
A: The deacon gives instructions so that everyone knows what is happening next: a procession, the lighting of candles, sharing the bread, prayer, dinner, cleanup, and so forth. By giving clear instructions and making sure everyone knows what is happening, the deacon helps make Saint Lydia’s a welcoming place for all, especially those who have never been to a Saint Lydia’s service.

Q: What does the Song Leader do?
A: The song leader teaches songs to the congregation and cues the singing at various points during the service. This, too, is a welcoming role.

Q:  Where and when can I receive training for these roles?
A:  We have deacon and song leader training and rehearsals every week before the service.  We gather at 6:15 PM, and all are welcome to attend.  We also post resources on our website, including recordings of the songs that we sing and ways to teach them to the group.

Q: If I want to be a Song Leader, what prior musical training will I need? Do I have to be able to read music?
A: Saint Lydia’s is a place for learning and we can accommodate song leaders of all levels of training, including absolute beginners who don’t read music.   The most important qualification for song leading is the ability to carry a tune and keep a steady rhythm.  We work with our trainees to develop all the skills they need, and we will ensure that they are not burdened with material that lies beyond their abilities. We want our song leaders to feel supported and relaxed as they acquire new skills and explore this role.

Q: Deacon sounds kind of official. Do I have to pass a test or  get a deacon’s license, or something?
A: There’s no need for an official anything.  The first step is to come the informal and supportive deacon training and rehearsal that takes place before every service.

Q: As Deacon or Song Leader, do I have to wear special clothes?
A: No. Come dressed as you otherwise would and wear clothes that are comfortable and don’t restrict your movement.

Q: How does the Deacon know what to say?
A: The deacon’s instructions are all written down in a script, from which the deacon reads during the service. No memorization is required. (You can peek at a sample script here and get a more concrete sense of what the deacon says and does.)

Q: How does the Song Leader know what to sing?
A: The song leader uses a script and but memorizes the songs ahead of time. (The song leader has a menu of song options for various musical moments during the service, and from that list she/he selects the music.) We post recordings of all of the songs on the Squeezebox portion of the Saint Lydia’s website so trainees can listen and practice at home. You can also get additional coaching at the rehearsal and training sessions before the service, though when you are signed up to be that week’s Song Leader, we want you to come with the songs memorized and practiced.

Q: Can I play that cool instrument that makes the droning organ sound?
A: That’s a shruti box, an instrument from India that we use at Saint Lydia’s to accompany the songs, and yes, we can teach anyone interested in learning how to play it. Because the Song Leader needs to have her/his hands free when leading songs, we generally have someone other than the Song Leader playing the shruti box. It’s fairly easy to learn how to play it and if you would like to learn, come to one of the rehearsal and training sessions. It’s even more fun than it looks.  If you would like to learn, talk to Rachel Pollak, our Community Coordinator, or email her at  rachel@stlydias.org.

Q: I’d like to try being a Deacon or Song Leader but I’d like to have someone stand next to me, like a co-pilot (in case I lose my place, get nervous, or forget how the song goes). Is that possible?
A: Absolutely. We can pair you with a veteran so that you don’t have to worry about carrying the load all by yourself. You can try as little or as much of the job as you would like and ease your way into it. Saint Lydia’s is a community that supports learning at all levels, and we will accommodate your needs.

Q: What happens if I am Deacon or Song Leader and I make a mistake?
A: We don’t aim for perfection. We practice and prepare to do our best, but mistakes happen regularly at Saint Lydia’s, and when they occur, they present opportunities for learning, laughter, and grace. When you make a mistake in front of other people, and then find your way and keep going, you offer your fellow congregants the great gift of modeling forgiveness. Our liturgy is built to make room for those moments of grace and forgiveness, and every single St. Lydia’s leader has made mistakes, so you’ll be in good company if you forget a line or sing a wrong note.

Q: Okay, I’m interested. What’s my first step?
A: Come to one of the deacon and song-leader rehearsal and training sessions that happen before every service. We usually gather at 6:15. You don’t need to sign up beforehand. Just show up and say “I’m here for the training and rehearsal.” Once you get a sense of what the roles are like, you can talk with our Community Coordinator about the role or roles you’d like to explore. 

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