Using my GIFT for God

Ervin TanFeature

Claudine, playing the organ and providing musical accompaniment for a hymn sung by the choir. Photo: Church of the Holy Family

A Labour of Love

Despite her busy schedule running her English enrichment company, Claudine Fernandez decided to offer her talents to serve in the music ministry at the Church of the Holy Family.

My late father played an important role in my childhood to equip me to serve God. Not only did he give me the push I needed to play the organ and send me for music classes, he also encouraged me to be more involved in my faith and give back to my parish community.

Stewarding my Talents

In 2003, my parish had an open call for an organist. It felt like an ideal opportunity to steward my talents for God and give back to my parish. I auditioned for the role and was given the chance to shadow an organist so as to gradually learn to play the different parts of the Mass. Since then, I have been blessed with several opportunities through various people, to also serve in the music ministries of other parishes. However, I had to take a long break from serving in these ministries when I pursued a Master’s Degree overseas in 2013. When I returned to Singapore in 2014, the thought of resuming ministry work never really crossed my mind until a good friend invited me to play alongside the Kristokos Choir at the Church of the Holy Family. Serving alongside them was an incredibly humbling experience. The passion with which they sang for God, and for the people of God, truly moved me. I felt God calling me back to serve as an organist once more.

“My service should never be about me or my skills, but about God and God alone. I realised that serving from the heart is a prerequisite to serve God, not being incredibly skilled.”

Struggles in Service

A common misconception about musicians at Mass is that it comes naturally to anyone who is adept at playing the instrument. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. When I first started serving in church, I had to learn how to play the different hymns and Mass ordinaries. In addition, I had to adjust to each choir’s individual style. This was very different from what I was used to as a solo musician. Playing at Mass required me to take a step back and remind myself that my purpose was not to bring attention to my own talent, but to enhance and musically accompany the choir, and in doing so, highlight the glory of God. I had to remind myself that I could not simply play for the sake of looking or sounding good but to play in a way that accentuates the beauty of the Mass and of God, many a time in subtle ways.

For a long time, my mind remained trapped in the technicalities of playing at Mass. I would criticise myself harshly when I made a slight error and dwell on others’ criticism. My mentor in the music ministry noticed this perfectionist mindset that was detrimental to my spiritual wellbeing. One day, he said, “Claudine, you have to play from the heart.” These words are my constant reminder that even if I made a mistake, my service should never be about me or my skills, but about God and God alone. I realised that serving from the heart is a prerequisite to serve God, not being incredibly skilled.

Joys of Community

Friendship is just one of the many blessings I have received through my service as a church organist. Besides serving together, my community has also journeyed with me. The gift of their friendship is truly a big reason why I continue to serve in my parish till this day; I know that I am never alone. When the pandemic struck, I felt a great sense of loss. Beyond the restrictions limiting contact with our community, singing was not allowed at Masses. We could not express our worship of God together through our gift of and love for music. There grew a deep yearning to be able to serve in Church again, something that I had taken for granted.

With the easing of safe management measures, singing at Mass is allowed. As a result, I now genuinely view my service as a church organist as a privilege. My hope is that our music can touch the hearts of people who listen to it and inspire them to give glory to God not only by singing or playing an instrument, but in whatever way they feel called to worship. God has given us many gifts, and no gift is too small. Our only response is to use and share it with others for His glory.

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