Participation in ecumenical choir - opinions please


I submitted this question to “Ask an Apologist” but thought I’d pick your brains here as well!

I sing with a gospel choir with members from Catholic and various protestant denominations. Our choir director is a non-denom evangelical protestant who used to be choir director at a local Catholic parish (she was prot then too - she’s never been Catholic). As a group, we do not hold “services” of any kind, though we do pray together at the start and end of our weeknight rehearsals. In our closing prayer, we discuss our trials and our joys, and those who so desire state their prayer requests so that we can pray for one another (we are a close knit group…).

As a group we don’t really get into theology, but we are sometimes asked to sing at protestant services where the preaching, often in subtle ways, contradicts Catholic teaching. In particular, the whole “getting saved” (once and for all, one time, “ask Jesus into your heart” brand of salvation) is the most blatant contradiction of Catholic teaching. OTOH, plenty of local Catholic parishes have homilies that are just as heterodox or perhaps even more so than the protestant services I’ve been to. We also sing at secular venues and Catholic parishes.

Do you think participation in such a group is appropriate for a Catholic, assuming I fulfill my obligation to attend Sunday mass? (That is, I don’t “substitute” a protestant service for my Sunday mass obligation.)

Thanks in advance.


You sound like you’re more than uneasy about this matter, but are having scruples in conscience and serious reservations about continuing.

My opinion:

It is one thing to attend a service where heterodoxy is being preached. It is another to participate in a prominent leadership position, such as the choir would be.


If I were in this group, it would depend upon how often we sang for those Protestant churches. If it were a regular occurrence such as once a month or more often, I would probably drop out. But if most of your gigs are in secular venues and you only do the Protestant church performances occasionally, I wouldn’t see a problem with continuing. I say this as a semi-professional musician who has played and sung for many Protestant churches, so I know the situations you come up against when you perform with an “ecumenical” group. :twocents:


The reason I’m having scruples about it is because I am a recent revert to the Church (my initial catechesis was so poor that I am more like a brand new convert, actually) and am trying to get a feel for where the boundaries lie. What I really wonder is whether, objectively, my participation in this group is contrary to Church teaching. I really don’t want to leave the group, because I very much enjoy the music and am very close to my fellow choir members. But if my participation in the group isn’t compatible with the Catholic faith, I will leave it.

I do appreciate your input, and I’m curious about your opinion on participating in Catholic liturgies where heterodoxy is preached. The priest at the parish I attend is orthodox, so no problems there, but I did attend a rather heterodox parish at one point in time, and there is certainly no shortage of them. IYO, do you think a Catholic is obligated to leave a heterodox parish and/or refrain from assuming positions of leadership there? This is purely hypothetical, since liturgical abuse and heterodoxy bug me to the point where I find it difficult to remain charitable, so I make it a point to seek out parishes with orthodox liturgy and homilies. I guess I have less of a problem with protestant heterodoxy because, well, they’re protestants and they don’t know any better. Catholics should know better, KWIM?


Thanks - I’m still mulling over my decision about whether to stay or go, but your input really helps. One of our regular monthly gigs is to lead “praise and worship” at a community service center that helps those with substance abuse issues. In return, we get to use their chapel for our rehearsal space (funny - the organization is named after the Venerable Matt Talbot - that’s pretty darn Catholic :wink: ). I rarely go to these gigs, because I’m just not comfortable with them. It’s getting harder to “hang” with my evangie-prottie friends, because I don’t subscribe to the “Jesus and me” brand of protestant Christianity. I’m just not sure at this point…


Hi Tweety!

Wow, this sounds like me a couple of years ago - member of a gospel choir (under the giese of ecumencialism) directed by someone who I respect and have worked with, and performed at different church and community functions. During the time I was a member, I had a deep re-conversion back to the Faith, and I, too, began to feel pangs of uneasiness when the group was asked to performed at many non-denominational/evangelical services.

As I journeyed along in my reborn faith, I could no longer reconcile some of the teachings I heard from their pulpits in comparison to what was to me the obvious truths on doctrine in the Catholic Church. After staying with the group for nearly two years, I decided that I needed to bolster my faith in the Church, and if I continued being a part of the group, I would not be able to have the focus I needed (which is alot because, I, too, had poor catechisis growing up). I decided to leave - I was honest with my choir director and it’s members as to the reasons why. They regretfully accepted my departure.

It was very difficult doing so. I have many wonderful friends in that group. I also recognized the fact that in a sense, they were one of the reasons why my faith was renewed in Christ. I expressed my appreciation to them for helping me get a jump-start back to God, and though I would miss the music and fellowship greatly, the Holy Spirit was drawing me back to the Bride of Christ, His Church. I sensed that there was some hard feelings about my leaving (especially from those who did not see the Catholic Church in a favorable light), but for those friends who have been there for me, I know they understand and respect my decision.

I still sing - I’ve been a member of my parish’s traditional choir now for almost 2 years. Looking back at my experiences with the gospel choir, the all services I experienced with them can never be compared to the participation we get in the Liturgy of the Mass! :thumbsup:

I hope this has been helpful to you. God Bless!

PS - to get my fix for gospel music, I occasionally attend a gospel Mass in town. Talk about Heaven on Earth!!!


There are at least two parishes locally that have gospel music masses. The first of them is the oldest Catholic church in my city, and is amazingly beautiful. Domed ceilings, murals, statues, grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes - heavenly. I was baptized there. The homilies aren’t heterodox, but are rather mushy and unspecific (“let’s all love each other”) - controversial topics are avoided. The rubrics of the liturgy are bent considerably (no clown masses or anything, just more like a “Batholic” (Baptist + Catholic) liturgy).

At the other parish the priest is very heterodox, but the rubrics of the liturgy are more closely followed. (This is the parish where my choir director actually started the gospel choir).

I’m really drawn to the traditional mass, though I also have no qualms about the ordinary form of mass - and I love me some gospel music too. I sort of see both sides of the argument about whether mass should be (a) a solemn, formal, hushed occasion - after all we are standing at the foot of the cross participating in the once-and-for-all sacrifice of the God of the Universe, or (b) informal, relaxed, collegial - since God became man, we are the adopted children of God the Father, and he calls us to him as little children. We can now approach him without fear. I don’t really think this is a dichotomy, I think (a) and (b) are equally true, so as long as the preaching is orthodox and the rubrics are followed, I’m OK with any mass, really. I just happen to really be moved by traditional latin hymns and chant, and by gospel music!

Seems we do have quite a bit in common! :wink:

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