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A Letter from Davis Wortman

By May 24, 2023No Comments

Dear Friends,

With the excitement of change in the air at St. James’, this is the right moment to announce future plans of my own. Dean and I have long anticipated retiring to Florida, and now we’ve set a date. After 23+ wonderful years at St. James’, the Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany, January 7, 2024, will be our last Sunday here. It is no accident that I have chosen to make this significant day of worship my final day of work, as the meaning of the Epiphany encompasses both a blessed revelation of the incarnation of Jesus and a classic moment of sudden insight. This insight came to me as the rector search was gaining speed to its conclusion and well before Zack’s call had been announced. Dean’s and my plans have been in motion for several years. I realized that after offering 23 years of joyful, sorrowful, dutiful, delightful, and uplifting music for worship, it is time for the church to benefit from fresh vision, not only from the new Rector, but from a new minister of music. I couldn’t be happier with Zack’s appointment, yet this is right timing to herald the next generation of worship through music along with the rest of the vision I am excited to see Zack carry out.

In my time here you fed my soul by singing hymns in worship and Christmas caroling on the steps, in your listening with rapt attention to anthems, choral moments and organ fantasies, and so often asking me if we could sing favorite hymns and tunes at your weddings, funerals, or the summer hymn sings. You love music, and you let me know it every week. I thank and love you for that!

My St. James’ history started with my arrival in 2000 as the Master Plan saw us worshiping away from 71st and Madison Avenue. I was here for the tragedy of 9/11, had the glory of designing and installing the Bicentennial Organ in 2010, saw the return to Choral Eucharist at 11:15 liturgies in 2013, began the Candlelight Communion service with its distinctive use of piano, instrumentalists, and cantor, underwent the trial by fire of producing music for every service livestreamed during COVID, and then celebrated the return of full and glorious musical worship in this season just completing. Many will not be aware of the release of two music recordings from St. James’ Church (one of which received a Grammy nomination), my encouraging countless youth who sang and fell in love with spiritually-based music, the professional choristers who, with my encouragement, joined the church as worshiping members because of the richness of Spirit they discovered here. Of all that has had the most personal impact, it was meeting by chance a fellow musician whom I hired (with trepidation!) and yet eventually married, Dean Meyers. He joined me wholeheartedly every way at St. James’, making it his spiritual and religious home, and generously sharing his gifts as a musician and creative artist of other talents and his business and professional abilities, all for the well-being of the church and reflecting his personal devotion to this community. He joins me in the great mix of emotions, from gratitude to sadness to anticipation, as we prepare to relocate upon my retirement.

I am a church musician by calling, not just profession, and I hope that has been clear throughout my time at St. James’. My center and focus all these years have been on the worship through music, not of music or by music. I am not seeking another job as a musician in another church. There can be no greater fulfillment than what I have already achieved, through your acceptance and love for the music we have made at St. James’ in service to God. That love is a gift that will never leave me. It is my profound wish that, apart from having moments in the coming months to thank as many of you as I can individually, you will find your own moments of spiritual beauty in remembering what you have heard and felt from my efforts and bring that joy forward into worship.

This summer and fall I will help Zack to think through the music program going into the future. It will be a capstone of my professional life at St. James’ to aid him in any way he’d like—and we’ve already begun to talk.

Dean and I intend our leave-taking to be celebratory, and we’re already anticipating a festive reception between the services on January 7, 2024 to say farewell. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to Zack’s installation and every liturgy between now and then.

With thanks, love and wishes that music will continue to lift you closer to the throne of God, I am yours in Christ,

Davis Wortman

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