On Sunday January 26th, the parish gave thanks to Dougals Witte for his 20 years of service as Director of Music at St. John’s. Initially hired as a substitute in December of 1993, Douglas became the permanent director in January of 1994.
During Coffee Hour, the Choir sang a toast to Douglas with words by Maureen Lavely to the tune of “My Favorite Things,” and Jake Sterling led the choir in a spirited rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Pack Up Your Sins.” Senior Warden Louis Tompros and the rector offered thanks, including the reading of several emails from clergy who worked with Douglas in the past. Among the presentations made was a plaque that will go on the organ after its restoration in 2014, commemorating Douglas’ years of service.
Stratton McCrady, a longtime choir member now in Maine, sent greetings as well. His letter was not read at the Coffee Hour, and we want to make sure everyone reads his thoughtful words of thanks:
My favorite Douglas story comes from when we in leadership were all asked to do safe church training. Douglas and I, Alice and some others complied. Early in the day we were asked to form two lines in a personal space exercise. These lines were to face each other with each person looking across some short distance at another from the opposite line. I looked across at Douglas. The group leader explained that we were to, on her count, take a slow series of steps toward each other and gauge how our personal feelings of discomfort might increase as we got continually closer. She said when we found the closeness unbearable, we were to speak up, stop, and note our relative positions. On her count we each took the first step toward each other….. Douglas said, “STOP.” “That’s enough.”
The point of embarrassing him with this story is to make clear how much he hates praise…. any steps too close. My personal truth is Douglas welcomed me back into a life I thought was lost to me forever, when his the little choir took me in. In those 15 years he has given me riches greater that gold or fine jewels. Virtually every Thursday and Sunday for those 15 years revolved around strains of music that saturated my soul, stirred my imagination and drove me into endless flights of research and musical discovery. This gift of music was for him, a passion, but also his day job. I’ve wanted him to understand that, for me it has been prayer, as essential as breathing, and it has been love and true worship. Douglas gave me that.