Harmonious Ministry: A polyphonic history of Doug Haney’s 19 years at Wilshire

by | Apr 28, 2023 | Feature

Harmonious Ministry

A polyphonic history of Doug Haney’s 19 years at Wilshire.

Associate Pastor and longtime Minister of Music Doug Haney retires April 30 after nearly two decades at Wilshire. Tapestry spoke with Doug and solicited thoughts from some current and former Wilshire members for this story told through quotes.


Call and Response

Doug Haney: Mary Ann Hill was the search committee chair, and of all the search committees I’ve dealt with, Wilshire did it best. Communication. Clarity. I remember it being a very positive process. Even though George Mason and I had worked together before, I only heard from him one time during the process … he trusted the committee to do the work.

Mary Ann Hill: As our search committee completed our study of a large number of very qualified candidates, we unanimously felt Doug was the person God intended for Wilshire. The work he had done at his previous church was superlative and seemed to fit Wilshire perfectly. Doug is an extremely fine musician who knows how to do it with both spiritual tenderness and dramatic flair. Most important, he is a sensitive, caring and nurturing minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Doug: During the call weekend they did a town hall meeting with the choir. Don Simons asked, “Why do you want to move to Wilshire?” I didn’t even have to think about the answer. I told Don, and I still believe it, the thing that’s so attractive about Wilshire is: Wilshire has this clear identity. And that identity infuses what you do and who you are, and especially how you choose to do worship. There’s no ambiguity. There’s no chasing after this or that. You’ve made this commitment to traditional worship. That, I think, is very attractive for a person who wants to come and make a contribution and do good work. I have not spent a day worrying that the worship style was going to change or there was going to be a radical philosophical shift. To be able to do the best work you can do in a good place is such a gift.

Memorable Moments

Doug: One thing we did in the early years was a little-performed work by the American composer Randall Thompson called “The Nativity According to St. Luke.” It’s not really meant to be staged, but Mary Ann helped me stage it. And that was a really fine moment. It was quintessential Wilshire — a tip of the hat to the classical, but bringing it up to date a little bit by staging it, and telling the Christmas story one more time in a fresh way that was accessible to everyone. There was that wonderful concert that Cynthia Clawson came and did with our adult choir. That was fun because Cynthia and George Gagliardi and I built that concert at the church she and [husband] Regan Courtney were serving in Austin. We went down, sat around a piano and mapped out that whole concert. That was a cool thing for George because he had known Cynthia so long, and because Cynthia had been here at Wilshire.

George Mason: We have been blessed to share life and worship with a consummate musician and minister. Doug has led us to explore every dimension of our life with God through music. Every hymn and anthem, whether gospel or spiritual or classical, has deepened our prayers and raised our praises.

Doug: The commissioned anthem (“The Spring of the Water of Life”) for George Mason’s 30th anniversary was a high-water mark. Getting to work with composer Howard Goodall and keeping it as a surprise — that whole creative process of working with a composer and then revealing it to the choir. And they worked so hard to get it right. Not an easy piece of music! That whole project, even though it only resulted in a seven-minute anthem, was such a privilege and a lot of fun.

Creative Collaboration

Doug: We’ve got our own wonderful composers like Mike Capps and George Gagliardi, and we’ve done things by them. We did a David Featherstone anthem just this winter. One thing I’ve been privileged to do is to try to find ways to collaborate with others, with people in the pew who have considerable gifts. I don’t think music ministry should be all about the professionals. Part of our calling is to figure out how we can work with and beside people, and how we can give them an opportunity to use their best gifts for the benefit of the whole. That process is the kind of thing that has made me continue to have enthusiasm and energy for the work.

Mike Capps: We all know Doug is a highly skilled, collaborative and creative musician as well as a true minister. I have personally benefited from both of these qualities, so thoroughly intertwined are the ways he encourages us to be better musicians while encouraging and offering an ear or timely conversation whenever he saw the need. Whenever he and I worked on a project, he always gifted me with his thorough understanding of the score and thoughtful and pragmatic advice. I will miss our collaborations and his encouragement, but more directly, I will simply miss Doug.

Mark Wingfield: Our family’s gratitude for Doug exists not only because of a longstanding relationship as staff colleagues but because he has invested in our children — a testimony many others could give as well. Doug was one of the influencers who encouraged our boys in their musical gifts, just as he encouraged so many others to explore their God-given talents in the arts, in education, in ministry, in lay leadership. The true measure of an outstanding minister is not found only in the things required for the job but in relationships nourished and lives enriched for service.

Sanctuary Choir

Doug: I’ll definitely miss rehearsals and worship with Sanctuary Choir. The choir and I have developed a relationship of trust. I said to them recently, I just want to thank you for trusting me over the years, because sometimes I brought you things that you didn’t just read through the first time and the notes flew off the page. But you’ve said, “we’ve done this before, let’s see where this goes.”

Bill Jernberg: As a member of Sanctuary Choir during Doug’s entire Wilshire ministry, I have experienced joy week by week as he inspires us to prepare for worship by honoring our commitment to excellence in musicianship with a sincere dedication to spiritual preparation. I have been blessed by his friendship and his dedication to Wilshire and its members in all matters of ministry.

Doug: They know I’m not going to cause them to embarrass themselves musically. We’re going to learn this, we’re going to let this kind of grow organically. I’ll miss that process of collaboration, watching the music blossom over time, that moment when the musicians go, “Oh,” like they know where it’s going.

Monica Mullins: Doug holds in one hand tremendous skill and discipline as a musician and conductor while in the other extending such grace, compassion and empathy as a minister. The balance of his heart and mind result in the worship and music that defines Wilshire worship for me. What the congregation doesn’t get to experience is the intimacy of our rehearsals with Doug. Every moment of rehearsal is well used and infused with community due to Doug’s leadership. I have learned more about music, worship, faith, and ministry from Doug than I ever imagined possible. And all along, we laugh, cry and make beautiful music together.

Doug: I’m so proud of the way our church and choir have come back from COVID. This Easter, for example, was absolutely a glorious sight and sound. We didn’t get there overnight, but I see the church thriving. I guess that’s part of what makes it a little easier to step away. I think it’s going to flourish going forward. I’m so happy Timothy is here.

Youth Choir

Doug: Wilshire’s Youth Choir was a good group when I got here, but we got bigger and better pretty quickly. We went on a lot of great choir tours: Boston, New Orleans, Chicago. The Dominican Republic was an adventure. It was no luxury trip. The kids worked hard.

Molly Shepard: When I think about Doug, I will always picture his knowing smile: the one he pulls out when he is trying to engage you. To bring you along for the musical, theological or metaphorical ride. Or simply to see if you got his “dad joke.” There is not a single rehearsal, concert or worship experience I have spent with Doug that did not heal my soul or lift my spirit. From age 13 to 30, I am incredibly grateful for the impact he has had on my life and on this congregation.

Doug: It’s wonderful to think that former Youth Choir singers would still want to sing with me in Sanctuary Choir. They were such good singers when they were students, and as young adults they really bring something to the table. The fact that they would want to come back and sing in the adult choir of their childhood is really a beautiful thing.

Drama, Dialogue, Dessert & Doug

Doug: Mary Ann Hill and I were on a Vision 2020 team, and we had this assignment to create a space for theological dialogue. And I don’t know whose idea it was … maybe it was just one of those moments where sparks fly: “What about something with drama? What could we add to it? Could we add a dialogue component? If we’re going to do that we might as well add dessert.” And I sort of lured Nancy Poynter out of retirement, having really no idea what a treasure she was. When she came on board, I realized, oh my, this person has this wealth of expertise, knows the literature and is so incredibly intelligent that she’s able to connect the dots to significant questions of life and faith. And it’s been such a privilege.

Nancy Poynter: Since the inception of Faith in 3D, Doug Haney has been the driving force behind this unique project to utilize theatre to spark conversations about topics that should matter to the faith community. In addition to being our staff liaison, he has lent his influence, wisdom, and creativity to the success of each project. Usually he worked behind the scenes, but he was musical director for “Working” and a cast member of “The Living.” On stage or in the wings, Doug has provided inspiration and guidance for this truly unique endeavor.

Doug: I don’t know of any other church who does exactly what we’ve done. Who says nothing of any value ever came out of a strategic planning process?

Pathways to Worship

Doug: I’ve tried to encourage our pastoral residents to think about how, whatever your theology of worship is, you’ll have to put it into practice. It’s great to have a theory of ideas, but what do you actually do? What choices do you make every Sunday? I hope we’ve been able to create some frameworks for equipping residents, putting some tools in their toolbox. It’s just part of the bread and butter of being a pastor: you have to be a worship leader.

Scott Dickison (pastoral resident 2010–2012): “All worship is local,” Doug would often tell us as residents, borrowing from the famous Tip O’Neill line. He intended this to ground us in the immediate culture and concerns of congregational life. But there is another element to this wisdom I didn’t appreciate fully at the time but have witnessed in Doug, which is that worship — and ministry, and church, and life — is finally about relationships. We find all we need to worship in each other and the space we create together. Generations of the church will remember Doug for the way he crafted and led beautiful worship. But we all know that beauty has come from the life we have been able to share with him.

A Living Tradition

Doug: I think of traditional worship in the sense of a living tradition instead of “traditionalism.” We’re always aware of our history, but we’re also always adding to that history. So it’s a living tradition in the sense that it is hopefully generative and creative. I love the structure of traditional worship. But I think there’s a tremendous amount of freedom for those who will explore that freedom fully. So you could occasionally have jazz musicians, you can have roots music. Those wonderful traditions can sort of flow into this greater stream of worship and choral music.

Darren DeMent: Doug and I occupy different lanes musically, but he has worked to make room for both. In fact, he was the driving force behind our Wilshire Roots album even though he doesn’t appear on it. He recognizes when someone can bring something different to the table and gives them a platform.

Doug: One of the fundamental strengths of traditional church music is that it’s not just left to the experts, but it engages a wide swath of people, and everyone has the potential to do that in every age group. That’s what our music ministry looks like, and has at Wilshire for a long time. We have musical experiences for everyone from preschool to senior adults, for instrumentalists, for singers. The art of people singing together — unless you do it in high school, or maybe a community chorus, church is a great place to do that, to have that experience. And it allows more people to participate.

LeAnn Hampton: Doug’s ministry through music has encouraged people of all ages and musical abilities to use their talents to lead in worship. Because of his leadership, we have expressed our love and faith in God through incredibly beautiful music.

Carlita Huff: R.G. and I drive from Waxahachie on Sundays and Wednesdays. It can be quite a drive, but every time we attend worship or rehearsal, we get in the car and say, “It is so worth it!” What a wonderful musical and spiritual time we have had under Doug’s exceptional leadership.

Colleagues in Ministry

Doug: We have an incredible music staff team, and I’m so grateful. If they were not so capable and competent, there’s no way I could have juggled music and worship and the other things I was asked to do as associate pastor. It’s been a privilege working with them all.

Ralph Manuel: It has been an honor to work with Doug as part of the music team at Wilshire. Doug’s leadership style is collaborative rather than authoritarian; we are treated as valued colleagues. He is an inspiring example of faithful dependability as he uses his talent in God’s service.

Jeff Brummel: I’ve always appreciated that Doug had an open door. I could share any concern I had, and he was gracious in listening and helping me find a way through any problem.

Doug: Working so long with George Mason  and Mark Wingfield was such a privilege. When you share a philosophy or theology and you have common purpose, it clears away a lot of other stuff. I had the unusual experience of having worked with George before, so I knew what I was getting into. George and I worked, when it was said and done, for 20 years in two places together, which is a pretty cool thing.

Mark Wingfield: It will be hard to imagine worship at Wilshire without Doug’s steady influence. For two decades, we have known without question that music and worship would be done with excellence and sensitivity. What we take for granted, many other churches long to have. I testify from personal experience that Doug’s influence extends far beyond what most people see on Sunday mornings or even at Wednesday rehearsals. Doug is a consummate minister who also is an excellent musician.

Final Notes

Doug: I find myself at the end of this chapter just so profoundly grateful for these people in this place. We’ve heard the quip that great churches make great pastors. Well, I would add that great churches make great ministers of music. I am a better minister of music than when I walked in the door 18 years ago, and I’m better because of this place, because of these people, because they’ve drawn out the very best. I made a few mistakes, maybe a lot, along the way, but there’s always such a sense of encouragement and support. The people were not hypercritical or reactive. And the longer I stayed, the better we got. I feel like we did our best work at the end here together. That’s such a rare thing these days in churches, in church music. I hear so many stories of unhappy endings. And I’m just so grateful to this place and these people.