The Church Calling I Never Wanted (or, what is a CAGO?)

About six years ago my bishop asked to meet with me. As part of the conversation, he delivered news I never wanted to hear: I had been called as a Scoutmaster.

As a youth, I hated(!) Scouting. Words cannot express my extreme dislike of camping (especially in the snow), tying knots and eating what can only laughably be called food. Scouting seemed to be a meaningless part of what was otherwise a fine church. Somehow, I had to learn to embrace these things and more if I was to be effective.

As I went through training for my new role, however, I learned that Scouting was not what it appeared to be. Scouting is only marginally about the things I hated. Instead, it is really about developing moral character, leadership skills and excellence in young men. These were concepts I understood and I gradually incorporated the philosophy of Scouting into my own life.

Being called as scoutmaster was a key moment in my life. One of the things it changed was my approach to the organ. Where before I had played adequately, I now desired to play well. As I practiced I realized that I needed additional training, so I started taking organ lessons again as a decidedly middle-aged man. There have been difficult yet ultimately inconsequential setbacks along the way, but the additional training has helped me.

One of the things you learn in Scouting training is that goals should be specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, and timely (or SMART). As applied to the organ, I was able to come up with goals that have helped me, but I needed some way to measure my progress. I decided to earn the certifications offered by the American Guild of Organists (AGO). Those who earn these certifications demonstrate that they have learned skills necessary to being a good organist – not just performance, but sight-reading, improvisation, hymn accompaniment, music theory, and more.

You will notice that I now have the letters CAGO after my name. This means that I have passed the examination needed to earn the AGO Colleague certification. In a sense it doesn’t mean much, but it is a measure of my progress along the way.

As for being scoutmaster, I wept when I was released. The church calling I never wanted proved to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.


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