Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gospel Vespers

I'm in a quiet mood after a great day. This afternoon, it was my turn to be the music leader at our Gospel Vespers service. This new monthly worship service was my Dad's brainchild. The idea is to have a monthly, music-driven worship service, that is based on one of the stories of the Gospels. Each service has a different music leader, representing all forms of gospel and contemporary Christian music.

Our Gospel reading today was The Two Housebuilders. One build a house on the sand and it was washed away by rain. But one built a house on the rock, and it stood strong through the storms. Dad was our preacher today, and he did an awesome telling of the story by acting out the "characters" of Sandy and Rocky, and telling about the houses that were built on each of them. He then told the story from the point of view of Jesus, and how all houses should be built on Him. It was great. Really great.

My job was to lead the congregational singing, and to choose music that reflected our gospel theme. I was so lucky that Monika and Gerald jumped in at the last minute to join in the music. The last time all three of us performed together was two years ago when we worked on the cd. What a blessing to be together today! Gerald and I took turns on guitar. Monika sang harmonies and played tambourine. Gerald also played djembe (an African hand-drum) and I lead the singing.

We opened the service with We Have Come Into His House, as a way in inviting God into our presence, and as a way of getting people in the mood for worship. We then lead everyone in some great and joyful singing on Standing in the Need of Prayer, Great is Thy Faithfulness, and Give Me Oil. I had placed drums and shakers in the pews, and everyone picked them up and played along. I had fears of a stiff crowd who wouldn't want to play along, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Everyone sang and clapped and even boogied a little!

After the sermon, I sang my solo piece: Upon This Rock. I sang it to one of Allison Durham Speer's tracks. What an awesome arrangement! It just builds and builds til it ends on a super-high-B-something. I was pretty nervous about it leading up to today. Not only is it a challenging piece, but I had never sung with a track before! Never! I realize this is second nature for a lot of people, but it's not done a lot up here, and I'd never done it at all. So I practiced like crazy and visited the church for a dry run yesterday. I think I found it intimidating because you're completely on your own. There is no accompanist to follow you, and no one to cover up your mistakes. But in the end, I really enjoyed the experience. I'm building up my track library, and today was a great way to start this new skill.

After the solo, we returned to group singing. We did Spirit of the Living God acapella. So beautiful! There were a lot of singers in the congregation, and we had lots of spontaneous harmony. We sang What a Friend We Have in Jesus, and then taught the congregation I Go To the Rock. ( A standard down South. Not so much up here. )

One of the things I really wanted to do was to have seamless transitions between the singing and the prayers. I invited people to stand, sit, or kneel for a time of prayer. When everyone was settled, we sang one verse of Sweet Hour of Prayer, with Gerald on guitar. As the singing ended, Gerald started to improvise some gentle lyrical tunes on the guitar. It was over this that I began to pray. I didn't have any prayers planned, I just asked God to help me address the needs of the congregation. The whole thing felt beautiful and easy. As I felt this time coming to a natural closure, I invited the congregation to stand and sing The Lord's Prayer. We have a great arrangement where the words fit the tune of Amazing Grace, so everyone sang out.

We then sang one of the greatest "rock" songs ever - Rock of Ages. After a quick thank you from the church warden, we ended with my favourite, This Little Light of Mine. I rewrote a few verses so they reflected our Gospel theme. "When I'm in the sinking sand, I'm gonna let it shine!". Again, people sang, clapped, shook, drummed, and boogied out to the song. It was just awesome!

My main goal today was to lead people in worship of God, and I think I accomplished that. I, of course, had some technical things I wanted to accomplish - singing to a track, smooth transitions, working with our trio - and there were definite successes in all these areas. But the main goal was to allow a space where people could feel comfortable to sing out and make a joyful noise unto the Lord. A space where they could pray. A space where they could feel the presence of God.

I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. When you give it all to God, it's amazing how much He gives in return!

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