Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Big Change ...

For the past 4 years, we've had the privilege of leading the Worship Band for The Gathering at St. John's York Mills. It has been an extraordinary and powerful journey of learning. In May, the church made the difficult decision to close down The Gathering.

We feel the power of God's presence in all of this as we now have the opportunity to put our whole hearts and souls into the Infinitely More ministry we started just a few short years ago.

We're both excited and energized by the details of God's plan as it unfolds before us.  Please join us in this grand leap of faith...

How can you help? 

- We gratefully ask for your prayers during this time of transition.

- We'd love to come and sing for you! We're available for worship services, church events, or house concerts in Ontario and across Canada. We'll sing locally, and our year will be full of concert tours. 

- We'd love your referrals! If you know a church who might enjoy our ministry, or a friend who might love a house concert, please send them our way! You can contact us through our SITE

Thank you for joining with us in this journey of faith and song. 
The Adventure continues...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Worship Wednesdays - I Say A Little Prayer For You...

Last week, we talked about the beautiful chaos of The First 10 Minutes of a band or choir rehearsal.

(On a side note, this past Sunday, we were at church, and the first 10 minutes of our rehearsal was exactly as I described - chatting, laughing, and tuning. In the midst of the noise, two of our musicians turned to each other and said, “I just love the start of rehearsal. This is the best time.” I smiled as I thought about last week’s blogpost!)

So what do you do with all that joyful noise? How do you bring it all together?

For me, there’s just one answer: Prayer.

I can’t imagine starting our rehearsals without prayer. It seems like a simple and obvious choice, but surprisingly few groups actually use it on a regular basis. If we are indeed worship leaders, then let’s start our rehearsal with an act of worship.

There are as many ways to pray as there are worship teams. Some read from a prayer book. Others allow a freeflowing time where each member can contribute. The style you choose really just needs to reflect your group. I’m reminded of this beautiful verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…”

Let’s use this verse as a guide for praying with our music groups:

Rejoice Always
I love to start our rehearsal with praise! If the band has been cracking up and telling jokes, we give thanks for laughter and friendship. We offer praise for our house of worship, our talents, and the opportunity to offer those talents to God and His people.

Pray Continually
Gerald and I attended a Break Forth workshop by Paul Baloche where he spoke about the power of personal worship. He said that our worship leadership will be authentic only if it’s an extension of our private worship. The same goes for our rehearsal prayers. Pray for your singers, your musicians, and your own leadership throughout the week. Whether your prayer is extemporaneous or selected from a prayer book, allow it to flow from your daily prayer life. I generally lead our opening prayers, so before we arrive at a church, I take a moment to quiet myself, call out to God, and listen. Through this, my heart is open and ready to pray when I stand in front of the team.

Give Thanks In All Circumstances
Thanksgiving is a huge part of our prayer life. We give thanks for everyone on the team, the tech, the ability to gather safely in worship, and the leadership of the church. But the tricky piece is “in all circumstances.” Personal pain is one example, but churches can have a particular kind of pain. Politics, budgets, and personal agendas can make even the best of churches seem very un-Christian at times, and there will be times when your musicians and congregation will be suffering. Pray through it. Be there for each other. Remember the beauty and honour of your position as worship leaders. And in all things, give thanks that God is eternal, loving, and always in control.

I’d love to hear more about how you pray with your team! 
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below...

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Worship Wednesdays - The First 10 Minutes...

See if this scene is familiar to you: 

Rehearsal is about to begin. Singers and musicians shout their greetings and throw coats and instrument cases in the pews. The tech team is untangling mic chords, and the pianist is complaining about the weather knocking the piano out of tune again. Conversations range from the latest internet meme to the score of the game, because there’s always a ‘game’…

To the outside observer, it’s disorganized and sloppy, but to the skilled eye, something wonderful is happening - Community.

Talent, musical skill, and work ethic are important, and those things can create a good sound. But in the church, we’re not simply looking for the sound. Throughout scripture, we see examples of people working in teams to accomplish great things for God, and our worship teams are no different.

In the first 10 minutes of rehearsal, while people are gathering and chatting and setting up, relationships are building. Through the jokes and laughter, friendships are growing. In the quieter moments, people start to ask the real questions, and share personal details about their lives. And some time in the future when these same folks need help, they know who they can call.

For those of us who are a little Type A (can I get a witness?), this kind of organized chaos can seem like a distracting way to start a rehearsal, but trust me - more good can come out of these first 10 crazy minutes than you can ask or imagine. I’m reminded of this verse from Psalm 126:

Our mouths were filled with laughter, 
our tongues with songs of joy.

Have a good laugh, get to know each other a little better, and trust that God is working through each relationship there, to draw each of us closer together, and closer to Him.

Next week: What do we do after the first 10 minutes?

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. 
Bookmark this page, leave a comment, & visit us every Wednesday! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Word Awards

Last night, we attended The Word Awards! Celebrating 25 years of honouring Canadian Christian writers, the awards covered a full range of novels, articles, academia, children's literature, poetry and - our reason for attending - songwriting.

We were so excited this year when two, yes two, of Gerald's songs were nominated in the Song Lyrics category. Because this is a "writing" competition, as opposed to a "music" competition, the songwriters only submitted the lyric of the song.

Gerald submitted two songs, and both were nominated:

You Are... (as recorded on 'Infinitely More')
If They Knew It Was Me (not recorded yet, but performed in our concerts)

So last night, Mom, Dad, Gerald, and I got all dressed in our Sunday best and made our way to the awards gala. Gerald's category had 7 songs shortlisted (Gerald was the only writer with two), including a song by Canadian icon, Steve Bell. The challenge was that we knew Steve would win (which he did), but the wonderful thing is we can say, "Gerald was nominated against Steve Bell!"

We also got to bring home our awesome "Finalist" stickers to put on our 'Infinitely More' CDs! 

Snazzy, huh?

It was so inspiring to see all the different styles of writing being recognized, and to hear the inspiration behind some of the projects. I was reminded of the power of writing and sharing our stories, and it got me thinking about my own stories. Which have I told well? Which are still waiting to see the light of day?

I've posted photos on our SITE and our FACEBOOK page. 
Feel free to take a look, and if you're a Facebook member, we'd Love your Like!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Worship Wednesdays - Who Is My Team?

Whether you’re the leader of a mass choir and orchestra, or a solo guitarist singing every song by yourself, no one leads worship in a vacuum. Knowing who is on your team and the role each person plays is critical to bringing a community together in worship. In our Infinitely More ministry, we work with music programs of all sizes, but I sometimes wonder if we limit who we see as being part of our “team.” 

So, who should we consider on our team?

#1. The Musicians, Singers, & Songwriters

Obvious answer, I know, but let’s think outside our regular players. You may lead the band, but what about the choir, guitar club, youth group, and drama team? How can you work with the other artistic groups in your church? There are also those sitting quietly in their pews, waiting for an invitation to join the team. And there are guest musicians who can bring a new voice into your church for a special Sunday. Think widely about who to include on your team. Who might you be overlooking?

#2. Your Pastor

Whether leading worship at our home church or as guest musicians, we always recognize that we lead under the authority of the church’s pastor. Developing an open, creative working relationship is key to healthy team worship. How can the music and preaching feed each other? How can the songs support the pastoral goals of your church leadership?

#3. Your Congregation

If the whole point of leading worship is to get your congregation singing, then the congregation is part of your team. When’s the last time you attended coffee hour? Are you in a small group? Who is the couple with the new baby in the 3rd row? Get to know your people. Learn about their lives, families, trials, and passions. The more we know a group of people, the easier it will be for them to trust us with their spiritual walk.

#4. Your Prayer Partners

Confession time: we don’t have any formal structure in this area. A few weeks ago, we led worship at the Elim Women’s Retreat with speaker, Tara Rye. Several times, she spoke about her prayer partners, and how they were praying for her all weekend long. I knew that my family was praying for us, and probably a few friends, but I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to have a group of people purposefully praying for the ministry of Infinitely More? How could this feed our abilities and effectiveness?

#5. Your Mentors

So, this one begs the question: do you have a mentor? If not, please get one! Gerald and I are always seeking mentors. Sometimes, they’re people we watch from afar. Attending workshops and studying the songs of Paul Baloche,  Keith Getty, and Audrey Assaud are masterclasses for us. But even more so, we seek mentors that we can get to know on a one-on-one basis. Over the years, we’ve sought the guidance of songwriters, worship leaders, and music business professionals to help hone our skills and push us outside of our comfort zones. We then offer our own skills to musicians, songwriters, and worship leaders who are seeking that same growth. Who are your mentors? Are you meeting with them regularly?

#6. Your Friends and Family

Let’s face it - worship leading can be a weird way to make a living. We turn 16-bar choruses into 8-minute worship songs. We burn dinner because that new song idea drowned out the oven timer. And with our early Sunday mornings, we’re the first to leave every Saturday night party. In our world, none of this works without the support of our friends and family. We actively include them in our journey, so they can understand our challenges and celebrate in our joys. We want them to share in every blessing this unusual walk sends our way. How are you engaging your family and friends in your ministry? Are there new ways you can include them in your journey?

I hope this gets you thinking about your team - who they are, how you can support them, and how they can share in your ministry. Maybe you have people on your team that I haven’t included? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts! 
Leave me a comment or a question below ...

Saturday, June 08, 2013

My Interview with Inspired Songwriting!

I was recently interviewed by my friend, Perry Walp, over at Inspired Songwriting!

We chatted about the role of a worship leader, writing songs for worship, 
and our advice for other worship leaders.

You can read the whole interview HERE.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Closest I Got to Singing with Elvis...

When we lived in Nashville, we would often brush shoulders with extraordinary people. My boss, Ben Speer, was one of them. As a member of The Speer Family, Ben played and sang for decades, shaping the face of Gospel music. One day over lunch, he revealed the most amazing story. I wrote it into an article. I recently received a request for a copy, and I loved re-reading the story so much that I wanted to share it with you.

You know the game "Six Degrees of Separation"? 
Well, this is the closest I ever got to singing with Elvis Presley...


  One of the perks of working for Ben Speer Music is the occasional chance to have lunch with Ben Speer. As we sat in the red vinyl booth of the Elliston Soda Shop, a classic Elvis song came through the juke box - “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”. Ben pointed a finger in the air, as if pointing to the notes themselves. “Brock and I sang on this.” My jaw dropped and my eyes popped open. I was having lunch with a man who sang with Elvis Presley!

  “How did that happen?”, I asked.

  The year was 1956. Rock and roll was just starting to make its way onto mainstream radio, and Nashville had just earned the name “Music City”. The Speer Family had recently signed a recording contract with RCA Victor, allowing them to work with the great Chet Atkins. Although best known today for his revolutionary guitar work, at that time, Chet worked in the A&R Department (Artist and Repertoire) of RCA, producing records and pulling together musicians and background vocalists for many of RCA’s recordings.

  That January, Chet was asked to choose musicians to record a song for a young up and coming singer from Memphis named Elvis Presley. At that time, Elvis was hardly a household name. In fact, he was more known for his pink Cadillac than his music. Elvis was a huge fan of gospel music, and he specifically asked for gospel singers to sing his BGVs (background vocals). Chet made a phone call to Ben, Brock, and Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires and booked them for the session.

  In 1956, New York was still the hub for recording. When a session was booked for Nashville, the producer had to rent an empty building, transport the equipment from New York, and pray the session finished before the rental contracts were up. Chet rented the old Methodist Building downtown, and assembled the band for the session.

  Ben and Brock were seasoned harmony singers. Besides their work with the Speers, they sang BGVs for Jim Reeves, Eddy Hill, and Ruby Wells (Kitty Wells' daughter). Gordon was an old friend from the Vaughan School of Music, so the three were very comfortable making music together. They were hired to sing as a group for this session and received the union rate of $41.25 - each!

  As is often the case with BGV singers today, none of the men would have heard the song prior to the session. Instead, they would listen to it played through a few times, and pick out the parts by ear. Called “head charts”, these improvised parts were rehearsed until perfect, and then recorded along with the band. Remember, this is back in the days of one take recording! No digital, no edits, no auto-tune. What you sang was what you recorded.

  Elvis Presley walked into the room with a song in his head and a guitar in his hand. The song for that first session was “I Was the One”. If this title doesn’t ring a bell, don’t be embarrassed. It was a B-side. The A-side was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Not many people flipped that record over.

  Elvis was kind and polite. He addressed the other players with, “Yes, Sir” and “No, Sir”. But mostly, Elvis was in charge. He refused to sing until he was ready. He loved a good gospel sing-along, so before “I Was the One” was even introduced to the band, Elvis led the entire group in a rendition of Mosie Lister’s “I’m Bound for the Kingdom”. He encouraged everyone to sing in four-part harmony and, of course, Elvis took the lead.

  Now, let’s remember that this session was taking place in a rented building with rented equipment. The music union stated that one session was three hours. Most producers would try to record three to four songs in that time... but not Elvis. He traditionally did one song per session, if that. The studio heads paid more than one visit to the studio to try to speed things up, but Elvis would have none of it. He had a very clear musical vision. Each song was planned and prepared. He would do it his way and in his time.

  On the “I Was the One” session, Ben and Brock got a sense of that Elvis magic. Imagine standing in a studio, watching a star being born. Elvis was clearly happy with Ben, Brock, and Gordon, as he hired them again for “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.” At that session, Elvis was awarded a gold record for "Heartbreak Hotel". Clearly, his star was on the rise.

  After that, Ben and Brock returned to singing full-time with the Speers. Elvis wanted an established male quartet as his background singers, and Gordon and the Jordanaires got the job. In later years, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet joined the tour. In doing so, they had to learn the BGVs recorded in those earlier sessions. On one occasion, J.D. was singing Brock’s bass part. Elvis turned to him and exclaimed, “Who do you think you are - Brock Speer?”

  As I sat in the Elliston Soda Shop with Ben, his story attracted the ears of the waitress and the man at the next table. For many of us, it’s hard to imagine being back in 1956, in a world that didn’t yet know Elvis. My own memories are wrapped around Elvis moments - ice skating with choir friends to “I Can’t Help Falling in Love”, hearing my husband sing “Suspicious Minds” at our engagement party, and the Elvis-themed birthday dinner we held for my Mom a few years ago.

  But my new favorite memory is the day I discovered my boss sang with Elvis.

Originally published March 2008. (c) Allison Lynn

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Welcome to Worship Wednesdays!

For about a year now, I've had an idea percolating in my mind:

What if we wrote weekly articles 
to encourage worship leaders and songwriters?

As you can imagine, that word "weekly" is the one that caused my procrastination!

But in the past few months, the ideas have been building to the point where my brain can no longer contain them. I feel so blessed with all that Gerald and I have been able to learn and experience in recent years, and the more we meet with other worship leaders, the stronger the desire to share what we've learned, and to incite some conversation.

So each Wednesday, we'll be writing about worship, songwriting, and leadership from the perspective of both the local worship leader and the touring Christian artist. We'll talk about things like building your band, songwriting for 'the gaps', introducing contemporary worship in a traditional church, and what the UFC can teach worship musicians. Yes, that UFC.

Gerald and I will write, but we'll also call on our talented friends to share their wisdom. We'll give you resources, and do our best to answer any questions or write on any topics you send us.

Let's share what we know, raise each other up, and in doing so, create a culture of worship in our churches!

Bookmark this park and tune in each Worship Wednesday for a new article...

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

New Photos from Elim Lodge!

I've posted photos from our beautiful weekend leading worship for the Elim Women's Retreat.

You can see them HERE.


With our wonderful speaker, Tara Rye.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Elim Women's Retreat - Day 3

I'm writing this from the comfort of my home, with sunshine and an evening breeze drifting through the room...

As we were getting ready this morning, Gerald and I both commented on how quickly the weekend had flown by. Technically, it was a lot of work - 4 worship services and a full concert - and yet it had felt almost effortless.

For our closing session, we chose a lot of our favourite songs. We led the ladies in singing I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say (with my Irish penny whistle), Mighty to Save, and our setting of Psalm 104 to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. We knew where Tara's message was going, so in preparation, we sang our new song, Thy Will Be Done.

There's a wonderful trust that happens at retreats. We noticed it last night when the lyrics went down, and we noticed it again this morning. The theme of "thy will be done" can be imposing, but it was taught and received with a gentle spirit. It was a powerful way to end the weekend. We sent them out singing, clapping, and dancing with our arrangement of "Joyful Jeremiah."

After that, there was nothing to do but enjoy a leisurely roast beef dinner, take last minute photos, pack, and enjoy the drive home.

And now, as I sit on my couch, my mind is wandering through the beautiful memories of the weekend - the joyful singing, praying the thunderstorms would pass us, the inside joke of "whooooosh!", the family of Canada geese outside the restaurant, and the countless conversations shared between strangers and new friends.

I'm a little tired tonight, but mostly, I just feel energized, relaxed, and incredibly grateful.

I'll get photos up soon, but maybe when I'm a little less tired!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Elim Women's Retreat - Day 2

What a day!!

We started the morning with our opening worship session. We led our great group of ladies in singing All Creatures of Our God and King, Be Thou My Vision, and God of Wonders. To prepare their hearts and minds for the message, we sang Gerald's brand new song, All I'm Called To Be (the song written for last Sunday's ordination service.)

Tara Rye's message on the praying life of Jesus is powerful. She has a great balance of scripture, explanation, and personal testimony. It's a simple structure, but rich in information and application.

At lunch, we were treated to an amazing family reunion. A few months ago, one of Tara's family members was researching their family tree online when they discovered they had relatives in Peterborough. This was a whole side of their family they didn't even know existed. Not only did they live in Peterborough, but one of them worked at Elim Lodge! Tara's family also made the trip here from their various homes in the States, so today at lunchtime, they were all reunited with this newly discovered side of the family! The internet at its finest.

The ladies were given the afternoon to explore the beauty of Elim (or just take a well earned nap), and we took the time to prepare for our concert. We walked over to the chapel and within minutes, the skies opened up and we finally received our long anticipated rain storm. Happily, a great group of ladies braved the weather and joined us for our concert.

This was a new concert format for us, and it was so much fun! We played some new songs, encouraged a little sing along, and had the opportunity to share a bit of our story. The room felt so spirit-filled! People were singing along, worshiping in their chairs. There's nothing like sharing a song we wrote, and then having people come up to us after saying, "I need that song! That's my story!"

After supper (side note: the food here is awesome!), we experienced the challenging side of technology. The computer was down, which meant no lyrics on the screen for the worship! We loved the songs we'd chosen - fun, joyful songs for Saturday night - so we made a few wee adjustments, and started our set.

I just have to say this too: this is such good timing by God. If this had happened last night, it would have felt like a bumpy start to the weekend. But by tonight, we'd all had a chance to worship together and build trust. When I encouraged everyone to sing tonight without the words, I could feel we were all in it together.

We had a raucous time with Lean on Me, Wade in the Water, and Just a Closer Walk. People sang, clapped, and danced. It was awesome!

We'd chosen a worship song to close out the night, but Tara's teaching brought us to daily provision. When she used the word "manna," I knew we had to sing Living Manna. The evening ended with a beautiful sense of gentleness. We lingered, enjoying treats from the kitchen and sharing stories.

One more worship service in the morning. Time is flying by...