Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cafe Church

St. John's Weston has decided that the final Sunday of every month will be Something Different Sunday, and today, we were part of that something.

Instead of hosting a traditional Anglican service of Holy Communion, St. John's hosted their first Cafe Church. Tables, chair, coffee, and sweets were set up on the parish hall. A small altar, complete with candles, was set up at one end, and we lead music from the stage. (The photo above shows our view from the stage.)

Gerald and I have played cafe worship services before, so we're really comfortable with the setting. They still kept the full Anglican service, complete with liturgy and Scripture readings. The priest, Michelle, wore robes, as did the lay minister. The contrast between the formality of the "Anglicanisms" and the casualness of the cafe setting was striking and lovely.

Instead of a sermon, Michelle encouraged each table to write their own prayer. During the prayers of the people, someone from each table stood and read their prayer for the group. It was so powerful, and when Michelle wrapped it up by praying "these are the prayers of your faithful people," it really was the prayers of the faithful people!

For the congregational music, we used Taize choruses, and Gerald and I did our own songs before the service and during Communion. We had 2 songs chosen for Communion, but they had such a crowd that we had to pull out a few more and did 4 in total. It always helps to have a few songs memorized and a few extra charts in the back of your binder!

What a great time of community! In the evening, we played at our St. John's with the worship team, for another great time of casual worship and discussion.

Kind of happy we only had one trick-or-treater - a night of relaxing and eating candy is a nice way to end a busy weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Sound of Music on Oprah!

I was glued to my tv this evening as I watched the cast of "The Sound of Music" reunite to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the landmark film.

As I watched it, I was flooded with memories of watching the film, singing the songs, reading Maria Von Trapp's autobiography that started it all...

I'm such a fan, and I could write for days about my love of the film and its music, but let me share these two wonderful memories that rose to the top today:

For our first date, Gerald took me to Stratford to see Christopher Plummer in "King Lear." Later, when we drove by the theatre, we saw a limo pull up, and out stepped Julie Andrews! Long story short (and if you ever want to hear this story in person, this is my favourite story to tell in play-by-play detail!), I stalked her in the gift shop until I got up the nerve to speak to her! I thanked her for how much her music had influenced me, she graciously said "Thank you, thank you very much," and I walked away with tears streaming down my face.

A few years later, I was cast in Disney's "The Pacifier" in the role of Maria. (The film contains a rather over-the-top rendition of the musical.) I spent 2 days in a high end studio singing Maria's songs, 10 days in rehearsal with award winning directors, and 4 days on set, singing and dancing out scenes from the musical. Most of our work ended up on the cutting room floor, but it was truly a wonderful experience.

To celebrate today's memories, here's a photo from the set of "The Pacifier":

"The Lonely Goatherd"
This scene was hilarious, but ended up on the cutting room floor.
And yes, that's a wig!

"Fill us up, and send us out..." the bridge of one of my new favourite songs, "God of Justice" by Tim Hughes.

I feel like today was a "send us out" kind of day.

We reached out to both ends of the country and down to two different states - sending songs, planning tours, and sharing creative ideas.

I continue to marvel at technology, and the way we can use it to share our ministry and build our relationships.

I feel blessed and humbled by such a productive day.

I'm excited about what tomorrow may bring ...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Learning from my Dad

My Dad just wrote a new blog post of old material.

In 2007, my Dad retired from a full-time career of preaching and pastoring. But in 1964, he was a newly ordained deacon, ready to take on the challenges of ministry. For his recent blog post, Dad shared part of his sermon from that ordination service.

Two things struck me while reading his sermon:

#1. His voice is still the same! His style of writing, turns of phrase, even the way I can imagine him reading his words have hardly changed at all.

#2. His philosophies are still the same.
My Dad is open to new ideas, and I know his thoughts have been shaped by his experiences, but his basic thoughts about ministry that are reflected in that sermon are the same ones I've heard him preach over the years: humility in service, the need for prayer, and the importance of each individual's personal ministry.

As I read this sermon (written before my Dad had even met my Mom!), I reflected on how Dad's philosophy of ministry has affected my life and, subsequently, my ministry.

I'm honest with myself about my faults, knowing that is it through this honesty that I can battle ego and pride. I'm also honoured that God would call me into ministry, so I strive to bring my best to it every day.

I have many memories of Dad standing in front of our congregation and saying, "Each person here has a ministry. Not just the clergy, but you. What is your personal ministry?"

Even before receiving my 'calling,' I knew that my role wasn't simply to sing in the choir, but how could I, as a choir member, use that position to minister to our congregation?

And to bring it full circle, now that I'm in leadership, how can I help other people discover their personal ministries?

I know Dad learned a lot about himself as he re-read that sermon, but I didn't know that I'd learn so much about myself too.

To read Dad's blog post, please visit here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Permission to Write Badly

Early in our Sunday morning services, the children are brought up to the front and then sent out to attend Sunday school until they return to join us for Communion. And every Sunday, the piano or organ improvises a hymn tune while the children leave.

One Sunday I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could sing a song for the children while they're walking out? Something that would let them know they're special, and remind us of the importance of caring for our children in the church?"

So I mulled it over, had a little inspiration, and wrote a very simple 4-line lyric.

Then came the melody. There would be no chorus, no bridge, so all the melodic interest had to be packed into those simple 4 lines. It needed to be simple enough for the congregation to sing, but interesting enough to make it an enjoyable sing.

The challenge began!

I had one idea that kind of stuck in my head, and I finished it, but I wasn't happy with it. It wasn't beautiful enough. It was the kind of melody that, in our house, we call a "na-na" melody.

I sang it for Gerald who confirmed my suspicions. But then I had to go back to square one - how do I create an interesting melody for 4 lines?

So, I gave myself permission to write a bad melody.

For two days, I sang the lyric in hundreds of ways, and none of it was pretty. I changed keys and time signatures in the middle of lines. I sang one note melodies and 2 octave melodies. I sang weird rhythms and atonal intervals.

And then, it came!

The beautiful, singable, 4 line melody I was looking for.

I sang it several times to allow it to settle into place. The phrasing felt very natural. There was a good flow, good prosody.

I sang it for Gerald, and his smile on the first line let me know I had found my melody.

Sometimes, as artists, we need to allow ourselves to make art that is messy, or weird, or just plain bad so we can discover the art that is truly beautiful, and that says what we need it to say.

Happy creative discovery, everyone!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Keith Getty Inspiration!

I just watched a great interview with Keith Getty (of "In Christ Alone" fame). He and Nashville worship leader, Eric Wyse, were interviewed by the director of Lifeway Worship about songwriting, music planning, and art in worship.

The whole thing is quite brilliant, but here are a few of my favourite moments:

- Keith talked about a creative approach to Sunday worship, and the importance of making each Sunday the best is can be. Best quote of the interview: Imagine each "Sunday's your next Carnegie Hall."

- Keith wasn't afraid to speak about the beauty and mystery of Art. Both Keith and Eric talked about the wonderful, varied, and sometimes messy processes that occur in the writing of a song.

- Keith reminded us that the definition of "hymn" vs "song" is relative. I know this from my own experience of living in two countries. Many pieces that we'd consider Gospel songs here in Toronto are standard hymns in the South.

- Eric talked about the importance of encouraging the creativity and unique musical voice of each congregation.

- The interviewer brought up the point that many hymn-writers of the past were also pastors, but this doesn't seem to be the trend anymore. I've never given this any thought, but I am reading a book about John Newton who, of course, was both. Thoughts were discussed, but it would be interesting to discuss this with a group of pastors. Maybe lyric writing seems too daunting? Too difficult? Maybe it's seen as a distraction from preaching? I don't know, but it's an interesting question.

To see the whole video, please visit here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New online stuff...

If you're looking for a few more ways to drift around the internet on this rainy afternoon, check out these new online treats:

- I've added a Hymns poll to the Home page of Come visit and give your thoughts on your favourite hymns.

- My Dad has just written a great blog post about Harvest. You can read it here.

- I've created a facebook album from our visit to Calvary Church this summer. You can visit it here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, I can't help but reflect on this past year and all it has brought:

- our move home to Toronto
- our recovery from our car accident, both physically and emotionally
- our new position on the music staff at St. John's York Mills
- finishing "Hymns in the Key of Grace"
- recording Gerald's demos
- travels to Illinois, NYC, and Nashville
- countless new friends, new experiences, and new memories!

And as I relax today, my mind drifts into the dreams and plans for the next few months:

- the launch of our new duo, Infinitely More
- the launch of our new Christmas music site
- sending Gerald's demos to publishers and artists
- planning our East Coast tour for next summer
- our fireside concert in January
- new songs and new musical experiments!

Today, I'm so thankful for my family, our friends, our puppies, our church, our ministry, and our health. I'm so grateful that Gerald and I have been called into making music together. We have faced many challenges this past year, but we never forget that we are BLESSED beyond measure!