Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - An Astronaut's Guide to Worship Leading - Part 1

Last year, I and millions of other followed the space adventures of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. As Commander of the International Space Station, Chris made it his job to share the space experience with those of us who will never get more than a few feet off the Earth's surface. His photos showed our planet's captivating beauty, and his videos of life in space made everyday activities like shaving, brushing your teeth, or even crying truly fascinating. 

I recently read Chris's book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. In the book, he shares many of his space adventures, but he also shares the unique life of an astronaut. The book is filled with inspiration and life lessons, so I started thinking, "What can this book teach me as a musician and worship leader?"

For the next few weeks, I'll be writing posts inspired by this book. As a personal disclaimer, I'll say that I don't know anything about Chris Hadfield's personal faith or religious practices, and I don't mean to imply anything about them through this writing. But I would hope that these posts actually fit the original intention of Chris's book - to take the extraordinary experience of being in space, and apply it to life here on Earth. 

I underlined many favourite quotes in the book, and this is the one that keeps coming to mind. On an online Q&A, Chris was asked "Are astronauts religious?" and his answer:

"...they run the gamut from devout to atheist, 
but whatever the personal belief system, 
space flight tends to reinforce it."

I find that fascinating, because I imagine if I was ever in space and could see our planet and universe from that perspective, I'd probably fall face down in praise of the Creator. But it got me thinking about our role as worship leaders, and I asked myself, 

"When we're leading people in worship, are we reinforcing their belief system?"

There are many reasons people go to church or attend a night of Christian music, and one of them is to reinforce their beliefs. They want to know that this story, this thing they've committed to, is true. In ministry, we can obsess over 'reaching the lost' and 'saving souls', but the entire faith journey is so important. Once we've 'reached' and 'saved,' what then?

I believe one of our roles as worship leaders and Christian artists to bolster the faith of the faithful. Average attendance in today's church is once every two to three weeks. In between those visits, a lot can happen to shake someone's faith - anything from a family illness to a horrible news story to a personal failure can put a crack in their faith foundation. They're not 'lost' again, but they might be looking for the back door.

In that moment, we have a responsibility to help them reinforce the faith they have. From our song choice to our prayers to our conversation at coffee hour after the service, we can use all the colours on our palette to remind them of God's love, forgiveness, and mercy. We can never make someone believe or force them into faith, but by demonstrating God's love, by creating community, and by drawing them into honest and beautiful worship, we can remind them of the grace they've already found.

And when that happens, there's less room for doubt. When we allow God to fill our vision, our faith can only grow stronger. As hymn writer Fanny Crosby said it:

"...but purer, and higher, and greater will be 
our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see."

How are you reinforcing the faith of your worshiping community?
Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - Changing of the Seasons...

In theory, we should be switching from Winter to Spring some time soon. Looking out my window at our icy, snowy neighbourhood, it's hard to tell that life is hiding in the dirt, ready for that one sunny day to start a new journey of growth.

This week is a changing of the seasons in our home.

On Sunday, we left St. Andrews By-the-Sea, New Brunswick. For a little over 2 months, we lived in a cozy house in this beautiful small town as Musicians in Residence at All Saints Church.

Our initial goals included introducing contemporary music to the congregation and building the worship teams. It was hard to tell what that would look like exactly until we arrived at the church and started to meet the community. Over the 2 month period, we started a contemporary ecumenical service, played for the Sunday worship, appeared on local TV, led the choir, started a worship band, wrote & arranged new songs, worked with the youth group & Sunday school, hosted workshops, taught private lessons, performed concerts, and enjoyed all the town had to offer.

There are too many wonderful moments to share with you, but I want to share one of my favourites:

One Wednesday, we were preparing for the evening worship. This was our week to debut the worship band - a brand new venture for this church. Soundcheck and rehearsal were finished. Folks were gathering for the evening meal, chatting and finding their tables. Sounds of clanking pots and laughter were coming from the kitchen as dishes made their way to the buffet. Children were chasing each other around the tables as smiling parents told them to slow down.

I was feeling a few pre-worship jitters - would the band be okay? Would the tech all keep together? What if people didn't want a band? Gerald gently grabbed my arm and turned me to face the busy room. He whispered in my ear. "Five weeks ago, none of this was here." And he was right. In just a few weeks, something wonderful had grown from an empty room and a powerful idea - 
what if we tried church in a new way?

We're so grateful to the people of All Saints for inviting us for this musical adventure, and to the community of St. Andrews for sharing their lives with us.

So this week, we're changing seasons in our home. We're looking back over the lessons of the past season, giving thanks, and wrapping up loose ends. And we're looking forward into the next season - a new CD, our first concert tour of the prairie provinces, and a pile of other dreams and plans we've just started to sort through.

The adventure begins again...

You can see the photos we took during our St. Andrews adventure HERE.

And this is this interview we had during our first week:

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - Relaxing in the Storm...

Well, today's blog is receiving a last minute rewrite. Originally I had written:

"As you read this, we'll be on the road, driving home to Ontario..."

Now, I need to write:

"As you read this, we're still in St. Andrews, not knowing when we'll drive home to Ontario..."

All last week, the weather reports for this week's drive were perfectly clear. Then Monday morning, we awoke to a switch in the forecast. Snow, freezing rain, and storms were predicted for every stretch of our 3-province, 2 day drive home.

Much discussion, a little stress, and a few phone calls led to the decision to stay put until we could find a 2 day window of clear weather.

A little ironic that our arrival here in St. Andrews was also delayed by January storms!

As someone who loves making plans, changing them isn't always my strongpoint (anyone else want to testify?) But I'm learning to actually enjoy change, and find the blessings in a schedule thrown off course.

Here's how we're using this scheduling change to our advantage:

We're going to rest a little, after 2 months of intense work. 

Instead of a rushed day of prep before the drive, 
we're taking care of a few tasks a day, to enter the drive in a more relaxed state.

We're continuing to book concerts on our Prairies Road Trip concert tour. 

We're going to visit our favourite St. Andrews restaurants one more time. 

I'm moving next week's To Do List to this week, 
to knock down the list and give us more open time when we get home.

I'm going to watch TED talks, which remind me of the 
power of thinking and following through on great ideas.

This week, I encourage you to embrace change as it comes your way. 
Seek blessings in the chaos, and you'll find grace and peace in unexpected places.

We've just finished our season as Musicians in Residence at All Saints Church in beautiful St. Andrews By-The-Sea, New Brunswick. 
Follow our adventures at 

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

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - Celebrating Ash Wednesday

Tonight is our final Wednesday service here at All Saints, St. Andrews. We have a finale concert on Friday, and one more Sunday morning. I can't believe how quickly our time has flown...

When we realized our final Wednesday would be Ash Wednesday, we started a little debate. Our Wednesdays have been contemporary, active, informal, and ecumenical. Would we keep that format for Ash Wednesday? Would people want to revert to a more traditional model of worship for this particular day?

We decided that our Wednesdays were working well and attracting new people, so we'd stick with our format. Rev. John invited clergy from different churches to participate in the planning and leading. We wanted to mark this special day in the Christian calendar with a different touch on the music, so we incorporated a sung psalm and some Taize choruses.

Here is our service outline, including music titles, 
for tonight's Ash Wednesday worship:

Trumpet voluntary.
Responsive reading crafted from the book of Joel.
Piano solo for reflection.

Opening Congregational Music: 
All Creatures of Our God and King                                                  
Refiner's Fire
Psalm 51 - musical setting by Infinitely More

Solo: Lighter and Brighter and Deeper, 
written by Gerald Flemming, performed by Infinitely More.

An Ash Wednesday Message

The Imposition (distribution) of Ashes

During the Imposition of the Ashes: 
Wait For The Lord (Taize)
Live in Charity (Taize)
For God So Loved - written by Gerald Flemming

Closing Congregational Song: 
What Wondrous Love is This

Closing Prayer and Benediction

We'll have the worship band play on the opening and closing songs. During the imposition of ashes, we'll just have guitar and voices for a more pared down sound.

I love the flow of this service. As with every Wednesday, we'll start with a meal, and continue our worship around the tables in the Parish Hall. I love that we've incorporated both hymns and contemporary worship music. I like that we're participating in the ancient ritual of the ashes, while singing songs written in recent church history.

How are celebrating Ash Wednesday? 
Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section...

We're spending the winter as Musicians in Residence at All Saints Church in beautiful St. Andrews By-The-Sea, New Brunswick. 
Follow our adventures at 

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