Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - Will Beauty Come From These Ashes?

The news was devastating - 
St. Mary The Virgin Church in Indian Bay, Newfoundland, had burned to the ground.

The fire had started early in the morning, and by the time the fire crew arrived, the old building was burned beyond saving. Even though we'd never sung in this church, we are good friends with its minister, Rev. David, and had sung for the community twice on our East Coast Tours.

On Sunday, we sang for the community again at St. Alban's Church in Trinity. 
On Monday, Gerald, Rev. David, and I visited the fire site.

As we opened the car doors, the first thing that hit us was the smell. It's been weeks since the fire, yet a charred smell still fills the air. The next thing to catch our attention were the steps to nowhere. The front steps and the ramp remain completely intact, only burned on the edge that met the building.

The unburned steps...

We approached the rectangular remains. Despite strong winds, the building had burned down cleanly, the fire never touching the surrounding woods or homes. This is a church that had been lovingly built by hand. Stretching out before us was a haunting black skeleton, burnished and shining in the sunshine.

The devastation. You can see the broken baptismal font lower right.

The remains changed as we came closer to the altar area. Pages of hymnals, Bibles, and prayer books were scattered in the ashes. The spines of the books had burned and separated, and the individual pages were only singed on the edges. The white pages floated on the black mess, their messages of hope and comfort gleaming in the sun.

This hymn seemed hauntingly appropriate in the ashes... 

"I think that's a paten!" David called out. The silver plate used to hold the Communion bread was poking out of the ash. Gerald climbed over the beams and pulled it out. The tiny round plate was still hot and horribly misshapen. We began to notice other pieces of the Communion set - cups, plates, and stems, their silver finish burned off and fused with soot.

Communion pieces pulled from the soot.

It was then that we noticed the most remarkable sight of the day. Floating above the decimated wreckage, their orange wings caught the sunlight. Two bright, glorious butterflies flitted in the warm air. Below them lay the black, charred devastation. The contrast was striking.

Our sign of hope!

This church was a cornerstone of the town. It was filled with memories of weddings, baptisms, social nights, music, and family. Its loss brought grief and mourning. And yet, these butterflies danced and played. The three of us watched and marvelled at their lightness. They were in the blackest spot in the area, and yet, they rejoiced. They seemed to say, "Life is still here. There is hope. There is joy. Let the dance continue..."

We will continue to pray for the congregation of Indian Bay as they work through this transition. We don't know what the future will hold for them, but we know there is hope. We know there is joy. We know the dance will continue...

"... and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair."
Isaiah 61:3 NIV

Our East Coast Tour is in full swing! 
Please visit our Calendar for a concert near you.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Worship Wednesdays - The Hospital Room Lesson

As I write this, we're about a third of the way through our 5th Annual East Coast Tour. So far, it's been an amazing journey! Lots of driving, East Coast Music Week, the GPS Youth Conference, and lots and lots of great laughs with friends and fellow musicians.

Over the next 9 days, we'll sing 7 (maybe 9!) events in 7 different communities! It's going to be a lot of driving, a lot of singing, and a lot of gear-lifting. Weeks like this are what we live for. They're awesome and exciting. We love the travel, the people, and the music. It can be a little overwhelming, but for the most part, it's nothing short of invigorating.

Yesterday, Gerald and I had a very different experience. Our good friend Bev (name changed to respect privacy) experienced a hip replacement just before we arrived in St. John's. Over the last few weeks, we've been visiting and laughing and drinking lots of espressos together. A few days ago, she was readmitted to the hospital with a post-surgical infection. These situations are never fun for anyone, but they're a particular challenge when you're a vivacious, go-getting, life-living kind of lady.

Singing in Bev's hospital room...
We knew we might not get to drink espressos together before we leave St. John's, so we figured we'd visit Bev in the hospital. Guitar in hand, we made our way up to her room. We asked the folks in the rooms around her if they'd be disturbed by some music, but they all insisted we keep the doors to the rooms open.

Over the next 30 minutes, we sang half a dozen favourite songs. "How The Light Gets In," "Hallelujah (Psalm 104)", "Be Thou My Vision," "All You Need Is Love"... songs that by their very nature are filled with peace, joy, and healing. As we sang, Bev closed her eyes and let the music wash over her. She smiled and relaxed.

This week, I'll be thinking of our hospital room experience. I wanted to be reminded each night that even though we are singing for that wonderful entity known as the Audience, we are also singing for each individual soul in the room. Souls with their own needs, pains, and struggles. I'll think of the gentleness in that hospital room, and remember that, as busy as each day may become, I can trust in God and the music to be the peace, joy, and healing we all need...

Our East Coast Tour is in full swing! 
Please visit our Calendar for a concert near you.

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Worship Wednesdays: 5 Ways to Welcome Church Visitors - East Coast style!

Two weeks ago, we were stranded on an island.

Our ferry, scheduled to take us from Cape Breton island to Newfoundland, was cancelled not once, but twice. The first day was Maundy Thursday, so I decided to take advantage of the delay and attend a worship service at a local church.

Here's how the day unfolded, and 
5 lessons I learned on how to welcome visitors to your church:

#1. Post Your Worship Times 

Since we've never spent any real time in North Sydney, my first job was to find a church hosting a Maundy Thursday service. I assumed they all would, but I literally couldn't find Holy Week services listed on any church's websites! I was persistent, and the 5th church site I visited - St. Giles Presbyterian - had them listed on the home page.

LESSON: Don't assume that all 'your people' will know the service times. You never know when a visitor will need your church. Post all the worship times on your site, and highlight special services or changes in the schedule prominently on the home page.

#2. Notice the Newcomers

When I arrived at the church, another woman was also parking her car. I asked if I was parked in the correct lot. She asked who I was and if I was visiting. I shared my story about the ferry. By simply noticing and responding with warmth, she immediately made me feel welcome.

LESSON: When we have a rare Sunday off, we've visited a number of churches. In many, we leave without anyone ever introducing themselves or noticing that we're new. Always reach out to the person in the pew (or parking lot) that you don't know. Many people come to church for connection. The Church is not the building. The Church is always the people.

#3. Learn and Use Names

My new friend, Ruth, asked my name and remembered it. The congregation that day was small - probably only 20 people. When we entered the sanctuary, she introduced me to the group by name. The parishioners also remembered my name and used it in conversation after the service.

LESSON: There is power in knowing and using someone's name. We've all felt this at various times. Be aware when you meet someone new. Learn their name. Use name tags if you feel this might help. Also, I was comfortable being introduced to the group. Be sensitive to those who might be shy or introverted. Consider introducing them to another individual or smaller group.

#4. Explain the Worship

The service was lovely, with a beautiful altar display, a brief sermon, a hymn, and a wonderfully intimate Communion.

LESSON: Not everyone visiting your church will know how worship works. They may be from a different denomination or new to church altogether. Be sure to announce which book to use and how to receive Communion. As my retired minister Dad always says, "Not making announcements is like inviting people to your house and not telling them where the bathroom is."

#5. Be Generous!

Lunch was planned for after the service, so I was invited to join the group. In true East Coast style, this small group of 20 people had prepared an 8-foot table laden with homemade sandwiches, cookies, bread, preserves, cheese, and biscuits. It was glorious! We ate and laughed and told stories. Knowing that I was stranded for the day, they asked if I wanted to take a plate home with me to the B&B. I thought I'd take a few biscuits and a cookie. This is what they gave me:

LESSON: Jesus was always incredibly generous with people. Instead of a few bottles of cheap wine, he made over 900 bottles of the very best. He created so much bread and fish there was baskets of food leftover. The woman who simply wanted to touch the hem of his garment got a full on face-to-face healing experience. Let's be generous with our visitors! Let's have them leave feeling loved and valued. After all, isn't that how we're supposed to love? "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."

I want to thank the wonderful people of St. Giles Presbyterian Church, North Sydney, for their warm hospitality on Maundy Thursday. You truly made me feel loved and welcomed! 
May God continue to bless your community!

Our East Coast Tour is in full swing! 
Please visit our Calendar for a concert near you.

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

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

On the Road Again...

Worship Wednesdays takes a break this week as hit the road!

This week, we're driving straight through to Newfoundland. That's 5 full days of travel, including a day on the ferry. Please keep us in prayer for safe travels.

We're so excited to begin our 5th annual East Coast Tour! 

We are still adding concerts to our schedule, so please check our Calendar often. 
To book a Concert or Workshop, please Contact us.

April 8-12 - East Coast Music Week, St. John's, NL
April 11 - East Coast Music Week Gospel Showcase, St. John's, NL
April 13 - Seniors Concert, St. John's, NL
April 14 - Seniors Concert, St. John's, NL
April 14 - Seniors Concert, St. John's, NL
April 19 - Worship Leading Workshop, St. John's, NL
April 22 - Concert, Clarenville, NL
April 23 - Concert, St. John's, NL
April 26 - Concert, Trinity, NL
April 29 - Concert, Bonavista, NL 
April 30 - Concert, Gander, NL
May 8 - Concert, Bedford, NS
May 10 - Concert, French Village, NS
May 13 - Concert, Dartmouth, NS 
May 20 - Concert, Miramichi, NB
May 22 - Concert, Pennfield, NB
May 24 - Concert, St. Andrews, NB
May 27 - Seniors Ministry, Rosemere, QC
May 29-31 - Elim Women's Retreat, Peterborough, ON

For full details, please visit our Calendar.

Hope to see you at a concert!

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