Thoughts on Music and Worship for St Petri Musicians
Pastor Adrian Kitson, February 2013.
Over the last 18 months, there have been a few times when different people have said that I should tell more of how I view music and worship etc…. So I am now attempting to do that, so we can keep talking about things and grow as musicians and servant-leaders of God’s people at St Petri.
A. MY MUSIC BACKGROUND
I was baptized into a Roman Catholic family who had little connection to the worship life of any local church. However, for some reason, my Mum ensured that I attended church schools for most of my primary schooling. This gave me some experience of worship and music, but not much of a living faith!
My family was musical. Mum played in a local band from time to time (60/40 kind of band doing small gigs in rural towns…). My sister sang in a band for a few years, and I would watch and listen to these 17-20 year olds rehearse at our house. I loved it. I used to grab the spare drumsticks and play along with the band on a flat vinyl lounge chair cushion!
So music was around. I started guitar lessons in grade 5 but gave them up when family stuff got in the way. The music of my childhood was never religious music.
I came to a living faith in Jesus through the people in the WA Lutheran Youth camp community. Music was always big on the agenda at these camps. My first experience of Christian Music was at a youth camp where two young pastors were fulfilling the role of camp pastors, and they both led songs on a guitar. I must have loved it because I made sure I got myself in the school guitar/music class in year 10. I also then started to get lessons again and bought my first guitar around this time – a Fender 12 string with the high octave strings left off so I could play it more easily!
Then, with the very patient help of two guys in their mid 20s, at the local Lutheran Church in Perth, I began to play guitar in worship services and at youth camps.
I discovered that playing the guitar was a “chick magnet”! So I kept going and, with the help of these two mentors, began to develop good skills in playing, then eventually singing and then leading community singing.
When Leanne and I came to Adelaide to take up a youth work job in Adelaide, I found some music mates and we formed a band. We played most weeks at Flinders Street 11.00am Service. I became music coordinator for the various people involved in music as well. Eventually we then headed down the path of re-interpreting the All Together songs of the time at church gigs, and then writing original songs to play at various kinds of events. We eventually recorded some songs and that was about as far as we went.
In 1999 I eventually recorded and launched my own CD which sold a few hundred copies.
Since being ordained, I have played and led community singing in all the places I have served. By necessity, I have done this often solo (for lack of other musicians to play with!). For eight years in the last place I served (Lutheran School and congregation), I played most weeks in various chapel services and Sunday worship. I have found myself quite “over” doing the “one man band” thing – leading the community singing, liturgy and preaching all on the same day most days!
So, as you can probably tell, my bent musically is community singing in worship. I am not really a great band leader in the performance/gig setting. My heart is not really into that too much. I am more a supporter/leader of the community singing their faith. That’s what I love and what I have gifts to do and believe is the Christian worship way of singing.
So, having said all that, here is a random outline of various things I have come to believe about music in worship!
Here are some basic things I find myself believing about music in worship:
B. WORSHIP IN GENERAL
WHY PEOPLE COME TO A CHURCH SERVICE
I guess the reasons why people come to worship could be as many as “the grains of sand on the sea shore”! On the other hand, experience tells me a few things. It seems to me that in our day people come to worship services for four main reasons. Or, they come to receive four things above all other things.
1. A Good Sermon
2. To belong – feel welcome, find acceptance and experience hospitality
3. Personal ministry – to receive some kind of personal ministry from God whether it be in music, singing, prayer, conversation…
4. Story – to be a part of a bigger story – God’s story, the church’s story, other people’s stories (witness to God’s reality, love and power…)
A “Good” Sermon
What is that?! It probably is different things for different people but whatever it is people want to hear something from God in the bible when they come to worship. A sermon needs to be Word centred, personal, challenging and above all else good news. It needs to be grounded in everyday lives and yet, a glimpse God’s truth and reality with some practical application to life now.
There is nothing like being included, welcomed, served with good coffee and food in a warm and friendly atmosphere charged with the common bond of love shared between people who are loved by God! People need it and they will come for that reason alone. What happens before and after the Service is as important as what happens in the Service for most people.
People want some personal spiritual touch of God when they come to worship. They want to know his presence and sense his forgiveness, healing, challenge and love in a way they can receive it for themselves.
For non-sacramental/liturgical worship communities this is often to be experienced in a bracket of songs with praying and time of personal ministry/prayer for individuals where gifts of the spirit like tongues can be publicly spoken and interpreted, and even a word of prophecy shared.
In sacramental communities that have a heritage of liturgical music, prayer and preaching, the personal ministry time can be in that word of forgiveness when the absolution of sin is proclaimed, a baptism experienced/shared and the sharing of Holy Communion. We might say that Holy Communion is our “time of ministry” at a very personal level – our “altar call” – but not based on my decision to come up the front but God’s decision to give his real body and blood to me for life and forgiveness.
People find great encouragement in hearing the story of God’s people, God’s church and what he is doing in everyday peoples’ lives. I guess the way we have sometimes done this is in the use of “testimonies’.
Again in our sacramental/liturgical worship heritage, the story is easier to identify in the rhythm and flow of the ancient liturgy made modern. But that is not to say there is not huge benefit in hearing the “now” stories of what is doing in our own people’s lives. Both are good!
a few of my favourite things ….so far……