About fifteen years before I arrived at my church, multiple styles of worship were being explored - which is a gracious way of saying that the church completely divided over worship.
A contemporary service was introduced at that time, and the church split. Not into different churches, but into the "8:30 traditional people" and the "11:00 contemporary people." Divided and pigeonholed. It's a common tale, right?
Fast forward fifteen years to my arrival.
The division was deeply embedded in the faith community, but it was no longer a hostile division. It was accepted. It was reality. It didn't seem to bother anyone.
Because I served all sides of the music ministry, I could see a number of things. The people didn't know each other from one service to another. They were blind to what happened in the opposite worship services. The choir thought that the soundboard was only for the band. The band thought the organ had no bearing on worship anymore. No one saw all of the talent that existed throughout the entire church.
At the same time, there was such a strong desire for everyone to be connected. Connected as one faith community. Connected as family. Connected in ministry.
So, we made one simple change: we moved the chancel choir and worship team rehearsals back-to-back on the same night each week. At 6:30, choir rehearsal begins. At 7:30, the worship band and tech teams arrive. Everyone is there at the same time, and it's intentional.
For fifteen minutes each week, everyone in my worship ministry gathers together in the same place, at the same time. To share where we have seen God working in our lives. To lift up praises for good things for which we're thankful. To offer and ask for prayer. To know each other as people. To understand that we all serve in one diverse ministry. To care that we are all called together by God.
I often like to begin this combined prayer and fellowship time with a devotion. This time has become really meaningful for everyone in the entire music ministry each week. And, of course, it's the last thing that I think about preparing on a very busy Wednesday night!
Thankfully, I have some help. My new favorite feature of Prelude Music Planner is the SOLI DEO GLORIA panel on the home page. It offers a brief weekly devotion on which I can quickly click and easily read. The devotions are lectionary-based on the upcoming Sunday's texts. They're a great way of getting everyones' hearts and minds in the place that they'll be in worship on Sunday. It's also a simple way to connect the diverse group of musicians, artists and technicians in my ministry.
It's been six years since I started at my church. I could say that everything's great now! But it's probably better to be honest.
The journey to reconnect our faith community is a long one. It's also difficult to use music to connect people, when music was what divided them in the first place. So, finding what does connect us is a powerful and effective way to bridge the divide. Our faith, love for one another, and our desire to serve are what connect us now. Love for specific types of music has not changed. But there is a ministry-wide level of appreciation now that had not existed before.
An 80-something year-old, lifelong chancel choir member recently asked me, "Now, when are we going to hear Brian and the rest of the band play? You know, it's not my cup of tea, but it's so great to see what's happening in the other service every once in a while."
Her simple question speaks volumes.