Recap from ELCA Worship Jubilee #LivingVoice2015

11700944_10153110673898790_1916380162575013721_nFrom July 19-24 I was in Atlanta for the ELCA’s Worship Jubilee. The Worship Jubilee is a conference hosted approximately every seven years and this year it coincided with the Association of Lutheran Church Musician’s biannual conference. It was a tremendous experience and I was honored to be involved in several of the stages of planning.

We began dreaming about the event a year ago via a think tank conference call. I was on the design team with David Cherwien, Susan Briehl, and Scott Weidler for the Wednesday evening event, “The Church’s Journey in Art and Song.” “The Church’s Journey” was a musical/artistic experience that explored some of the themes of the Reformation. Our work will be included in a resource published by Augsburg Fortress to help church’s commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. I curated the art for the event and created video loops of each piece of art to accompany each song. I also led two workshops on video projection in worship; I was pleased to help over 60 participants think about how they use video technology in their church.

11731610_10153110673543790_8176050235742137676_oThe highlight of the event for me was on Tuesday evening. On that evening, conference participants got to choose between three different churches for evening prayer. I served as the liaison to one of these churches: the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. The day before evening prayer at Ebenezer I learned that the Bishop Elizabeth Eaton would be attending the service, and that I would be offering words of welcome from the pulpit of the church Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored! Here are the words I offered:

“The Lord be with you. It is an honor to welcome you here to Ebenezer Baptist Church this evening. My name is Clayton Faulkner and I’ve been serving as the liaison for our evening prayer tonight. In the early days of planning for this Worship Jubilee, several local churches had been identified as hosts for our evening prayer. And it just so happens that one of my colleagues is Dr. Tony McNeil, the Director of Worship and the Arts here at Ebenezer. I asked Tony if they would be willing to lead us in worship and he, and the people of Ebenezer, have graciously agreed.

We are worshiping on holy ground this evening. We are on the home turf, ground zero of the most significant saint of the Christian church in the 20th Century. I don’t need to remind you of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If there is holy land in the United States, we are surely on it.

One note about tonight’s worship. The offering that is received tonight stays right here to further the ministry of Ebenezer as they continue the legacy of social justice for all people. Your generosity and thankfulness will be a blessing.

So, Tony, Pastor Wortham, Minister Harris, the choir and all the other worship leaders and technical crew, on behalf of the ALCM and the ELCA I want to sincerely thank you for welcoming us to your church this evening.”

1497816_952658403500_1042155404_nWhat followed was one of the most beautiful worship services I have ever attended. There were several points throughout the service that were emotionally overwhelming for me. Between the racial injustices that have bubbled to the surface in our country, and having a bi-racial family, I was moved and healed by the presence of God in this worship. The choir lifted their voices and hands in praise, singing the songs of freedom that have united generations. The assembly sang with vigor the words, “Rid the earth of torture’s terror, you whose hands were nailed to wood.” We were led into a time of corporate lament and confession where we mourned black and brown men and women who are killed extrajudicially every 28 hours, followed by a commemoration honoring the Charleston Nine in which we spoke aloud their names. The assembly sang with sorrow the hymn, “They Met to Read the Bible:” “We grieve a wounded culture where fear and terror thrive, where some hate others for their race and guns are glorified.” One of the most moving offerings of that worship was the solo sang by Mary Harris Gurley, who was a contemporary of the Late Rev. Dr. Martine Luther King, Jr and sang a hymn at his funeral. She sang, “If I Can Help Somebody,” her elderly voice testifying to the truth found in her life.

2015-07-21 17.02.33-1Near the end of the service, we sang The Lord’s Prayer, the same version of the song played by Alberta Williams King on June 30, 1974 right before she was gunned down in worship, while sitting on the organ bench. It was a remarkable service, mixed with pain, lament, bittersweet joy, and hope in the resurrection. Dr. Tony McNeill crafted an excellent experience that brought us into the Lord’s presence and has left a mark on my soul.

On the Tenth Anniversary of My Ordination

OrdinationOn Sunday, December 8, 2002 I was ordained at Pedernales Valley Baptist Church in Spicewood, TX.

On Saturday, December 8, 2012 I am celebrating the tenth anniversary of my ordination.

Some things are the same. A lot has changed.

Pedernales Valley Baptist Church is now Pedernales River Fellowship (PRFellowship.com). Most of this post is for the folks at PRF, where I served in 2001-2002. They’ve got the same great pastor that was there 10 years ago. Greg was a wonderful mentor and friend. I was just geting my feet wet in professional church ministry and Greg shaped my ideas of leadership with servanthood and sensitivity. I am grateful for all the time he poured into me, taking me to lunch, studying, reading, traveling, and dreaming together.

Pedernales River Fellowship is a rare church. 10 years later, it is still one of the most generous and loving congregations I have ever seen.

When I came on the scene at PVBC in 2001 there was a pianist, an organist, and no pastor. I experienced some “pulpit supply” Sundays that could only be described as abysmal. When I left, PVBC had started a worship band (with some *really* good musicians), a tech team, was using projection, started a drama team, a children’s choir, and had renovated the sanctuary platform and built a sound booth. It was a lot of fun! I remember driving back to San Marcos after rehearsals feeling completely ecstatic that I got to do what I was doing. I’m fortunate to have found a calling that I would do for free.

My fondest memories of PRF are eating with the Scotts and Manchacs, spending Saturday nights in the Draper’s spare bedroom, making music with Nancy Pickens, teaching guitar lessons, fish frys, Christmas pageants, fall festivals, getting my guitar stolen out of my office, getting my guitar graciously replaced by the folks at PRF (my Martin 000M acoustic that I still play today)…and of course our wedding ceremony. The church was incredibly generous to Margo and I as we started our life together.

Having my ordination at PRF was very special. One of the things I cherish most from it was some words from John Shine.

John Shine letter

John spoke at my ordination and also wrote these words:

You have been so important in my walk with Jesus. You taught me how to worship and praise Him and how to call upon Him to make His presence known to me. Before you come to PVBC, I just enjoyed singing in the choir. It was more for me than my Lord. You brought me to a point of REAL joy through worship and I am eternally grateful.

John’s words had a profound impact on me then. I realized that a 22-year-old could make a difference in a person’s life. And those words carry even more weight for me since John passed away.

After leaving PRF I went to Fort Worth to attend seminary and prepare for a calling that I’m still following today. Since then I served in an independent baptist church, made the (polar opposite) switch to Lutheran when we moved to Houston, started a non-denominational church in Katy, and am back in a Lutheran congregation now. (And there was a brief stint in a Salvation Army church as well.)

I still feel the same call from God that I did 10 years ago. I still am thrilled to be serving God’s people in the church, equipping the saints for works of service. I’m glad PRF was my first church to work for and where I was ordained. Going for 10 more years, and more…

Advent Iconography

Who do you see in this image?

Slide1

 

This one may be easier:


Slide2

Both of these images show Jesus (center), Mary the mother of Jesus (left), and John the Baptizer (right).

Orthodox churches have an iconostasis: a wall of icons and religious paintings that links together the nave from the sanctuary in a church. The door (called the Beautiful Gates) that the priest uses to move between the sanctuary and the nave is flanked by icons.

Slide3

The bottom tier of icons is called the Sovereign. On the right side of the Beautiful Gates is an icon of Christ (often called Pantocrator –which means Almighty, Omnipotent, Lord of the Hosts). This image of Jesus symbolizes his Second Coming. On the left side is an icon of Mary the mother of Jesus, symbolizing Christ’s incarnation and entrance into this world. There is a theology behind these images. One side is Christ’s first incarnation, the other side is Christ’s second coming. All movement that takes place in the sanctuary during worship happens between Christ’s first and second coming.

John the Baptizer and Mary the mother of Jesus take their places beside Jesus as the primary examples of proclaiming and bearing the presence of Christ in the world. How do John and Mary strengthen our faith? One said, “I am not worthy to untie his sandals.” The other said, “I am the servant of the Lord, use me.” They model for us humility and service to the Messiah.

Advent is the season when we reflect on living between the first incarnation of Christ and his second coming. We remember his first coming into the world as a baby. And as we prepare for the coming of the infant Jesus, we are actually preparing for his second coming as the Ruler for all eternity.

What does 3 years of seminary look like?


Nothing too serious here – just some humor.

Above you see 2 pictures. These are both pictures from my student IDs from seminary.

The first picture was taken for my first ID during my orientation in January 2003. The second picture was taken for my second ID during my final semester in the Spring of 2006.

This is what 3 years of seminary looks like.

Picture #1 – youthful, happy, healthy, hopeful, promising, excited, enthusiastic, clean, well groomed, studious, eager

Picture #2 – aged, bloated, tired, unkempt, overweight, defeated, unshaven, disheveled, unhealthy, vagrant-like

I remember going into a profs office that last semester. The office assistant looked at me and said, “Who are you playing?” You see, Easter was approaching, and many of the music/worship seminary students were part of their church’s Easter productions. She assumed I must be playing Jesus, or at least one of the disciples by my appearance. I had to answer, “No one. This is just the way I look.”