Somebody’s Prayin’ by John Elliott, arr. Mark Hayes.
Clayton Faulkner, vocals
Joanna Thornton, piano
Will Van Horn, pedal steel guitar
Why do you like to sing? There is something transformative that happens when our soul and body connect to the melody and text of a song. Here are what I consider to be the top 5 reasons why we should be singing in church. These ideas are adapted from Dennis L. Bushkofsky and Craig A. Satterlee, The Christian Life: Baptism and Life Passages. Augsburg Fortress, 2008. p. 55.
- Singing is communal. Singing in church is meant to be more than a bunch of solo voices forming notes at the same time in one space. When an assembly breathes together at the same time, creating the same pitches and harmonies, something unites all our solo voices into one. We become connected to everyone in the space. This connection seeps out of the current time and place and touches all believers from past and future and across the world.
- Singing nurtures faith. You are what you eat. In the same fashion, you believe what you sing. The story of God’s creation, reconciliation, and new creation is best learned in the psalms, songs, and hymns that have sustained generations before as well as those yet to come.
- Singing shapes memory. The songs that nurture our faith also give us the handlebars to hold onto our faith when crisis and frailty arrives. The songs of our brothers and sisters can lift us up and remind us of God’s faithfulness when we need it. Sometimes we need to sing for others. There will be times when others need to sing for us.
- Singing opens us to the Spirit. Just as the Spirit hovered over the waters at creation, God makes a home amidst our praises. When we sing in community the hardened parts of our heart are broken open. We become open and receptive to how God is moving around us.
- Singing builds trust. When I open my mouth and sing in church I am instantly vulnerable. What if I stick out? What if I sing out of tune? What if I sing the wrong word? What if people think my voice is ugly? There is nothing like vulnerability that provides a place for trust to grow. And church is the one place where we should be able to trust that we are loved.
Summer is here! Hopefully you are enjoying a slower pace and taking time to relax. It really is essential, I have found, to find seasons when you can deviate from the daily grind. Maybe you are able to take a nice vacation. For others it may mean an entirely different schedule than the school year that allows you to enjoy different things. My family will be headed to Galveston a couple of times to see friends, go to the beach, and maybe a little fishing.
Here is my vacation tip (one that I need to practice as well). If you are truly trying to have a vacation, leave the work behind, all of it. That may mean leaving a laptop at home, disconnecting your email app, or turning your phone off completely. The first day is weird. It feels like you left the oven on or forgot to close the garage. Once you get over that nagging feeling, it is freeing to feel undivided. You can fully be where you are and present to whom you’re with.
For me, and perhaps for you too, this is all about control. I like to live under the illusion that I’m in control of things. I am on top of what is happening and I know what needs to be done. I sense that things are going well when I’m in control. Staying connected to my work and people who might need me gives me control. And a vacation might be the most opportune time to let go of control and join God in a Sabbath.
Summer has become a busy time for me over the last several years – go figure. This summer is no different. In July I am headed to Toronto for a week to attend the annual conference of The Hymn Society. I’ll be presenting a workshop called, “Engaging Worship and Culture: (Re)Discovering the Nairobi Statement” and talking about the work I participated in creating a resource for the ELCA. In August I will host our fifth annual Tune Up Worship Band Gathering. This year it is being held at Messiah Lutheran Church in Cypress. Tune Up is a worthwhile event where church musicians from all over the area gather for training. The week after that I will be in Atlanta for the ELCA’s first Rostered Ministers Gathering. I will be presenting two workshops: “10 Ways to Use Video Technology in Worship” and “Curating Worship for a Cross-Cultural Context.” I will also be coordinating video technology for the event.
In September I will be headed to Dubuque, Iowa for my first weeklong intensive at Wartburg Theological Seminary. I am beginning my journey toward rostered Word and Sacrament ministry in the ELCA. I am very happy about these next steps in my calling to serve the church. Fortunately the Collaborative Learning program through Wartburg will allow me to stay at Faith Lutheran and complete my degree and internship without having to leave. I am currently enrolled in a Biblical Greek course over the summer! I am eager to learn and looking forward to more school!
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 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…
Here is a track I recently recorded with my friend, and one of my favorite singers, Desi Lancaster (@Dexxie35). It is my arrangement of the spiritual, “Let Us Break Bread Together.”