Journeying

Sept_Journey

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 24, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.
(Psalm 105:1, NRSV)

Devotion

Psalm 105 is a hymn praising God’s faithfulness to Abraham and his descendants during their long period of journeying. This psalm begins with praise and thanksgiving to God, retells God’s wondrous deeds, and closes with a call to praise.

In 1 Chronicles 16, we learn that David appointed worship leaders and used a portion of this psalm as a model for worship. How privileged we are to be able to freely worship and to be able to lead others in worship. As we plan, rehearse, create, and put plans into action for our times of corporate worship, let’s remember to always give thanks, tell of God’s mighty deeds, and praise God!

Consider ...

  • Turning your “forgiveness” visual/bulletin board (from last week's devotion) into a “thanksgiving” visual. Encourage your members to move from forgiveness prayers to thanksgiving prayers for all that God has done.
  • Printing out verses 1-5 of Psalm 105. Lead each ensemble in a time of reflection at the end of your rehearsal. Dancers can improvise movements as the verses are read, visual artists can share what they “see” as they hear the verses, drama teams can set the scene and read them dramatically, singers can chant the text on one tone, and so on.

Prayer

Generous God, thank you for the many blessings we have been given. Like Israelites in the wilderness, we tend to complain. Please forgive us and strengthen us for your service so that we might live generous lives, making your deeds known among all people. Amen.

Shawn GingrichThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Fellowship President
Director of Music Ministry
First United Methodist Church
Hershey, PA

 

Photo: Members of the dance ensemble interpret a Scripture reading during worship at Journey: Music & Worship Arts Week 2017, held at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

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Forgiveness

Sept_Forgive

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 17, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35

Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."
(Matthew 18:21-22, NRSV)

Devotion

Following his encounter with Peter, Jesus told a parable of the unforgiving debtor, in which forgiveness is extravagantly displayed. Jesus taught that God’s forgiveness is so far beyond our understanding and deserving, and he emphasized that we will only receive in exchange for what we have offered. When teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus said, "Forgive us our sin as we forgive those who sin against us" (Matthew 6:12). This part of the Lord's Prayer is echoed many times in Jesus’ teaching: forgive as God has forgiven you.

As worship leaders, we model many things and the point of this parable is one that must be applied in our congregations today. The giving and the receiving of forgiveness is crucial, because one cannot have it without doing it. Be intentional with forgiveness. "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

Consider ...

  • Asking a member of your dance team to come to your rehearsals this week to show a simple movement that embodies forgiveness. Incorporate that movement into your closing prayers and possibly also in worship as a part of the confession.
  • Asking a member of your visuals team to create a visual/bulletin board in your rehearsal space that will allow space for members to add their prayers for and of forgiveness.

Prayer

Forgiving God, we are humbled by the love and grace that you give us. Help us to forgive others as extravagantly as you have first forgiven us. Amen.

Shawn GingrichThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Fellowship President
Director of Music Ministry
First United Methodist Church
Hershey, PA

 

Photo: Evening worship at St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock, AR, during Awaken 2017, The Fellowship's Biennial Convocation. Worship visuals crafted by Karla Kincannon.

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Artistic Worship

Sept_Dance

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 10, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 149

Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. ... Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
(Psalm 149:1, 3, NRSV)

Devotion

Psalm 149 is one of the many psalms reminding us of the importance of the arts in worship. God desires our worship and we are privileged to lead others closer to God through our gifts and talents.

Many times, in our Fellowship worship gatherings at biennial convocations and our annual Music & Worship Arts Week at Lake Junaluska, the dancing takes my breath away. Since I am the least accomplished in this area of worship arts, it is especially heartwarming for me. The multi-generational body at Lake Junaluska is particularly captivating as we experience the beauty of music and dance in a space that has been adorned with remarkable visuals. For now, the worship celebrations in these settings are the best glimpse we have into what heavenly worship will be in eternity. How fortunate we are as the body of Christ to gather for worship.

Consider ...

  • Leading your ensembles in a prayer that involves a simple movement at the close of your rehearsals.
  • Challenging your ensembles to share the sign language for praise and/or music every time you say/sing those words in a rehearsal or meeting. 

Prayer

Creating God, we praise you for the gifts you have given us. As we share them with others, please bless our efforts as worship leaders, so that we may create a foretaste of the eternal celebrations we will have someday in heaven. Amen.

Shawn GingrichThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Fellowship President
Director of Music Ministry
First United Methodist Church
Hershey, PA

 

Photo: Members of the dance ensemble perform during a program at Music & Worship Arts Week 2017, held at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

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Holy Fire

Sept_Flame

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 3, 2017
Scripture: Exodus 3:1-15

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.
(Exodus 3:2, NRSV)

Devotion

The burning flame is one of God's most frequently chosen forms of presence: Exodus 13:21, Deuteronomy 4:12, Exodus 19:18, and other Scriptures refer to God's presence in fire. Through fire, God reached one of the Bible's greatest leaders. Moses fled Egypt because he had killed an Egyptian master. He was shepherding in the desert not knowing what his future held and thinking he was alone. During this time Moses saw a bush burning but not being consumed. The great I AM became known to Moses through the flames, marking a turning point in his life.

God’s holy fire guided Moses and the people of Israel throughout their wilderness journey. It filled the tabernacle and later the temple of the Lord. That holy fire fell upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost and today it dwells in our hearts. I am reminded of God’s presence when the flame enters our worship space, knowing that surely God is with us. This is the most basic but perhaps the most powerful visual we have as worship artists. May the fire of God burn brightly in your life, today, and always!

Consider ...

  • Using the image of fire as your cover image for your smartphone, tablet, and computer this week to remind you that the fire of God burns brightly within you as you engage with technology in your work.
  • Inviting a member of your arts ministry to share their witness of a “holy turning point” in their life as your group’s closing devotion.

Prayer

Holy God, may we always be reminded of your love and grace by the light of flames. Help us to share the joy of your love with others in all that we say and do. Amen.

Shawn GingrichThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Fellowship President
Director of Music Ministry
First United Methodist Church
Hershey, PA

 

Photo: Candles adorn an altar prior to evening worship at St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock, AR, during Awaken 2017, The Fellowship's Biennial Convocation. 

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Transform

August_Sanctuary

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 27, 2017
Scripture: Romans 12:1-8

... a living sacrifice ...
(Romans 12:1, NRSV)

Devotion

John Thompson and Randy Scruggs’ familiar song text is this: “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”  **

These words, coupled with Paul’s thesis in Romans 12 – that belief should impact behavior – “prepare” us for divine transformation. 

The words in Romans 12 are some of the most important and strategic words penned in human history. They serve as a halftime address; a coach’s “chalk talk.” They are capable of leading God’s people toward a victorious life-journey. Long gone are the days of sacrificial lambs and burnt offerings. Instead, God asks for our "soma" (our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies; our entirety). Please do not let familiarity with these verses lead to passivity. Study them anew and afresh, for if you do, God will transform you from the inside out. 

Paul encourages us to live out our beliefs. We are encouraged to present ourselves and renew our minds in God. In the week ahead, find ways in your music, worship, and dramatic arts ministry to become living sacrifices – renewed and transformed vessels for God.

Prayer

Loving God, help our living to become transformed through faith in your Son Jesus and through your Word, and by the renewal of our minds. Give us the understanding of your Word which will guide our minds and hearts in become living reflections of you in your world. Amen.

** "Sanctuary," words and music by John Thompson and Randy Scruggs, © 1982, Whole Armor/Full Armor Music, admin. by The Kruger Organization. (From The Faith We Sing #2164)

Andrae AnthonyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music
Broadway United Methodist Church
Indianapolis, IN



Photo: Opening worship at Awaken 2017, The Fellowship's Biennial Convocation, included banners that adorned the balcony of Quapaw Quarter UMC in Little Rock, AR. 

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Reunited

August_Dance

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 20, 2017
Scripture: Genesis 45:1-15

.... God sent me before you to save lives.
(Genesis 45:5, CEB)

Devotion

Genesis 37 contains a dramatic story with a beloved son, Joseph, who was hated and kidnapped by his brothers. The brothers hated him so much they plotted to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery, which was probably a death sentence of its own. Joseph finds himself in a revengeful position: he comes to hold power, has charge of food for the community, and ultimately holds his brothers’ lives in his hands. Brought on by famine, an encounter and reunion gives Joseph the opportunity to reconcile with his brothers, embrace them, and forgive them.

Relationships are vital to life, which is why the two greatest commandments are based on relationships: a relationship first with God, then a relationship with one another. These relationships are paramount for a fulfilling life. Joseph lets his brothers know that while they meant to harm him, God meant to prosper him and use him to save lives. Joseph shows us the key to being reconciled to those who have deeply hurt us, whether they are family members or friends. This key to reconciliation is submitting ourselves to God’s boundless love and mercy. 

God seeks us and calls us to touch lives in need of refreshment, wholeness, hope and forgiveness. The healing gift of music, the transformative power of drama, the clarity of the spoken word, and the freeing dynamic of dance – each and every art becomes a vehicle for reconciliation. 

Prayer

Reconciling God, guide us, through our varied arts in worship, to offer hope, and to be reflections of your grace and forgiveness. Amen.

Andrae AnthonyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music
Broadway United Methodist Church
Indianapolis, IN



 Photo: Members of the dance ensemble perform at Music & Worship Arts Week 2017 at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

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Give Thanks

August_Song

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 13, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b

... let the hearts rejoice of all those seeking the Lord!
(Psalm 105:3b, CEB)

Devotion

The words of Henry Smith ring clear and true throughout Psalm 105, “Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One ….” **

As we reflect on the psalmist’s words, we draw strength from the repeated passages, “Sing to God; make praises to the Lord; dwell on all God’s wondrous works! Give praise to God’s Holy name.”

We are shown how God uses painful circumstances to bless the people of Israel. We see the difference between a life of hope and one of despair. The psalmist moves us beyond trials and tribulations, using those situations instead as a way to bless us, and those we encounter. In pursuing the Lord, we recall wonderful things, marvelous works, and justice declared. 

God often changes our perspective and gives us new ways of seeing our situations. Our setbacks and disappointments are opportunities for God to renew, restore, and bless us. It is through these new “eyes” we join the refrain, “now let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us. Give thanks.”

How will you give thanks this week for the many ways you have been gifted to lead the worship artists in your congregation? “Sing to God; make praises to the Lord; dwell on all God’s wondrous works! Give praise to God’s Holy name.”

Prayer

Loving God, open our eyes and minds and hearts to sense and feel your presence in and around us. May your Holy Spirit guide us to turn our seasons of frustrations and challenges into days of hopefulness and seasons of thanksgiving. Amen.

** "Give Thanks," words and music by Henry Smith, © 1978, Integrity's Hosanna Music. (From The Faith We Sing #2036)

Andrae AnthonyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music
Broadway United Methodist Church
Indianapolis, IN



Photo: Kevin McBeth (center) leads a choir rehearsal at Awaken 2017, The Fellowship's Biennial Convocation, held in Little Rock, AR, last month.

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Embrace the Abundance

August_Table

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 6, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21

... you give them something to eat.
(Matthew 14:16b, NRSV)

Devotion

During this season of Pentecost, we may find ourselves much like Jesus – at a table of physical and emotional exhaustion. However, it is at this table that Jesus shows compassion, heals the sick, and provides an endless banquet. We are confronted in scripture with the stories of God’s providential nature. It is in this account of feeding the 5,000+ that we truly learn the immeasurable abundance that surrounds us.

Where the disciples use a theology of scarcity, Jesus uses a theology of abundance. The disciples see only what they don’t have and what they’re incapable of doing. Jesus sees the resources they possess and their possibilities. Christ calls us to bring forth what we have, no matter how little, and assures us that God will do the rest!

Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, not to send them away. He invites us to be compassionate, resourceful, and generous in our ministry. We must never be so wrapped in our own problems and concerns that we withdraw from the world and refuse to provide help to those in need.

In practicing a theology of abundance, we open our eyes to the resources around us. We discover the ways in which we are the hands and feet of Jesus. As you consider your worship arts ministry this fall, will you open your eyes to the abundance of gifts and talents that are within those in your congregation? Will you trust in God to partner with you to create an abundant and generous ministry that shares God’s love through music and other worship arts this season?

Prayer

Open our eyes to see the abundance that surrounds us, open our hands that we may freely give, and open our hearts to show compassion. May this love and unbounded compassion be bread for a hungry world. Amen.

Andrae AnthonyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music
Broadway United Methodist Church
Indianapolis, IN



Photo: Carrie Wright (center) and Bodie Gilbert (right) serve communion around a table during the closing worship service of Awaken 2017, The Fellowship's Biennial Convocation, held at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock, AR, on July 27.

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Practice and Nurture

July_Practice

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 30, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed ... it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.
(Matthew 13:31-32, NRSV)

Devotion

There is a discipline we all share as artists. Writers, dancers, fine artists, musicians – we have had to spend countless hours at our crafts over many years. None of us came into this world prepared to design and lead worship; it was a process of nurture, encouragement, guidance, and practice. The potential is present but needs time to eventually grow and bear fruit. 

Jesus says God’s reign begins with a seed, developing from something very small. 

Sometimes I expect situations (and people) to automatically be mature and full-grown when in reality that is not how it works. Sometimes I need reminding to show the patience extended to me when I was a younger musician ... and still need now!

Prayer

Eternal Giver of good things, grant us patience with our craft, so that when the artistic gifts grow to maturity, they may be sources of comfort and welcome to all.  Amen.

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ



Photo: Participants in closing worship rehearse prior to the service at Music & Worship Arts Week 2015 in Lake Junaluska, NC.

Awaken 2017, this year's Fellowship convocation, continues through Thursday, July 27, in Little Rock, AR. Please keep our event and its leadership, participants, worship, and activities in your prayers this week as we wake up to the world around us, engage in transformative worship, and contemplate what's next.

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Without Judgment

July_Choir

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 23, 2017
Scripture: Genesis 28:10-19a

"Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the LORD is in this place — and I did not know it!'
(Genesis 28:16, NRSV)

Devotion

Have you ever been in the presence of the Almighty ... but not realize it?

In 2003, I led worship for a national ecumenical gathering and a guest choir was performing the prelude. I was supportive and encouraging, but I noted to myself this small group was singing off-pitch, weren’t staying together and barely in sync with their accompaniment compact disc! Having reached their final selection, I prepared to lead the congregation in some "real" worship. Then they began a song I hadn’t heard before. 

“I need you, you need me, we’re all a part of God’s body ... I pray for you, you pray for me, I need you to survive.” **

Tears started flooding down my cheeks. I couldn’t compose myself and had to leave the hall, sobbing like a baby into the arms of a dear friend who was weeping too.

The choir I had judged so harshly had become the face of Christ — God’s voice was literally speaking to me through their voices. The overwhelming awe, humility, and love I experienced because of them and their song was a miraculous gift I remember to this day.

Prayer

Forgiving God, release us from our judgments to see you in every person and place.  Amen.

** Hezekiah Walker, lyrics – "I Need You to Survive" (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/hezekiahwalker/ineedyoutosurvive.html)

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ



Photo: Mark Miller (at piano) leads worship with the Youth Festival Choir at Pathways 2015, the biennial convocation of The Fellowship held in Indianapolis. 

Awaken 2017, this year's Fellowship convocation, begins Monday, July 24, and continues through Thursday, July 27, in Little Rock, AR. Please keep our event and its leadership, participants, worship, and activities in your prayers this week as we wake up to the world around us, engage in transformative worship, and contemplate what's next.

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Sent Out in Joy

July_Joy

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 16, 2017
Scripture: Isaiah 55:10-13

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
(Isaiah 55:12, NRSV)

Devotion

In his short but seminal book Beyond the Worship Wars, Tom Long writes about the "movement to a joyous festival celebration" at the close of worship, and names this as a characteristic of vital and faithful worship. I wholeheartedly agree! We tend to the sacred flame of worship and help stoke the liturgical embers into meaningful joy-filled praise.  

Towards the close of the service, the congregation is sent “out in joy” by words, actions and songs that quicken the tempo and build up the celebration. Whether through a sacrament, a ritual of holding hands for a sending prayer, a heartfelt benediction, or a spirited postlude, we are lifted up (literally out of our seats) and sent to go and serve the world.

This is one of the sacred duties of a worship artist: giving permission for people to have fun and experience delight in church. Thankfully the liturgy is capacious enough to hold both solemnity and playfulness in its arms. 

Both are essential experiences of the Divine.

Prayer

God of wonder and delight, may the joy I share with the gathered church be an authentic expression of the joy inside of me. Amen.

Photo: The worship team leads in a joyful celebration at General Conference 2016 in Portland, OR. (UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey)

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ

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I Will Give You Rest

July_Rest

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 9, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28, NRSV)

Devotion

Give me rest? Are you kidding? Please, Lord, have you seen my calendar? 

There are multiple choir rehearsals, a new youth orchestra, kids at home, school work to finish, bills to pay, and conferences to plan ... I just don’t believe it!

It’s ironic to hear these words sung every year, "Come unto me, all ye that labor," amidst the most hectic times of a church musician’s life. How can we find rest when we are so busy planning and leading worship? 

Early last year I underwent a serious medical procedure. In the month leading up to the surgery a profound deep peace settled over me. The sacred songs I had been singing my whole life had prepared me for this moment. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” to  “Santo, Santo” to “All My Days” — what a revelation to discover I trusted Jesus when he said, “I will give you rest.”

In the daily stress of leadership, remember to take a moment to let the art you're making, the bread you’re baking, the dance moves you’re creating be a sign to you that God, through your creative sacred work, is leading you to deep peace and rest, leading you home.

Prayer

Loving God who carries all burdens, lead us to the quiet waters of your peace.  Amen.

Photo: The lake water is still at sunrise at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ

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Heart of Hospitality

July_Hospitality

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: July 2, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 10:40-42

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
(Matthew 10:40, NRSV)

Devotion

How do I welcome people into the church on Sunday morning? Things are usually kind of hectic; I try to smile, shake a hand or give a hug in the midst of rehearsing the choir, huddling with the other worship leaders about last-minute details, or frantically hunting down the music for the organ prelude.

But maybe we can reach the heart of hospitality in the music we sing, honoring generations young and old with different genres and styles of songs. Perhaps we deeply welcome folks whose first language is not English by singing songs in other tongues. We foster a sense of belonging and inclusion by the diversity of faces we see at the lectern or in the media presentations on our screens, by the words we use in our prayers and our songs.

All of us were once strangers, but thanks to God’s grace shown through Jesus Christ, we have been welcomed into the oikos of God, the “household of love.”  

Prayer

God of the eternal welcome, help us to show hospitality not only in our personal greetings but also through our liturgical words and actions. Remind us that everyone we meet is a child of God. Amen.

Photo: A greeting is shared during the closing worship service at The Fellowship's Music & Worship Arts Week 2016 at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

Miller MarkThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music
Christ Church
Summit, NJ

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Taking the Risk

Flowers_MWAW

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: June 25, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 10:24-39

... and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
(Matthew 10:39, NRSV)

Devotion

Becoming vulnerable and taking the risk to follow Jesus can be quite frightening. Often fear, especially fear of the unknown, can be an obstacle in pursuing God's call.

For years, Lillian had grown some of the most beautiful flowers in the community. Others urged her to use some of her flowers in the sanctuary for worship. Lillian resisted, fearing her arrangement would not be worthy enough to adorn the worship space. Yet, she kept sensing this intense desire to arrange flowers for the church. Her pastor helped her realize this desire was indeed a calling.

One week, she took a risk and prepared one of the most artistically creative and innovative arrangements ever seen. She faced the obstacle of fear, overcoming it to follow where Christ was leading her.

Whether singing a solo for the first time, taking the initials steps in a liturgical dance, or even playing an incredibly difficult organ prelude when you are not sure you are sufficiently prepared (no matter how much you practiced), these acts of faith are truly signs of a trustworthy disciple of Christ.

Prayer

O Holy Spirit, instill in us the courage to overcome fear when it threatens to hinder us. Spur us to action in faithfully following Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photo: Flowers adorn the walkway around Lake Junaluska during Music & Worship Arts Week 2015.

Journey 2017: Music & Worship Arts Week begins Sunday, June 25, and continues through Friday, June 30. Please keep our event and its leadership, participants, worship, and activities in your prayers this week!

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Healing

WeepingWillow_UMAR

Second Sunday After Pentecost

Week of: June 18, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

... gave them authority ... to cure every disease and every sickness.
(Matthew 10:1b, NRSV)

Devotion

Angels Watching Over UsNumerous studies indicate the importance of the arts in the healing process. One of the most incredible instances of this impact involves a middle-aged female participant in the UMAR Arts Center in Charlotte, NC. UMAR is a United Methodist agency that provides a home and support for adults with disabilities. At the UMAR Arts Center, residents engage in visual arts as a means of self-expression that has had a healing effect upon many participants.

Several years ago, one participant who could not communicate verbally, whom I shall call Mary, was barely able to pick up a brush and paint a line when she started. On one visit, the director enthusiastically showed me Mary's latest painting.

"Can you tell what it is?" she asked excitedly. "Of course," I replied, "I can see mountains, a lake and grass!"

This was the first piece of work that communicated to me some of Mary's thoughts. Healing was taking place! Though some observers of her work may tend to dismiss it as a juvenile attempt at painting, I thought it was the most beautiful painting I had ever seen because God was working through it in a miraculous way.

Prayer

Wondrous God, open our eyes to the miracles taking place around us each day. Amen.

MixedMedia300Top Photo: A painting titled "Weeping Willow," created by a participant in the UMAR Arts Center in Charlotte.

Right Photo: A mixed media piece titled "Angels Watching Over Us," created by a participant in the UMAR Arts Center in Charlotte.

Left Photo: A mixed media piece created by a participant in the UMAR Arts Center in Charlotte.

Special thanks to UMAR for sharing these pieces with us!

 

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I Am With You Always

Trinity_MWAW

Trinity Sunday

Week of: June 11, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20

.... and remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
(Matthew 20:20b, NRSV)

Devotion

From the time I was a small child, I seemed to be rejuvenated each time I engaged in an artistic endeavor. Whether it was singing, painting, creating with clay, acting in a play or even my attempts at dancing with "two left feet," I seemed to feel differently about myself and the world around me. As I grew older, I began to understand that art was a doorway to a deeper connection with my own spirituality and relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus' promise to be with us always became very real during these times. It was as if Jesus was right there with me enabling me to fully immerse myself in the artistic task at hand.

I still feel that blessed presence as I lead worship, sing with the choir, create an installation for worship or even sing an old hymn to someone in hospice who is transitioning to a new life. I truly believe creative expression through the arts is an essential component in fulfilling the Great Commission. And what makes it even more fulfilling is to know that by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is present in and through it all. Thanks be to God!

Prayer

O Great Creator, people come to know you in many different ways. Thank you for creative energy, which allows Jesus Christ to live through all that we do. May we always acknowledge you as the true source of the power and love that is manifest in so many wondrous ways in our work. Amen.

Photo: Children perform during a concert at The Fellowship's Music & Worship Arts Week 2016 at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

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Expressions of Faith

Pentecost_MWAW

Day of Pentecost

Week of: June 4, 2017
Scripture: Acts 2:1-21

... in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power.
(Acts 2:11, NRSV)

Devotion

Imagine the excitement and energy as the wind rushed through the house, tongues of fire rested upon those gathered, and numerous languages filled the room as the Spirit enabled. The variety of languages is a reminder of the diversity of the Body of Christ at work in the world today.

Just as spoken language communicates "God’s deeds of power," a myriad of artistic expressions communicate the Good News in worship. Imagine if there was only one medium used for communication. What a bland and boring world in which we would live!

Remarkably, God gifts us with a wide array of artistic manifestations through which we can impart God’s love and grace. As one created in the image of God, realize you are a co-creator with God in conveying beauty and love through incredible expressions of faith. May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire and empower you to do great things ... all to God’s glory!

Prayer

Holy God, it is humbling to use the artistic abilities with which you have gifted us. May we rely upon your Spirit to guide us in disclosing what you have done for humankind through Jesus Christ, in whom we pray. Amen.

Photo: Dancers prepare for Wednesday morning worship at The Fellowship's Music & Worship Arts Week 2016 at Lake Junaluska, NC. 

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The Master Creator

MasterCreator

Ascension of Our Lord

May 25, 2017
Scripture: Acts 1:1-11

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
(Acts 1:8, NRSV)

Devotion

How often have we charged ahead, forgetting to wait on the Holy Spirit? The creative process is effortless — sometimes. At other times, when nothing seems to go right, God may be saying to us, "Wait ... wait for my Spirit," because God loves creating.

What I've noticed is that God loves creating WITH us. Many times God's Spirit reveals what seem to be puzzle pieces, and I must ask: "Lord, what am I to do with these?" Then the Spirit nudges others who come bearing more of the picture until it is fully completed. It is wonderful what we can do if we welcome the Spirit-wind of God to use us as conduits for sacred artistry!

Jesus ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father, and just as Jesus promised, God sent the Holy Spirit to nudge and guide our worship work. Daily invite God — the master creator — into your creative process, into the very center of what you do!

Prayer

Holy God, thank you for the gift of your Spirit. With our eyes on YOU, guide and lead us, dance and sing over us, inspire us — so that your glory will shine through everything which is offered in Jesus' name. Amen.

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God Glorified

GodGlorified

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Week of: May 28, 2017
Scripture: John 17:1-11

I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.
(John 17:4, NRSV)

Devotion

The text of this passage from John are the words of Jesus' prayer, first and foremost. Yet, when it feels as though what I do is small compared to Jesus, I must remember that what I do, I do for the glory of God. Bringing God’s glory here on earth IS the "work."

In worship, imagine God listening, watching, and participating with God's own children rejoicing in the Spirit's presence. The work of worship brings God honor and glory. When God is put front and center in the design process and as the focus of our worship, then the singing, dancing, prayers, designing, preaching, ringing, strumming, and drumming all become instruments of glory to God — every time!

What we do matters, because worship is context for the sacred work which God has given us to do. What artists and congregation together create, prompted by the Spirit, blesses God's heart and moves others to join more deeply in the holy work of worship and discipleship beyond the walls of the church.

Jesus' words in John 17:4 are self-assured! I pray that God is glorified in what we offer in worship each Lord's Day, each season, worldwide!

Prayer

Creator God, may all that we do, through our gratitude and love for you, bring you glory here on earth. Thank you for our work here in this place and time — uniting people through the arts that are a small part of your wonderful design. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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Praise Out Loud

Sound

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Week of: May 21, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 66:8-20

Praise our God ... let the sound of His praise be heard.
(Psalm 66:8, NIV)

Devotion

A long time ago, I learned that the power of the Holy Spirit is ushered in on the wings of praise. It seems the stronger our praise, the better God’s Spirit rejoices in it.

This concept of out-loud praise may not be second nature to some of us. However, we might have reason to pray out loud in rehearsals, family meal times, during worship guided by a worship leader, as we awaken to a new day, or when touched by the beauty of creation. Sounding praise aloud is a goal worthy of practice!

I have seen great and mighty things happen when persons are moved to praise God out loud. Beginning every prayer aloud with “thank you” has become my regular personal practice. When remembering and expressing God’s goodness by the prayers we write, words and music we compose, images arranged or drawn, worship artists provide the whole assembly opportunities to express before God praise and thanksgiving, sorrow, or gladness with voice and body.

The practice of out-loud thanksgiving and praise will resonate outwardly into our daily living and our service in the world.

Prayer

Thank you, gracious God, for your great love, for your beautiful world, and for this day. Walk with me, beside me, in front and behind. Let your words and your thoughts resonate through me today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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