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The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts

A Hymn of Trust

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Third Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 16, 2018
Scripture: Isaiah 12:2-6

Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my shield; [God] has become my salvation.
(Isaiah 12:2b, CEB)

Devotion

Prophesy: a vision of the future, thankful remembering, trust, readiness — themes found in the lectionary readings for this Advent season and expressed as hymns or poetry. We will focus on one of these ancient hymns each week.

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Isaiah 12 is a psalm of uncertain date and origin inserted to conclude Isaiah 6-12 — the "Immanuel" section of prophecies of war, destruction, and ultimate restoration. Isaiah 2:2-6 easily stands alone as a powerful, brief chorus affirming complete trust in God.

This psalm chorus should be our collective assurance of faith and trust on this Third Sunday of Advent. Every day seems to bring new cause for added uncertainty and angst in our already-stressed-out living. The people of God today need solid words of faithful steadfastness to counter-balance what comes in news feeds and Twitter messages.

The psalm-hymn quoted in Isaiah provides just that assurance to individuals and the gathered body of Christ: Yahweh God is the Lord of my salvation! I will grow in faith! And I will not be made afraid!

As worship artists and leaders, we need to rehearse this message, inviting others to do the same, until it is owned by all — even until and beyond those times when we sense the nearness of God in Christ, in our worship, and in the living of our days.

Prayer

God of all time and space, we long for your Spirit-presence and give witness to it. Guide us — as worship designers, artists, leaders of the work of the people — in ways that prompt the sharing of Good News with others. You, God, are our salvation. We will trust you and not be afraid!

Roger DowdyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Deacon, The United Methodist Church
CROSS-PATHS Ministries
Richmond, VA

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A Hymn of Thanks

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Second Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 9, 2018
Scripture: Luke 1:68-79

Bless the Lord God of Israel because he has come to help and has raised up a mighty savior for us ...
(Luke 1:68-69, CEB)

Devotion

Prophesy: a vision of the future, thankful remembering, trust, readiness — themes found in the lectionary readings for this Advent season and expressed as hymns or poetry. We will focus on one of these ancient hymns each week.

***

The Gospel of Luke opens with the story of John — the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, nephew of Mary, cousin of Jesus, and forerunner of Jesus the Messiah.

Zechariah's canticle, known to us as "The Benedictus" (the Latin translation of the opening phrase "Let us bless the Lord ..."), is a hymn of prophecy to God's ever-unfolding love and mercy.

A response to the miraculous blessings experienced by Israel, by Elizabeth and Zechariah, the hymn is a glorious song of thanksgiving and faithful remembering for us.

We would do well — proclaimers, wordsmiths, and all artists — to provide the means for reflective study on this hymn in final preparation for worship this Sunday. The text is full of imagery perfectly suited for Advent reflection on the socio-political climate of our nation and the world: [God] has granted that we should be rescued from the powers of our enemies so that we could serve [God] without fear. It proclaims that God has guided and will continue to guide us and shape us as people of the Way of justice and peace.

Prayer

Grace-full God, we long for a more faithful perspective for living in this season and in this age. We pray and sing, "Maranatha! Come, now, O Holy One." Through your gift of Jesus, may we be awake and responsive to the ways you are guiding us in faithful witness and service.

Roger DowdyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Deacon, The United Methodist Church
CROSS-PATHS Ministries
Richmond, VA

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A Hymn of Petition

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First Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 2, 2018
Scripture: Psalm 25:1-10

I offer my life to you, Lord. My God, I trust you.
(Psalm 25:1-2a, CEB))

Devotion

Prophesy: a vision of the future, thankful remembering, trust, readiness — these are themes in the lectionary readings for this Advent season. These themes are expressed in the readings as hymns or ancient poetry. This Advent we will focus on one of those ancient hymns each week.

***

The Hebrew 25th Psalm is an expression of devotion and petition: "I offer my life to you, Lord … I trust you." This is a power-filled opening statement; there is no questioning, no holding back. The writer of this hymn of devotion fully knows God as one who is faithful and present.

However, the psalm-writer is equally as bold in reminding God of God's own compassion and hesed — faithful love — as though God needed to be reminded. And, by the way, says the psalmist, "please do not shame me ... do not remember the sins of my youth or wrong-doing" (vs. 2b; vs. 7).

In these Advent weeks of waiting and anticipating, we should be no less bold through our songs, prayers, and arts in reaching out to God in thankfulness for Emmanuel, "God with us," offering ourselves ready to receive and respond to the renewing gift and presence of Jesus the Christ.

Prayer

Guide us by your creative Spirit, Holy One, so that your nearness may be made palpable through faithful, artistic expressions of longing and hope, thanksgiving and peace. Grant that all who worship will be drawn to your Way, your pathway of holiness, justice, and peace.

Roger DowdyThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Deacon, The United Methodist Church
CROSS-PATHS Ministries
Richmond, VA

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Christ's Reign

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Reign of Christ

Week of: November 25, 2018
Scripture: John 18:33-37

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world."
(John 18:36a, NRSV)

Devotion

With the exception of mystics, artists more than many other individuals understand the otherworldliness of God’s kingdom. As worship artists we receive inspiration, not from our own effort, but as a mysterious gift seemingly from out of nowhere. The word "inspire" comes from the Latin word, "inspirare," meaning to breathe or blow into. As God breathed life into the first humans in Genesis, so too the Spirit breathes inspiration into us, making our creativity feel ethereal and beyond our control. Creativity, like God’s kingdom, is not from this world, but our world is infused with both.

The otherworldliness of God's kingdom proved a stumbling block for Pilate, making it difficult for him to believe Jesus was the ruler of God's chosen people. How might the ethereal nature of creativity be a stumbling block for you? What do you do when inspiration does not arrive?

What do you do to open yourselves to the Spirit's inspiration?

As we celebrate the one who reigns over God's Kingdom, the issue for us as worship artists is whether we allow Christ to reign over our creativity. I endeavor to allow Christ to reign in my creativity through the spiritual practice of listening before and while I am creating. I use a visual form of "lectio divina." What practices do you employ to allow Christ to guide your creativity as you create for worship?

Prayer

O Christ, be the inspiration for our creative gifts and reign in our lives now and forever. Amen.

Karla KincannonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, Virginia Conference of The UMC
Affiliate Faculty, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Evanston, IL

Photo: The chancel area is dimmed prior to an evening worship service at Awaken 2017 in Little Rock. The visual artist for this event was Rev. Dr. Kincannon, our Reflection author this week.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Praise

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Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: November 18, 2018
Scripture: 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in my God."
(1 Samuel 2:1a, NRSV)

Devotion

Barren for years and consequently marginalized by the customs of her day, at last Hannah gives birth. She lifts her voice in praise, giving thanks to God for the remarkable reversal of her situation. Hannah has been restored to wholeness in her family and community, and God is the source of her miracle.

Though she has been healed through the birth of Samuel, Hannah does not hold tightly to her son. Dedicating him to God’s service, Samuel is raised in the temple. Hannah gives away the very thing that brought her life. Eventually, her personal miracle expands into a source of goodness for the whole community when a grown Samuel initiates Israel’s monarchy. He becomes a gift to all of Israel.

The movement in this story reminds me of what it is to be a worship artist! God, the source of our creativity, brings healing and wholeness to our lives through the expression of our gifts. We find fulfillment and often healing in our art forms. However, our gifts, though personal, are not private. They are dedicated to God in worship, becoming a source of goodness for the whole community and bringing healing and blessing to others. Now that’s worthy of praise!

Prayer

Abiding God, we praise you! Through your creativity we are made whole. Bless the creative gifts we offer that they might be a blessing to others. Amen.

Karla KincannonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, Virginia Conference of The UMC
Affiliate Faculty, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Evanston, IL

Photo: Dancers participate in an act of praise during a worship service at Music & Worship Arts Week 2015. The visual artist for this event was Rev. Dr. Kincannon, our Reflection author this week.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Generosity

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Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: November 11, 2018
Scripture: Mark 12:38-44

A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.
(Mark 12:42, NRSV)

Devotion

In faith and humility, the widow placed two small copper coins in the temple treasury, a mere fraction of the temple offering. What if our gifts as worship artists are like those two copper coins? Sometimes our individual creative offerings are but a small part of the whole worship service. Yet Jesus saw the widow's gift as an act of radical generosity because the coins were all she had to live on. They were her livelihood.

Creativity is our livelihood as worship artists. It connects us to the Source of Life. When I'm unable to use my creative gifts, I begin to shrivel up. Like the two coins, creativity is a lifeline.

When the widow made her offering, she surrendered everything she had to live on and all she hoped to be into God's generous hands. Creativity contains within it an element of surrender. We let go of control, and of our egos, allowing creativity to take us where the creative process leads. The anthem, liturgical dance or liturgy turns out differently – often better – from what we hoped, precisely because surrender is inherent in the creative process. Our offerings as worship artists, like the two coins, become acts of radical generosity when we surrender to the God of creativity.

Prayer

Generous God, help us to let go into your love and your grace. Teach us about the way of radical generosity. Amen.

Karla KincannonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, Virginia Conference of The UMC
Affiliate Faculty, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Evanston, IL

Photo: An altar display created by Rev. Dr. Karla Kincannon, our Reflection author, is shown prior to a morning worship service at Music & Worship Arts Week 2015.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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The Blessing of Kindness

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Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost / All Saints Sunday

Week of: November 4, 2018
Scripture: Ruth 1:1-18

May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.
(Ruth 1:8b, NRSV)

Devotion

Blessing them with kindness, Naomi attempts to send her daughters-in-law home into a more promising future than she can offer. As we light candles for those who have joined the great cloud of witnesses, I stand in need of Naomi’s blessing. This year, I’m on the grieving end of All Saints Day with a deeper understanding of the need for kindness during seasons of grief. Both my parents died within the last year, and I know firsthand how grief makes us vulnerable.

Grieving has given me a fresh perspective on worship. In particular, I understand the importance of worship arts because they give expression to feelings too deep for words. Beautiful visuals and compelling dances serve as salve for hearts tender with loss. Liturgy that celebrates and honors the saints strengthens our connection to one another and to those who have gone on to glory. Music provides experiences and acceptance of both grief and gratitude for the lives of loved ones who have shaped us and are no longer here. The worship arts connect us to God who is the source of all healing. They are generous acts of kindness.

As we celebrate All Saints Day, who among you is in need of Naomi’s blessing of kindness?

Prayer

Comforting God, in kindness you provided companionship for a grieving Naomi. Help us offer comfort to the grieving through beauty, liturgy, music, and movement. Amen.

Karla KincannonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, Virginia Conference of The UMC
Affiliate Faculty, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Evanston, IL

Photo: A candle display created by Rev. Dr. Karla Kincannon, our Reflection author, is shown in the chancel prior to an evening worship service at Awaken 2017 in Little Rock.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Living a Full Life

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Twenty-Third after Pentecost

Week of: October 28, 2018
Scripture: Job 42:1-6, 10-17

And Job died, old and full of days.
(Job 42:17, NRSV)

Devotion

A privilege of being a Minister of Music is walking with families through the death of a loved one. Through the years of planning funerals and hearing family remembrances, I sometimes think, "What will people say about me when it comes time for my memorial service?"

I had a mini-stroke 10 years ago and died for a few seconds. During my death, I talked with my Creator about being ready to come to heaven. God told me my earthly days were not finished and that I would be headed back to earth. When one has had a direct conversation with the Almighty, one is no longer afraid of death. You want to live every moment and be totally in God's will.

Job survived all of his tribulations. Throughout his life of trials he learned to live a complete life. When he died, he died "full of days."

Let us be fulfilled in our worship arts through serving our art and others. We cannot waste a single day!

Prayer

God of all days and seasons of life, may we live our lives fully serving you through our varied arts. When our time comes, and we pass from this earthly realm to your eternal kingdom, may we rest assured that we offered our best and fulfilled our calling. May we die "full of days." Amen.

C. Milton RodgersThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Organist
Grace United Methodist Church
Manassas, VA

Photo: The dewdrops linger on the flowers at the Lake Junaluska Conference & Retreat Center during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Servanthood

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Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: October 21, 2018
Scripture: Mark 10:35-45

[A]nd whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
(Mark 10:44-45, NRSV)

Devotion

One of my choral professors always reminded us that the best conductors are those who do not "conduct" the music but allow the music to conduct them. These are the conductors who become subservient to the music so that the music can speak. The true conductor serves the music.

One of the joys of being a Minister of Music is that I am privileged to serve my choir members. It might be late at night when I really need sleep or during the day when I have tons of work to do. However, the music I make with my choirs is very deep and powerful because my singers and ringers know that I will be there for them, and they will be there for me as well. Together we are creating a community of servanthood.

Being a servant to our art, our music ensembles, and worship design teams creates Christian community. We are all sharing the love of Christ through caring and sharing with one another. The music and all the arts speak through us in community.

Prayer

Spirit God, move us to love and nurture one another. Allow that servant love to produce music and worship arts that celebrate the wonder of you and your creation. Amen.

C. Milton RodgersThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Organist
Grace United Methodist Church
Manassas, VA

Photo: Dr. Cari Earnhart directs the Middle High Choir during the Thursday evening concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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On To Perfection

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Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: October 14, 2018
Scripture: Mark 10:17-31

Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."
(Mark 10:18, NRSV)

Devotion

Kalosis is a Greek word for "good." It means beautiful and worthy. Those of us in worship arts are striving for this "good." With a slight stretch, we could add the term "perfection," as in "God is my strength and power, and he makes my way perfect" (2 Samuel 22:33, NKJV). Our striving toward perfection is a journey.

Artists are always concerned about the rendition of our art. We are trying for that perfect choral nuance, the perfect handbell performance, or that perfect illustration. As artists, are we "going on to perfection" through our varied arts?

We are always trying to give our very best to God. However, what do we do when we have done our best to prepare and the choir sings out of tune, the handbell players pick up the wrong bell, or the drawing does not speak to the people gathered for worship as we had hoped?

We need to remember that "good" is a process – perfection is a journey. We give our best to God, but it will always fall short of God's goodness. God is with us on the expedition to perfection even if that does not happen until the full Kingdom of Heaven comes to fruition.

Prayer

Creator God, move us to offer our very best to your people assembled for worship and to you. Send your Spirit to strengthen us toward that perfection which will come to fruition in the fulfilled Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

C. Milton RodgersThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Organist
Grace United Methodist Church
Manassas, VA

Photo: The Intermediate II Handbell Ensemble performs during their Thursday afternoon concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Worshipping With Wonder

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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost / World Communion Sunday

Week of: October 7, 2018
Scripture: Mark 10:2-16

Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.
(Mark 10:14b, NRSV)

Devotion

There is something special about a child. Children experience the world in a new way every day. Jesus reminded us of this when he said that the kingdom of God belongs to the children.

I am always inspired by the new ways I experience worship when I attend Music & Worship Arts Week at Lake Junaluska. The design team clearly plans each service through the eyes of children. Such creativity is evident in the visuals, the music, and the dance. I find myself pondering whether our own worship services have lost their sense of creativity and become boring and uninspiring. Is the "spark of creation" (thanks to Steven Schwartz from "Children of Eden") still there?

I'm also moved by the singing voices of our three children's choirs in my local setting. Congregation and family members share that they are encouraged by the energy, innocence, and power of children singing their faith.

Children help us to experience God because they are seeing everything in a new way with the "spark of creation." That is why the kingdom belongs to them and to us, too, if we come to worship with new eyes of wonder.

Prayer

Loving God, let us come to worship planning with the innocence of children. Let us experience worship and creativity in new ways through the eyes of children filled with the spark of creation. Amen.

C. Milton RodgersThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Organist
Grace United Methodist Church
Manassas, VA

Photo: Elementary children in the DRUM program play as part of their Thursday afternoon concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Remember

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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 30, 2018
Scripture: James 5:13-20

... and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.
(James 5:16b, NRSV)

Devotion

A few months before my father died, when I came to visit him, I took him to worship at the church where he had taken me from birth. When we walked in the door, people welcomed him warmly and greeted him by name. He had Parkinson's and dementia, and when I looked at him sitting in the pew, he had the worship bulletin upside down. Yet, even though he couldn't remember simple things like turning off the kitchen stove after warming his coffee, when we prayed the Lord's Prayer and stood to sing the Doxology, he still knew every word.

As James counsels, this is the power of the church as a community that worships and prays together. We come and support one another in good times and bad, confess our sins, sing praise to God, and tell the story of Jesus Christ in word, silence, image, movement, and music. We pray for those who are suffering, whether someone is ill like my father, dismissed from a job, or charged with a felony.

When one is too broken to sing or pray, someone else prays and sings for them. When people forget who or whose they are, as worship leaders we remind them what God has done and is doing still.

Prayer

Eternal God, help us to remember the story of our faith and act it out in our lives. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: Communion is served during closing worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Welcome

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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 23, 2018
Scripture: Mark 9:30-37

Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.
(Mark 9:37, NRSV)

Devotion

The disciples had been fighting over who was the greatest and failed to understand Jesus' embodiment of a humble servant. So Jesus took a child, because children were vulnerable in his society, to demonstrate to his disciples that we are called to care for the marginalized among us — the immigrant, destitute, sick, and those rejected and despised.

When I've served persons who are marginalized by society, I've been so blessed by them. I worked with a Sudanese congregation that met in the church where I pastored. They worshipped in Arabic in a separate service from the English-speaking services, and sometimes invited me to preach. They translated for one another and witnessed how their deep faith got them through horrors of war, troubles in refugee camps, and the difficulties and dangers they face now as immigrants in this country. I can recall asking the youth, "How big is God?" and "Marcus" said, "It depends on how close you are to God."

How has your life been blessed by reaching out to the vulnerable in your worship ministries or as a leader in the church? Are there ways that God is nudging you to care for and "re-present" persons who are marginalized — perhaps through music, images, or art from a global perspective in worship?

Prayer

Almighty God, guide our steps. Help us hear how you are calling us to serve in Jesus' name. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: The Younger Elementary Choir sings during a Thursday afternoon concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Glory

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 16, 2018
Scripture: Psalm 19

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
(Psalm 19:1, NRSV)

Devotion

Psalm 19 sings our Creator's glory with such wonder that, as the psalmist says, even creation itself can't keep silent about God's majesty.

Like Psalm 19, any and all worship arts can ignite our praise and stir our hearts. Recall a moment when music, dance, word, or drama turned your own breath into a gasp of awe.

Our leadership as worship artists — those who work creatively to reveal aspects of the nature of God — grows naturally out of our own relationship with Jesus Christ and participation in spiritual disciplines that connect us with the Creator of heaven and earth. However, at least for me, many times quality prayer time and spiritual renewal are crowded out when the ministries of the church season become hectic.

How do you renew a sense of wonder in your own life: being in nature, listening to music, sitting in silence, being with friends, working for justice, creating art, going on retreat? Think about the times and places you encounter the Holy where your spirit is renewed.

I know how challenging it is to set aside the time for stillness, reflection and meditation. Those sacred moments are opportunities to clarify the nature of the gifts offered — to God and for the people who gather for worship.

Prayer

Awesome Creator, fill us with your Holy Spirit again and again. Renew and restore us so we might show forth your wondrous glory. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: Carrie Gerow dances during opening worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Gifts

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 9, 2018
Scripture: James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

... do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?
(James 2:1b, NRSV)

Devotion

The letter of James tells us that favoritism is a sin because it opposes the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

I confess that I’ve shown favoritism — sometimes toward the most gifted, but other times, just because I like them. I also confess times when I didn’t know what to do when someone was "difficult" to deal with or kept "messing up" the worship design plan. How can we find the grace to offer quality artistic leadership and welcome people to roles that match their gifts?

I think of "Melanie" with arm braces walking down the aisle with her father's help, who not only lit the candles, but lit up the whole room with her joy. I think of "Judy" from a developmentally disabled group home, who waved and smiled from ear to ear as she joined in a worship drama in a part written for her. I think of "Thomas" who is socially awkward, but his enthusiasm for singing is contagious; and transgendered "Elaina," who greets people as an usher because she knows in her bones what a difference it makes to be welcomed instead of excluded.

Collaborating with individuals has taught me that anyone, everyone, can serve in ways that I might never have considered.

Prayer

Creator, we bring imagination to the arts we offer. Fill us with that same imagination to see the value and gifts of each person you have created. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: Worship leaders pray together in a circle prior to a morning worship service at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Words

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: September 2, 2018
Scripture: James 1:17-27

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves ...
(James 1:26a, NIV)

Devotion

Throughout the book of James, the writer reminds us how destructive words can be. Today, as we listen to the daily news, we realize how toxic words have become.

Consider how often words have torn apart relationships in our families and in our world. Words can break down community and threaten the worship ministries we seek to lead. Yet, as James admits, taming our tongues is harder than taming wild animals.

In a previous Fellowship Reflection, Mark Miller introduced the song, "I Need You to Survive," by Hezekiah Walker, that says, "I won't harm you with words from my mouth."

How can we, as worship arts leaders, tame our tongues so that our words do not harm? How can our words be bridges of peace in dealing with disputes among the people with whom we work? How can we use words to build up, rather than break down; to support, rather than gossip; to love, rather than hate; to inspire, rather than destroy? How do we fill our mouths with words that honor God?

Prayer

Living Word, tame our tongues to keep us from harming others with our words. Speak your Word of love through us. Amen.

Theresa MasonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director, Earthen Pot Ministries
St. Paul, MN

Photo: Choir members sing during worship in Stuart Auditorium on Monday morning at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Offer the Living Bread

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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 26, 2018
Scripture: John 6:56-69

It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
(John 6:63, NRSV)

Devotion

Jesus is continuing to teach the disciples about the bread of life and how to receive it. He explains that it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. Like the disciples, we too have moments of unfaithfulness and doubt. We often find ourselves relying too much on the flesh and not enough on the Spirit of God living within us.

Worship is a time for us to be reminded of God's life-giving Spirit and to be nourished by the bread of life. If we offer people the bread of eternal life through engaging worship experiences they will want to come back for more of what we are offering.

We are all in search of "good bread." There is no substitute for fresh, fulfilling, and authentic experiences. When worship arts are presented in authentic ways, then the people to whom we offer the arts in worship will receive them like rich, fresh bread, and will want more.

Prayer

Creator God, help us to be authentic in the ways we weave the arts throughout worship. Send your Spirit to guide us so that we are inspired and enabled to offer the living bread of life to all through worship.

Trenton TeegardenThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Contemporary Music & Worship Arts
Pulaski Heights UMC
Little Rock, AR

Photo: Communion elements are seen on the altar during closing worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2016. The altar design was created by worship visual artist Wendy Marble.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Feast on Jesus

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 19, 2018
Scripture: John 6:51-58

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.
(John 6:56, NRSV)

Devotion

Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? Come and feast on Jesus! Imagine that you were standing among the Jewish people when Jesus spoke this passage from John 6 and he asked those questions. What he said next would shock most anybody. They must have whispered among themselves, “You want us to eat your flesh? Drink your blood?”

What Jesus tells the disciples doesn’t make much sense to them and ends up turning their world upside down. Has this ever happened to you in your daily work as a worship artist? Has someone asked you to do something you just don’t want to do at the time, or to take on a task that doesn’t seem like it will be worthwhile to you?

Jesus says that when we eat his flesh and drink his blood we will abide in him and he will abide in us. Jesus will be with us during all the worship arts endeavors that we enter into and offer in the liturgy.

Prayer

Gracious God, give us the strength to endure the tasks that we may not want to do. Remind us that you will be with us through the hardest situations and the best situations. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Trenton TeegardenThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Contemporary Music & Worship Arts
Pulaski Heights UMC
Little Rock, AR

Photo: Communion elements are seen on the altar during closing worship at Awaken 2017, the Fellowship's convocation held in Little Rock, AR. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Daily Bread Presence

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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 12, 2018
Scripture: John 6:35, 41-51

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
(John 6:51, NRSV)

Devotion

Do you have a daily bread presence?

This week’s Gospel passage reminds us that Jesus is the bread of life, which is given to all who believe in him. This bread is life-giving, intimate, and mysterious.

Bread is symbolic because it is something that is common, accessible, and a constant source of daily nourishment. We find reference to bread in the Lord's Prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread." In the same way that our bodies need food to be physically healthy, our souls must also be nourished and replenished for us to be sustained spiritually.

We receive this bread of life through Jesus' presence with us and through God's Spirit who draws us into an intimate, spiritual relationship.

As worship artists, we experience and share with all who gather for worship this spiritual intimacy through the arts — and, in turn, what we offer also becomes our own daily bread presence.

This bread of life, which is Jesus, works in wondrous and mysterious ways through the arts. It provides in worship, as well as in life, a nourishing connection to God, our Creator.

Prayer

Ever present God, we give thanks that you are always with us, reaching out to be our daily bread presence. Open our eyes, open our ears, and open our hearts that we might know you and love you more. Amen.

Trenton TeegardenThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Contemporary Music & Worship Arts
Pulaski Heights UMC
Little Rock, AR

Photo: Communion bread baked by event participants is seen on the altar during closing worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2017. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Bread of Life

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: August 5, 2018
Scripture: John 6:24-35

Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.
(John 6:27a, NRSV)

Devotion

In the verses of this week's Scripture, Jesus guides the disciples to both think and live in a more meaningful way. The disciples are focused on the present and want instant gratification for what they are asking. They say to Jesus, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" (v.28). In other words, tell us what we must do so we can enjoy the results.

Worship artists are, at times, much like Jesus' disciples — we expect quick results from the work we are doing with our ensembles, teams, and worship services. We too want to see and experience the "fruits" of people encountering God through the means of worship we diligently prepare.

However, most days seem to be filled with staff meetings, budget preparations, selecting music for the next church season, and putting out the latest "fire." The good news is that these tasks are also important to kingdom work that endures. It is important for us to remember that everything we do holds the opportunity of offering the bread of life to the world.

In what ways can you offer the bread of life through your work each day? 

Prayer

Wonderful Maker, we praise you for sustaining us with the bread of life that you provide for us each day. Help us to take the bread of life into our daily routines, so that others may encounter you and come to know you more through us. Amen.

Trenton TeegardenThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Contemporary Music & Worship Arts
Pulaski Heights UMC
Little Rock, AR

Photo: Communion elements are prepared prior to closing worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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