Grow!

Nov_Grow_Blog

Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Week of: November 19, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30

For to all those who have, more will be given ...
(Matthew 25:29a NRSV)

Devotion

“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

YIKES! That doesn’t feel good, does it? But, what if … just what if, God has already innately given everyone what they need to thrive, and given it to them in abundance? If we are truly made in God’s image, and called supremely good by God — what if we have all we need to thrive and grow in the world already? What if we have already been given the conditions in which growth is possible?

Could it be that God intends for us to take the talents we’ve been given, in whatever measure we have them, and develop them for the further realization of God’s dream for us and for creation? And, as worship artists, are we not called to create the space for others' talents to be used, grown and multiplied? We are the ones who are called to help others develop their talents, so when that day comes, God will say to us and to those whom God has entrusted to us, “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

Prayer

God, you have given us so much, all that we need, and for that we are deeply grateful. Help us to be the people who carve out space for the growth of the talents of others. Amen.

Michael DautermanThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Executive Minister of Worship and Arts
Grace Avenue United Methodist Church
Frisco, TX

 

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Be Ready!

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Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost

Week of: November 12, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13

And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came ...
(Matthew 25:10a, NRSV)

Devotion

The gospel blues song, “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning,” often springs to mind when I encounter this parable. Attributed by many scholars to Texas bluesman Blind Willie Johnson, his original recording paints a vibrant picture of this scripture! Indeed, we must be ready, for Jesus comes to us in surprising and unexpected ways.

In the month of November it is easy to get so wrapped up in preparations for Advent that we can miss out on what God is doing in the world right now. Even though we are busy looking to the future, Jesus continues to work in the world through us in the present. The Spirit continues to guide us in our worship artistry and God’s dreams for the world continue to be realized! Therefore, we must not neglect attending to the means of grace in our lives, lest we be too busy, or so sleepy, that we miss a holy visitation.

May we remain awake to welcome the bridegroom as we feed those who hunger, give water to those who thirst, clothe those who are naked, and visit those who are imprisoned.

Prayer

Jesus, we know that you are always amongst us and that your reign breaks out in the most surprising and sometimes scandalous ways. Help us be awake to your presence! Amen.

Michael DautermanThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Executive Minister of Worship and Arts
Grace Avenue United Methodist Church
Frisco, TX

 

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Finding Meaning

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All Saints' Sunday

Week of: November 5, 2017
Scripture: Revelation 7:9-17

... I looked, and there was a great multitude, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages ...
(Revelation 7:9, NRSV)

Devotion

All Saints’ Sunday provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on death, the afterlife, those who have gone before us, and the tenuous relationship between this life and the next. As worship artists we have a unique role in this regard, as we create space that allows for a fuller exploration of these universal themes. It’s an exploration that includes words, but also holds a mystery that transcends them.

My family (perhaps yours as well) has been touched by death in profound ways this year, especially in the loss of a patriarch in our family, my father-in-law. His was a “bigger than life" personality, and it is only in his passing that I understand that phrase in a fuller way. In the days following his passing I didn’t want to make art, but I felt compelled to do so: not to give understanding, but to find expression — and meaning. I found meaning in his life and in his death through art, especially in worship, as old forms of worship came alive to me in new ways.

Often we have no idea who our art in worship touches; but make no mistake, it does touch people in deep and profound ways. Through our art we can transcend the differences that constrain us — differences of tribes, and nations, and peoples, and language. Don’t hold back from giving this great gift to those around you in worship on this important day!

Prayer

God of all life, you made every person and called them not just good but supremely good. Help us remember that there is nothing, not even death, that can separate us from your love. Amen.

Michael DautermanThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Executive Minister of Worship and Arts
Grace Avenue United Methodist Church
Frisco, TX

 

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God-Pleasing Worship

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Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: October 29, 2017
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

… but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the Gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.
(1 Thessalonians 2:4, NRSV)

Devotion

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

The children of Action Ministries’ after-school program shone with pride and joy as they sang their hearts out as part of our church’s Christmas pageant. These children, many of whom were new to worship, radiated with excitement to offer their very best to God.

Disclaimer: This was not the most technically proficient singing I have ever heard. It was, however, some of the most beautiful.

Deep beauty lies in giving the best we can with the fullness of our bodies and souls. There is, of course, value in creating worship that “pleases mortals” – the kind of grand worship that aims to achieve artistic and technical brilliance. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t strive for excellence in all we do!

However, there is also value in reflecting on more than the aesthetic value of our worship. 

Sometimes the most pressing question is, “How does our worship please God?”

May we strive in our planning and our worship to please God as we offer our best gifts. 

Prayer

God of joy, enliven us with a desire to offer praise that is pleasing to you. Help us to bring our very best to the glory of your name. Amen.

Michael DautermanThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Worship Arts
Grace United Methodist Church
Atlanta, GA

 

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Nourishing Worship

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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: October 22, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
(Psalm 96:1, NRSV)

Devotion

As a child, I was a picky eater. I stuck to a “cheese and anything that went with cheese” diet. Thankfully, I met someone who helped me broaden my culinary horizons, so now my plate takes on a lot more color.

What does your church’s worship arts palette look like? Is it full of different “spiritual foods?” I often think about the popular image of worship as a church potluck. While we will never like 100% of the items on the table, if everyone brings their best there’s sure to be something to please everyone. We should always have the opportunity to try that new hymn or way of praying that encourages us to discover God anew.

God can also sing new songs in familiar places. A standard liturgy or beloved doxology can provide the space to breathe in what God has to offer that day.

Whether it is a familiar rhythm of worship or trying a new hymn with an unfamiliar melody, we must always consider how we are nourishing our congregations.

Prayer

Creating God, cause new life to stir up in us so that we may sing a new song to you. Give us the courage to do a new thing or find the new in the old so that our worship of you includes a reflection of the ever-evolving world around us. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Michael DautermanThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Worship Arts
Grace United Methodist Church
Atlanta, GA

 

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Don't Worry About It

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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: October 15, 2017
Scripture: Philippians 4:1-9

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
(Philippians 4:6, NRSV)

Devotion

We’ve all heard those words spoken in a moment of trouble – “Don’t worry! Everything will work out.” Most of us have uttered these words, too, when unsure how to react to challenging situations in the lives of our loved ones. While we know these platitudes come from a place of empathy, we also know that anxiety and worry are hard feelings to overcome.

Tough though it may be, one of our responsibilities as worship artists is to aid others in bringing their own struggles and burdens to God through prayer. Through spoken word, song, dance, and visual arts, we can create environments of sanctuary and peace that orient the hearts of our congregants away from anxiety and toward the Holy One. Through our preparation for worship, we also bring our own concerns to God and turn them into liturgies, hymns, and prayers of thanksgiving in which our communities share.

It may not be possible to end our worrying altogether. But, through creativity, we can turn our worrying into heartfelt prayer.

Prayer

Providing God, give to us the peace of knowing your abiding presence in all that we do. Help us to calm the hearts and minds of those we meet so we may work to do your will. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Michael DautermanThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Minister of Music and Worship Arts
Grace United Methodist Church
Atlanta, GA

 

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The 'Fruit' of Worship

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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: October 8, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 21:33-46

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be ... given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.
(Matthew 21:43, NRSV)

Devotion

If your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, you’ve seen “The Perfect Worship Service.” It’s a clever little meme featuring some frequent critiques of worship services. Does this sound familiar?

The Perfect Worship Service“More fast songs in the opening praise time and more slow songs in the opening praise time.” “More of those wonderful, lovely old hymns and less of those stupid, dead old hymns.” “Songs to be sung in higher and lower keys.”

It’s no secret that people have strong feelings about how worship “should be.” And, more often than not, the comments that we receive as leaders of worship center on the aesthetic. Our congregations want what they want – familiarity, beauty, quality.

All of these are perfectly legitimate, even admirable, desires. But worship quality does not exist for its own sake. Rather, when we strive to achieve aesthetic beauty or thematic coherence, we do so with the aim of orienting our congregations toward God. We strive to bear fruit.

The hard reality for worship leaders is that sometimes what we want to hear and what we need to hear are different. Let us ask not merely, “What will my congregation like?” but, “What does my congregation need in worship in order to bear fruit?”

Prayer

Nurturing and challenging God, give us the courage to offer you worship that produces the fruit of your kingdom. Amen.

Calissa DautermanThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Creative Worship Director
The Table Atlanta
Atlanta, GA

 

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Looking, But Not Seeing

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Week of: October 1, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 21:23-32

For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
(Matthew 21:32, NRSV)

Devotion

Jesus knew the truth: we often experience talent, faith, and dedication in the places we least expect it.

Each week, I recruit liturgists to assist with worship leadership. I have a list – full of familiar, dependable people, from whom I know exactly what to expect. And, I am grateful for those talented and faithful servants. But, I rely too heavily on them. Too frequently, I turn to my list before inviting someone new to participate.

As congregational leaders, God charges us to be attentive to the people we serve. Too often, though, we become so comfortable with our routines that we miss opportunities to involve new people, discover hidden talents, and show love by entrusting others with the important work that is worship.

This week, take the time to get to know someone new in your congregation. How might they bring their gifts to worship? Who else might have gifts and talents to offer? Who are you not inviting?

You may find new life where you least expect it.

Prayer

God of surprises, make us bold to encounter you in new ways and in new faces. Give us a spirit of invitation that our worship may reflect the gifts of all who gather with us. Amen.

Calissa DautermanThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Creative Worship Director
The Table Atlanta
Atlanta, GA

 

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Journeying

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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