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The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts

Sanctus

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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: February 10, 2019
Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.
(Isaiah 6:3b, NRSV)

Devotion

The third verse of this week's Old Testament lesson is the source of one of the oldest hymns in the Christian church. Often paired with Matthew 21:9, these verses together comprise the Sanctus portion of the Roman Catholic Mass. The Sanctus proclaims, "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest." Many beautiful settings of this text have been composed over the centuries, including those by Franz Schubert, Gabriel Fauré, Charles Gounod, and my personal favorite, Lindsay Norden.

The Sanctus is one of the few portions of the Mass that most Protestant churches retain in their liturgies. Occurring as part of the Great Thanksgiving in the service of Word and Table, the Sanctus offers worshippers the rare opportunity to enter into the song of the ages.

In the United Methodist communion liturgy, the Sanctus is preceded by the words, "And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn." In this way, the congregation becomes a part of the communion of the saints, and joins the praise of God that began before the creation of the world and that will continue throughout eternity.

As worship artists, let us consider the creative ways in which we are called to engage all who come to worship to join in this unending song.

Prayer

Eternal God, usher us into the unending hymn of the ages, and make us mindful of the saints who sing with us along life's journey. Inspire us in all that we do to answer, "Here am I; send me!" And when on the difficult road of life we cry, "How long, O Lord," show us glimpses of the eternity prophesied by Isaiah and offered through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Justin AddingtonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music & Worship
St. John's United Methodist Church
Rock Hill, SC

Photo: The Rev. Dr. Alice Rogers celebrates communion during worship at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.     (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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The Gift of Love

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: February 3, 2019
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(1 Corinthians 13:1, NRSV)

Devotion

After reading this week's Epistle text, I would imagine that choirs in many of our churches will be singing Hal Hopson's "The Gift of Love" on Sunday morning. The music library of every single church that I have served over the years included well-loved (and barely held together) copies of Mr. Hopson's simple yet beautiful setting of the love chapter from I Corinthians.

For some churches, "The Gift of Love" is a favorite anthem of children and youth choirs. For others, it is the "easy standard" pulled out on low-attendance Sundays, or when the regularly scheduled anthem isn't quite up to par. And for many, this anthem is the gift of hard work and sacrifice, offered by small but dedicated groups of singers who work for weeks and weeks to perfect the two-part stanza near the end.

It seems that no matter where we are in ministry, or how big our programs are, this anthem is always there serving a specific need. The love of God is exactly the same. God's love and mercy are there for us, no matter who we are or where we are on life's journey. In a world that is desperately hurting and barely holding together, it is the joy and privilege of those of us in worship arts leadership to share the love of God in ways that not only challenge, but also bring about comfort and hope.

How are you showing God's love to others through the gifts of the arts in worship?

Prayer

Loving God, help us to be patient and kind. Remove from us feelings that are envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude. Free us from all irritability and resentfulness, and inspire us to rejoice in the truth. Strengthen us to bear and endure all things, and encourage us to believe and hope in the love that never ends. Amen.

Justin AddingtonThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Music & Worship
St. John's United Methodist Church
Rock Hill, SC

Photo: The Chamber Choir rehearses at Waynesville First UMC during Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.    (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Filled with God's Spirit

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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: January 27, 2019
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

For in the One Spirit we were all baptized into one body ... and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
(1 Corinthians 12:13, NRSV)

Devotion

Epiphany is a season of revelation and seeing Christ in new ways.

The church council was having a hard conversation about the state of a project that wasn't working. They were tired, discouraged, and unsure of how to move forward. The hour grew late. "We need to go home and get some rest," our leader said. "Let's pray that after a good night's sleep we will see things more clearly. We are not sure of the next steps, but we do know we are called to be faithful." We closed our meeting with a plan to meet the following week.

Sometimes as worship artists we cannot see a way forward and things seem bleak. At these times, we can call on the strength of God's Spirit to be faithful and allow the Spirit to reveal the next steps. That night we realized we didn't have to have all the answers, but we trusted that God was with us — a sign of the Body of Christ living in faithfulness and hope.

Prayer

Ever-present God, I know I cannot always see how things will turn out, or what to do next. Help me trust that you are with me in the process. Help me continue to live in hope. Amen.

Norma Lee Kerns BarnhartThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, The United Methodist Church
Consultation, Preaching, Teaching, Retreat Ministry
Rockford, IL

Photo: Storm clouds linger over Lake Junaluska following an afternoon rainstorm at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

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Gifts of the Spirit

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Week of: January 20, 2019
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12:7, NRSV)

Devotion

Star MobileWhen teaching about spiritual gifts in ministry, I often heard people say, "I don't have any gifts." The assumption was if they could do a certain thing, anyone could do it. They didn't see their own gifts as unique. Some needed to explore new areas to find gifts that had been hidden. Gift inventories were an immense help for people to learn about gifts and thus discover ways to serve their church and community.

In one parish, Sherrie helped turn some old window coverings from the parsonage into paraments for the season of Advent. The soft blue fabric hung beautifully in the worship space. When I suggested other visuals, she hesitated, but agreed to look at ideas. She created some of the most beautiful visuals I have ever seen, including a mobile of stars that hung from the ceiling for Epiphany. She loved using her creative gifts; she had just never imagined that her love of fabric and creating things with it were "gifts" that could be used in her church in worship.

As worship artists, we often spend so much time looking for the gifts within others that we forget to be open to the Spirit within us. What do you enjoy doing so much that, while you are doing it, you lose track of time? Perhaps that is God calling you to use your gifts for your church and community.

Prayer

Loving God, guide me so that my gifts can be used for your work, no matter how simple or utilitarian I may think they are.

Norma Lee Kerns BarnhartThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, The United Methodist Church
Consultation, Preaching, Teaching, Retreat Ministry
Rockford, IL

Primary Photo: An altar design crafted by visual artist Les Oliver is shown prior to an evening concert at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.  (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

Inset Photo: The mobile of stars created by Sherrie is seen during Epiphany 2011.  (Photo submitted by Norma Lee Kerns Barnhart.)

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Remember Your Baptism

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Baptism of the Lord

Week of: January 13, 2019
Scripture: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased."
(Luke 3:22b, NRSV)

Devotion

On this Sunday when we remember Jesus' baptism, we also remember our own baptism when we were claimed as a beloved child of God. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can "resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves."

Baptism is our first call to ministry, where we name and face the powers of inequity in our world and bring love and hope to those places. Baptized as infants, as confirmands, or adults, we become a part of the community of faith. We are not alone; our gifts contribute to the community to make the world a better place. Perhaps we have the gift of listening, or the gift of compassion. Our ministry might be just beginning, or it may be changing and growing as we move through the different stages of life. Young or old, we are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to show God's love.

Where is God calling you at this time in your life? This wounded world needs the healing your gifts can give. Remember your baptism. Remember your gifts! Dance, sing, ring, play, act, draw, sew, preach — share your gifts with the world. You are a beloved child of God, a manifestation of God's love.

Prayer

Renew my call today, O God. Show me how to love through the gifts you have given me.

Norma Lee Kerns BarnhartThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, The United Methodist Church
Consultation, Preaching, Teaching, Retreat Ministry
Rockford, IL

Photo: The Rev. Barbara Day Miller pours water into a basin during a worship service at Music & Worship Arts Week 2018.   (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)

 

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Led By the Light

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Epiphany of the Lord

Week of: January 6, 2019
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

... we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.
(Matthew 2:2b, NRSV)

Devotion

Cologne Cathedral Shrine of MagiThe beautiful Gothic Cathedral of Cologne, Germany, was built (1248-1880) to house the bones of the Three Kings. Their shrine is bronze and silver, gilded, and detailed with figures and gemstones – a stunning tribute to the Magi.

As I viewed this celebrated work of art, I wondered: Do I believe the actual bones of the Magi are in this great shrine? I am not sure, but I believe it symbolizes the mystery of those being led to Christ at his birth, who trusted that God was sending hope to a hurting world. Traveling for many months, the Magi, led by the light of a star, found love in a humble stable.

Just as the Magi were led by the light so long ago, we are also led by Christ's light today. In our darkest moments, God's light beckons us to hope, new life, and new ways to live love in our world. As worship artists, we are called to use our gifts to share God's light with every corner of the world. Like the Magi, who "went home another way," our path often changes once we've seen the light.

I believe the Magi were called to give themselves and their gifts to foster a new hope. Like them, we are called to become a part of that mystery of love to our troubled world.

Prayer

Creator God, help us live into the mystery of love, the gift we give to others.

Norma Lee Kerns BarnhartThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Retired Elder, The United Methodist Church
Consultation, Preaching, Teaching, Retreat Ministry
Rockford, IL

Primary Photo: Members of the Federal Way UMC Worship in Motion dance ensemble from Auburn, WA, process during a worship service at the United Methodist 2016 General Conference in Portland, OR.   (United Methodist News Service photo by Maile Bradfield.)

Inset Photo: The Cologne Cathedral Shrine of Magi. By Arminia - File:Dreikönigsschrein im Dom1.JPG, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2237541

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The Peace of Christ

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First Sunday After Christmas

Week of: December 30, 2018
Scripture: Colossians 3:12-17

The peace of Christ must control your hearts. ... The word of Christ must live in you richly.
(Colossians 3:15-16, CEB)

Devotion

On the first Sunday of the twelve days of Christmas, the lectionary provides a segment from one of Paul's letters. This provides a fitting conclusion to our devotions this month, which from the beginning of Advent have centered on several ancient hymns and poetic writing in the scriptures.

The letter to the congregation at Colossae, opening with thanksgiving and prayer, also includes a hymn calling to mind the nature and mission of Jesus — a mission ultimately about reconciliation and peace.

In the letter, Paul urges the church to "sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" with heartfelt gratitude, as tools for transformative teaching. Paul understood that gaining deeper understanding of the pathway of Christ would lead to a more effective living practice of Christ-like discipleship.

Exploring, singing, and reflecting on hymns and songs as scripture is a significant aspect of the work of the people — the liturgy. That work allows room for the peace of Christ to control our hearts and for the word of Christ to live in us richly. May it be so.

Prayer

God of melody and metaphor, stir our hearts and minds to deeper exploration and understanding of the sacred songs we sing, so that we become your instruments of reconciliation 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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A Hymn of Praise

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Week of: December 23, 2018
Scripture: Luke 1:46b-55

In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
(Luke 1:47, 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.

***

As perhaps the most recognizable scriptural song — a canticle — the Magnificat signifies the climax of the Advent season. Known appropriately as "Mary's hymn," this canticle is one of humble acceptance, remembrance, thanksgiving, and praise.

Mary, soon to become the mother of Jesus the Messiah, responds to the affirmation of her cousin Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah, in prayerful verse: "In the depths of who I am ... I glorify and rejoice in God my savior!"

Oh, that our songs, words spoken, visual images, our gestures, and movements might echo the depth of thanks-giving which we hear from Mary! Mary, whose life is being completely transformed to be an instrument of God's hovering Spirit, is an icon to us for steadfastness, humbleness, and service to God in the world.

The Advent question lingers: how might we, through our varied arts, become better magnifiers of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Prayer

God of the past, the present, and future years, we rejoice in your embrace and your never-ending love and grace. Guide us in the ways of mercy and peace, made clear for us in the teaching and living example of your beloved, Jesus.

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 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.

***

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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