Seminary Had No Way of Knowing . . .

For worship . . .

As a trained musician, I have honed my musical craft over a long time. Many years have gone into planning worship, learning how to conduct a choir, educating myself on the latest vocal techniques, and developing plans to inspire greater musical art for the Holy. Many thousands of dollars have gone into educating and training for this endeavor.

One thing is clear — seminary and music training didn’t adequately prepare me for my job. Now, that isn’t a cop out or an excuse. It’s just an explanation.

First, I must be fair. When I was in school, no one had a cell phone (that I knew, anyway.) Digital video, sound, and graphic were very far off in the future. No one could have imagined that the digital age would come so cheaply and that the average person could have affordable access to such technology. Certainly, no one thought that you could use your cell phone to create digital art, usable for most applications. Seminary training often doesn’t provide a practical application for ministry but in this case, and to be fair, they weren’t passing time in their ivory towers.

We all had no idea this is where worship would be . . . well, except for maybe Leonard Sweet — but that’s another blog for another time.

Back in the day, music was something you ordered for your choirs after talking with friends and going to a reading clinic. Today, for the most part, musicians search digitally high and low . . . and what their friends tell them and if they’ve attended a reading clinic somewhere. Music comes from computers (or an iPhone) . . . or that is the way it gets delivered to us. And, you have to manage a band, orchestra, and choirs.

I lead worship on an iPad . . . who in seminary would’ve thought.

This light-speed movement toward technology has meant that musicians (and anyone on a church staff) has had to expand their knowledge base into areas 20 years ago one could only dream of. Not only have we become leaders of the musical life of the church, we’ve probably had to be the technical consultant on the sound board, learn audio production techniques for studio recordings, understand video editing for worship films, have a grasp of electronic equipment that will be around the building, create podcasts of the minister’s sermons, learn to compose music on a computer for instrumentalists, and be the tech go to guy for computer issues. Admit it, my music director friends, you do all or some of these.

To adequately serve the congregation and choirs I am in ministry with, I must have a wide ranging set of tools to use — including what digital art is acceptable in worship. These must be equally applicable and usable on worship screens, bulletins, podcasts, plasma TV screens, CD covers, and film stock. And, I have to lead a team of people to develop and execute the way these are used for worship and beyond.

So much for that counterpoint class helping me with this stuff.

To be truthful, I fail at design ideas more than I succeed. But, I give thanks for a very understanding congregation who is willing to let me try and bring worship in a fresh visual way and —

  • one that gives praise to the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.
  • one that honors, celebrates, and uses the past but also is visually attractive and inviting to those who have never been in a United Methodist Church. Or, for that matter, even in a church period.
  • one that assists and enhances the word proclaimed by the Senior Pastor.
  • one that gives the best chance for the congregation to interact and attend to the needs of the community and beyond.

It’s all for the glory of God — no matter what new things have to be learned.

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