Friday, 23 November 2012

Tuning up for rural worship

If you are a worship leader planning music for worship (and some people are asked to do this without any real knowledge of music), if you are a musician or singer involved in leading worship, if you are a church member inspired and excited by music in worship then this conference is for you.
Some churches find it difficult to get singers for a choir, and an organist to play and want  to try new forms of music and singing, some are using electronic accompaniment and want to know more about what is available and how to get the best out of the equipment. The 2013 conference will offer you a chance to discover more. The conference is for anyone involved in the rural church in the Dioceses of Coventry, Gloucester, Oxford and Worcester.
This year Pete Gunstone, Music Director at St Andrew’s Church, Oxford and Andrew Maries the consultant for Liturgy and Music in the Exeter Diocese and who runs the Keynote Trust are planning the conference. Pete and Andrew were recently interviewed  by the Bishop of Dorchester, The Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, who will chair the day.
Bishop Colin: Tell us why you have proposed the theme of music and worship.
Pete: As the music director of a large suburban church, I am very aware that we are in the unusual position of having a large team of musicians who are willing and able to lead the musical aspect of worship effectively. In contrast when I lived in the Lee Abbey community in a rural part of Exmoor I came across many remote rural churches who were experiencing the challenge of providing music for their worship.
Andrew: Working as I do across the Exeter Diocese with its many rural churches and through my work with the Keynote Trust  I encounter many  churches struggling  to find a lone organist or other musician to lead congregational singing. Some are experimenting creatively with the use of CDs and digital hymnals; others are learning to sing unaccompanied, but some have given up altogether and are sad about having done so.
Bishop Colin:  In that case, why haven’t more churches simply abandoned music in worship? Does worship have to include music? Is it really important?
Pete:   Music doesn’t need to be part of every act of worship – quiet, contemplative worship for example – but the Bible does often give us a picture of worship through singing and this is a useful model for us.  For instance, Psalm 95 vs 2 exhorts us to come before God (in the temple) “with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” and this idea is echoed in many of the Psalms.  In the New Testament  the apostle Paul encourages the church in Ephesus (which probably met in homes) to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord”.
Andrew: Music is also important because it connects with three essential elements of worship. It can heighten our experience of the spiritual and it brings us together; enables us to express our identity as the Body of Christ - individual voices become one voice. Music also comes out of different cultures and is an important way of connecting in mission.
Bishop Colin:  Okay so in the light of all this, what is this day conference going to be about, what will you be able to achieve, and why should people come?
Peter:  First of all, we will worship together, to fulfill our primary biblical calling. The conferences have found that many who worship all the time in small congregations really enjoy this experience of a large group worshipping. After this, Andrew will help us to think through the essentials of congregational worship in the context of the local church. We are going to offer a range of workshops from which those who come will be able to choose two.
We are planning workshops around:
  • How to engage the congregation in singing
  • What to do when there is no organist or other musician to lead congregational singing
  • How to lead and mentor musicians & worship leaders in the local church
  • Practical advice and ideas for service leaders who don’t feel they have a wealth of musical experience
  • Music & Mission: exploring the possibilities of choirs and singing groups in the church and local community
  • Developing a more creative approach to the whole worship environment, which might use recorded music, and other means of expressions such as visuals or symbolism.
We are also working on getting some exhibitors to attend with stalls and resources. We hope that people will be encouraged to look for new ways of using music in worship and be inspired to build the Kingdom wherever God has called them.
Andrew: The networking is important too for mutual encouragement, sharing good ideas.
Bishop Colin: Thank you – that all sounds very inspiring. I am really looking forward to being there and chairing the event. Archbishop William Temple rightly said that ‘the local church is the hope of the world.’ In my work in the Oxford diocese I see signs of much hope as do my colleagues in the other dioceses involved in this annual event.  I encourage everyone who is involved in music in church  to come. Even those who know they are not musicians will be able to gain from a day like today. I am sure that all will come expectantly,  willing to be encouraged, equipped and empowered for that fundamental work of building the Kingdom of God in our churches. 
The Song of the People: Music in rural multi parish benefices  is being held on Saturday 26th January at the King's Centre, Oxford.  Cost = £35 per person.  The flier and booking form is available from :

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