C19 : A Creative Opportunity for the Church. A Musicians Perspective.

For me 2020 came out of the starting blocks like an olympic sprinter. From early January I was leading worship at event after event and finding my diary for the year filling up fast. I was starting to label months as being “FULL” on my calendar in my attempt to keep my ministry/home life balance. I’ll be honest I love doing what I do, leading corporate worship and spending time in the presence of God with gathered groups is something I feel like God has made me to do. If I’m really honest there was a part of me that was proud to be so busy doing the ‘Lord’s’ work. 

And then March came and Covid 19 crashed into our lives like a great big wrecking ball and suddenly my ‘FULL’ diary is very empty and I genuinely don’t know when I’ll lead worship in a room full of people again. I do miss it, but I’m finding that there is an incredible opportunity in the midst of this storm to recalibrate, to reevaluate and to find something new. So here’s a musicians perspective on this opportunity that we all have in the coming weeks and months… 

We can tune our ear to a different melody… 

In a recent conversation with one of my care home colleagues (I work 2 days a week as a music therapist) she remarked that they hadn’t realised how noisy their chickens were in their garden. “It’s maybe because we’re home more or maybe because there’s less traffic but I had never noticed how noisy they were!” I commented too that we had noticed that with less traffic on the road, the birds in the trees around our house seemed louder. You see when the hustle and bustle stops, we tune into a different song. What is God saying to you in this time? Or maybe what song has he been singing all along that you were too busy to notice? 

We can find a new rhythm 

Suddenly our diaries went from FULL to …empty. The tempo from 120bpm to 60bpm? For me continuing to work and homeschool children makes my midweek still feel like I’m running to a click of at least 100. But there is a different rhythm to it all  and I have to say I quite like it. Normally our weekends would include worship events, church, football, hockey… now we have time to linger on the phrases of life a little bit longer. Breakfast is a little bit later and might run into lunchtime. There is now an opportunity for quality in how we connect both as a family and with our father God. It feels more gentle, a bit more like a waltz than a reel. Some of us might still be reeling from the shock of the transition and are taking time to adjust to the new tempo. I’d encourage you to embrace it, it’s an opportunity to enjoy simpler things. 

There’s a new type of harmony 

COVID-19 and the indiscriminate nature of how it spreads has shown us the frailty of our humanity. It has demonstrated that we all need our Saviour Jesus Christ and more over it has shown us that we are all in this together. Suddenly big churches, small churches we all have to find to a way to be the ‘church’ without going to ‘church’. What an amazing opportunity to show Christ’s love to those around us.  And what a great time to pull together as the ‘Church’ and demonstrate unity. Unity is the greatest chord we could ever strum when the world is so full of fear. 

Embrace the space 

Don’t fill your room with Zoom but embrace the space! Much of what we call ‘worship’ music, what we’re used to hearing in our churches on Sunday mornings, is improvised in nature. The melody, lyrics and harmonic progressions are set but the individual parts of the band are often improvised around the structure of the song. When I’m training church musicians I often say that one of the fundamental rules of playing in a church band is not to overplay. It’s often the sign of an inexperienced worship band when everyone plays or sings all of the time without appearing to be listening to each other. The result is a muddy mix where actually no-one can be heard properly and our ears get tired of hearing the same sound continually. Musicians who play in ensembles of any kind need to learn when to play and when not to; when to rest and when it is their moment to sing out. Choosing your moment to fill the musical space will mean that there’s much more chance of being heard. This season that we’re in- it’s new, we’re all improvising, mostly around existing structures. The temptation is to fill the space with content and the result might just be a clamour of cymbals rather than a symphony of love. We must embrace the technology that has been given to us for such a time as this but we must also be allowed to sit in the space of silence and learn how to connect with our Father God in our own way. As with all music, it’s all about balance. 

The platform and the pews are gone 

Another common mistake in an inexperienced worship band is not knowing your role and function within the band. For example the keys player who likes to add a bass line but doesn’t leave space for the bass player or the backing vocalist who acts like they are the lead singer and so on. The band works best when everyone knows their role and is given the space in the music to fulfil that role. The body of Christ operates at its fullest when we’re all fulfilling our God given calling and ‘role’ within that body. This virus has quite literally taken away the platform and the pews. We are all members of the body and we have been moved out of the ‘box’ (or in our case the building). This season has the potential to turn on its head well established roles and expectations in the church. I would suggest that it is an opportunity for those normally in the pews to explore what ‘being’ the Church of Christ looks like in their homes and communities and even online. 

Connection is everything 

If I was to sum up my job as a music therapist in one word it would be ‘connection’. My overarching aim in my work is to connect through music with my clients who struggle due to illness or disability to connect meaningfully with those around them. As music therapists we’re trained to seek and prioritise quality interaction and do everything we can to set up our sessions to enhance connection. We are in a world right now where people are seeking connection- of the  deep and meaningful kind. They are looking for connection with others but I’d suggest the deeper need is their connection to God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our online activities- whatever they may be, should prioritise quality connection. Fellowship with the body of Christ and true fellowship with God. He is bigger than C19 and I have sensed his presence in my living room as strong as I have in a crowd of a 1000 worshippers. He is near, let us draw near to him.