Thursday, September 6, 2012
Worship Recap 9/2/2012
We wound up our Imprint series on Labor Day weekend with a stripped-down service instrumentally. Sometimes, it's just nice to change things up a bit. Tony was the band leader, and he suggested we schedule a few extra vocalists.
It was a vocal extravaganza! It's always a challenge to mix more than two up-front vocalists; we've backed away from a larger vocal group in the past two years in order to focus on building a stronger instrumental team. We've definitely made progress in that area, and it's nice to be able to add a few more singers now. Kevin, Lindsay, Laura and Brenda did a great job; they were all willing to listen to one another, to be patient and use their voices as instruments. Humble spirits and excellent voices - it was a blessing to hear them.
Todd added a great touch on percussion, Tony played guitar and I played piano. John added the perfect touch with his exquisite cello playing. If you've been around PCC for a few years, you might remember John as an electric guitar player. It's been wonderful to watch him transition into a different role, one that requires less time on the stage, but the perfect touch at the right time. Nobody can bring out the beauty of certain melodies like John does with his instrument. It's a blessing.
So we had piano, guitar, a box and a djembe and a cello - and four voices. It was a bit more challenging to manage the energy level, but the greatest benefit was hearing hundreds of voices singing together.
How Great Thou Art This great old hymn is one of my favorites; it's often tagged onto the end of Chris Tomlin's "How Great Is Our God". We chose to reverse the order; initially we planned to do one verse and a chorus, but it was powerful and we felt like people would really be happy to hear it and sing it. We ended up doing three verses. There are a gazillion versions of this song out there, but one I like is by Chris Rice. Find it here.
How Great Is Our God Chris Tomlin has written many timeless songs that resonate with the contemporary church. This is one; the lyric guides us to focus on the majesty of God, and the bridge gives a great opportunity for exuberant worship: You're the name above all names / You are worthy of all praise / My heart will sing how great is our God!
God Is Able A no-brainer for this service, the bridge was one we knew needed to be part of the support for John Ivins' message, since it echoed the scripture he planned to use. This song has become familiar to our church, and it's one that works well for either a male or a female singer. We love this acoustic version.
Revelation Song Again, such a powerful song. Honestly, I wondered how we would pull this song off with only two instruments and some hand percussion. It was humbling to hear how beautifully it worked, simply with voices. It was incredibly powerful.
Beautiful Things seemed to fit the message and the scripture. I'm not sure anybody can match the flawless beauty of the original version, but striving to make it a moment of worship allowed us to focus on simply honoring God with the lyric and the simplicity of the chords and instrumentation. If you haven't listened to all of Michael Gungor's album, I encourage you to spend an hour alone with this music. It is incredibly worshipful, no matter where you are when you listen.
Already There was a bit of a challenge. It was John's pick for the closing song, one that would help bring home the point of the message. The original version is heavily orchestrated - big, loud and powerful. With an acoustic set-up for the service, we decided to strip the song down completely. We actually laughed a bit, because the influences of U2 and One Republic were so obvious in the melody and arrangement of the song (listen to the radio version of "Already There", and then check out U2's "Beautiful Day" and One Republic's "Secrets" and tell me you don't make the connection....) It wasn't so blatant with only a piano, but the song is still infectious.
John's message was vulnerable and transparent and very moving. It was a good way to end the series.
An addendum; a comment on a post from earlier this week suggested that what happens every week at PCC is a production - a show. If I read the comment correctly, the anonymous poster suggests that we are not truly worshiping. I've thought a lot about what might give that impression, and I truly hope that these back stories and explanations of the services are not contributing to the idea that what we aim for is anything other than worship. We believe that prayerful and careful preparation and attention to detail allows us to freely worship; what I share in these "Worship Recaps" is simply the process we go through, some reasoning behind why we do what we do. It may be less interesting than I assumed! I do hope it doesn't imply that we value cool songs over focusing on Jesus. We don't.
We don't always get it right. We do pay attention to production values because of the environment we have chosen to have our services. But let there be no mistake: our primary goal is to worship God and elevate Jesus. We have been given the responsibility to "lead" in this area; we believe we do so best when we lead by example. That's why we do what we do. We are far from perfect, but we believe in the God who was. And is. And is to come.
Looking forward to next week, when Brian Hughes will return with a message about Jesus!
You can watch last week's service here.