I’ve been settling in to a new season of teaching and worship ministry here in Phoenix. One of the most difficult things about leaving Boston, apart from being very far from friends and family, and a city and region I will always love, has been the transition out of leading the contemporary worship at a Church I love with friends and fellow musicians and ministry colleagues who were really refreshing and life giving to me at Park Street Church and also at Anglican Church of the Resurrection. Park Street streams their 4pm service, which is simultaneously enjoying and emotionally taxing; I still really miss the congregation and the season of creative worship and collaboration we had together.
I think this is a good thing. It means that the theology I’ve been writing and studying for the past 4+ years which focuses on Paul’s view of the Church as, not an incidental, ancillary element of salvation but in fact central to the sanctification process, is now proving itself to be true, not merely as a theological idea or theory, but in my own experience as a Christian in the Church. Most recently, in my assisting pastoral role at St. George’s here in Phoenix I have been experiencing a similar sense of good attachment, as I begin to interact with new talented folks who are working with me on the music. It draws me deeper into the body of Christ which, to me, is the whole point.
Last week, when I tuned in to see if my former co-laborer in ministry at Park Street Walter Kim was preaching, and to see if I could spot any of the band members I used to play music with there, I was pleasantly surprised and blessed to hear the band leading the congregation with an arrangement and chorus that I had composed and put together, and which we had all played many times while I was there. It was the old hymn, in a new style “The Church’s One Foundation.” I realized as I was worshiping with them through the computer that this was the first time I was not the one leading the song. Instead, my friend Damon was leading it. I was profoundly moved for many reasons. First, I was moved because the song represents the ethos of the time when I was at Park Street with the band, and is probably the song which most defined the sound we were getting at during that time. It was really encouraging to me to see that it was still useful to my friends there, and that they found it a good vehicle for worship. Second, it reminded me of why I am doing what I am doing in my professorship here at GCU in Phoenix designing courses like Theology of Worship, and leading in the Worship Arts program. All of it is for the local Church. All of it. Without the Church, we are really missing the point. The Church, Paul says in Colossians and Ephesians, is held together and knit together in and by love, such that the members are joined in a bond which leads to perfection, like joints and ligaments in one body. The Church is not incidental, it is central. I’m constantly lecturing on this, writing about this, and exhorting my students in this direction. However, it was really a blessing to once again experience this myself by seeing that an arrangement which represents a time of musical creativity and unity amongst friends at Park Street blessed them, and then came back around to bless me through them.