I can’t imagine worship at Annual Conference in Greater New Jersey without Mark Miller and Tanya Bennett.
Mark Miller is an extraordinary musician who has been leading Annual Conference worship music for more than 8 years or as long as anyone can remember. During that time, Tanya Bennett was the one writing the liturgies, developing meaningful rituals and visuals. Many people in Greater New Jersey find their ministry and worship planning the best part of our sessions. Their ministry speaks to us, builds us up and encourages us.
But sure enough at Annual Conference in Wildwood, Mark and Tanya will not be there. Clergy and laity from throughout the conference will be so disappointed not to see Mark on the platform or read liturgies developed by Tanya. Instead, they’ll see and hear… me.
There, I got it off my chest. I’m vulnerable. See, I’m leading worship in Wildwood (with an amazing GNJ team!) and I just can’t imagine filling Mark and Tanya’s shoes.
It’s hard to imagine new possibilities in worship, definitely at Annual Conference but maybe even more so in our churches. We’ve been focusing recently on endings. Endings are tough. Trying to switch our focus to imagining can be even tougher. Why is it so hard to imagine something new?
Why should we use our imaginations in worship planning? Because worship is the first step to discipleship. Here’s three things to keep in mind.
- Honoring. Just as Mark and Tanya have created a legacy, we have incredible legacies in our local churches and worship experiences. We can imagine new possibilities because of the great inheritance we have received. With our imaginations we can honor that inheritance. I hope that the handprints of our predecessors and traditions will be all over our new expressions of faith and worship.
- Living. Gustav Mahler wrote, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” The world around us is changing faster than any other time in history. It’s affecting each person entering our churches to worship. As worship planners it is our responsibility to continue imagining the times and spaces where our communities are encountering and praising God through worship. Our world and faith must always be living, evolving and fresh.
- Calling. Throughout my transition into worship music at Annual Conference this year, Mark and Tanya have been overwhelmingly supportive. As worship leaders and planners, all of us have the tremendous privilege to connect with, teach, empower and pass on our faith and work to the next generations of disciples of Jesus Christ. By being in dialog with those next disciples and leaders, we can learn a lot. We need to be open to listening to, collaborating with, and eventually passing on responsibilities in worship planning and implementing.
Imagining in worship planning (and in all other areas of church life) isn’t always easy. But it is worth it. Why is using our imaginations in worship important in your context? Share with me here.