Associational Music School – Renewal through Participation
I spent last week serving as clinician for the adult choir singers’ section of the 34thAnnual Music School for the Watauga Baptist Association in Elizabethton, Tennessee. In keeping with the intended theme of this blog site I want to reflect on some of the dynamics of the “school” and hope to prod your thinking regarding the value of bringing believers who serve their individual churches in worship & music ministry together for the purpose of growing in their ministry of worship leadership. Understand that these dynamics are really the same fundamental elements that drive me in ministry in our state convention connections at every level; associational, regional, statewide, and connecting with national ministry partners. I realize it is unusual to see a so-called music school for an association of Baptists. In fact, to my knowledge Watauga has the only one of its kind in Tennessee and among my colleagues from other states I have never heard of another like this anywhere in any of the states. I am not necessarily looking to prompt associational music schools all across our state (though that may be appropriate for some), but I am enthusiastically promoting the value of coming together with other Baptist churches to foster the valuable benefits (blessings) as indicated below. Note: while ecumenical gatherings of similar nature have their own extended benefits, there is a uniqueness to the value of gathering within the Baptist doctrinal and philosophical emphases (this deserves another separate essay and discussion). Consider these observed results – blessings from the events of this week-long gathering of church musicians in East Tennessee:
- Expanded musical experience within a setting that encouraged non self-indulgent effort (for some the music stretched them beyond what they might do in their church choir, for others they stretched to revisit more basic components of music-making and used their efforts to encourage others)
- Stirred fellowship among believers – some meeting new people, others recalling relationships with those they only see on such occasions as this music endeavor
- Expertise of multiple leaders – music ministers from participating churches were busy lending their gifts of musical talent and leadership skills in a variety of applications – preparing and directing instrumentalists, playing their own instruments, leading classes for children and youth, singing with the mass choir, leading their voice sections.
- Modeled demonstration of cooperation and service in Gospel ministry. The fellowship among leaders was palpable throughout the whole week and thus beyond those five days. Mutualized edification was the order of the week.
- Sense of spiritual renewal among participants – this was an oft-repeated evaluation comment from singers and players and was reflected in support, and in the opening prayer at the final night’s presentation by the Associational Director of Missions, Jack Roddy.
- Bonding of Shared Ministries as several local senior pastors sang in the choir and spoke narration for the event – what a wonderful affirmation for worship leaders and all church musicians to be joined in this endeavor by those who practice what they preach
- Readiness for joint ministry and mission – should a ministry or mission need arise in the broader association community, this group of saints have been equipped (Eph 4:11) and ready to come together to share their music in response as appropriate
While there are churches in our associations who may not sense they “need” events such as this, feeling they can construct events more particular to their own church, it is important to recognize that such offerings lack the core value of mutual edification among churches that are central in an event such as this one. I was richly blessed through the privilege of serving alongside the Music Ministry leaders of Watauga Baptist Association. May their tribe increase!