I am still recovering my weekend with the crazy talented musicians at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s Annual Musician Training. The goal of the training is to teach us songs from around the world, and then arrange teams of musicians together to lead music for various ELCA events throughout the year. I have so many thoughts about this weekend in Chicago, but here are some highlights:
Talented Musicians! My friend Jaron introduced me to an amazing group of musicians, and I was so thankful to spend time getting to know them. In fact, everyone there was an amazing musician. It was great to talk to people who were very free-spirited and creative. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in that environment and I felt a little unsure about myself, but they were very welcoming!
Diverse Worship Experiences. I’m always so thankful to be exposed to many different kinds of worship leading. My favorite was a devotional time led by the director of the program, Sunitha Mortha. She is a contemplative and an amazing worship leader. She led us in singing, dancing, praying, and silence (do you know how hard it is to lead silence??). I was inspired by her vulnerability and absolute transparency in leading us in the Holy Spirit. Jaron also led a time of leading worship in American Sign Language, which was simple but extremely beautiful.
Ariel Luckey. Ariel is a talented spoken word, rapper, storyteller, and performer. He led us through his journey in finding his family roots, stating that “research is a pilgrimage.” He was able to connect his story to that of Jewish persecution and oppression and then later to the persecution and oppression of undocumented citizens in America. It was a powerful piece, and the day after he led us in a discussion of race. It was intense and barely scratched the surface, but I was so grateful to have this addressed.
Content. I was really struck that this event was about teaching musicians, yet space was created to process through redefining mission. The leaders took the time to break down the theology of their definition of mission, which was summarized as “accompaniment:” mutuality, vulnerability, inclusivity, empowerment, and sustainability with others. They broke down the “us” vs. “them” mentality, and it was refreshing to hear mission described in this way. It also validated the fact that musicians are content providers, and therefore we need to learn the content. It’s surprising to know that most of the time musicians don’t really know what they’re playing/singing, nor are they expected to know. But space was created to wrestle with these concepts together.
I’m so grateful for this inspiring weekend, and I look forward to pairing up with ELCA again soon!