|Global Music Teaches Church About Faith and Cultures|
by Andrew J. Schleicher*
Fort Worth, TX, May 2, 2008--Music at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference reflected the increasingly global nature of the denomination and taught the delegates about their own cultural diversity.
Mark Miller, director of music at Drew Theological School, Madison, N.J., was responsible for the music, working with Marcia McFee, the director of worship for the General Conference. The Commission on General Conference selected Miller and McFee for their roles based on their skills and experience throughout the United Methodist connection.
Miller views his job as that of "helping the church in directing a new way of worship." A resident of Plainfield, N.J., he regularly leads music across the denomination.
An ensemble of singers and a small band assisted Miller and McFee. One singer, DeLyn Celec, has worked on and off with Miller for the last seven years. Drummer Mike Riddleberger and guitarist Christopher Heckert have played with Miller since the 2000 meeting of the Northeastern Jurisdiction Conference. Heckert, a clergyman, is associate general secretary for communications of the General Board of Global Ministries. Other participating music team members include a Korean American and one person originally from Trinidad.
The diversity of the people contributed to the diversity of the music, observed Celec, a freelance consultant for worship and music. She and the rest of the group led songs from South America to Africa to all the varieties of cultures within North America. The music and lyrics could not be considered either "traditional" or "contemporary"--they were international.
"We already know how amazing it is to sing and learn about other cultures," Celec added. "The way the songs are played tells us about the cultures from which they come."
Miller names "Siyahamba" as an instructive hymn. "It connects us with a struggle," he says, explaining that the song comes from the struggle in South Africa during the time of apartheid. "When our band does it, it lifts you out of your seat."
"It's been a blessing to lead the church," Miller said. "May this music be a blessing as well."
Several of the songs used at General Conference are from a new book entitled For Everyone Born. (Read New Music for Worship For Everyone Born: Global Songs for an Emerging Church.) The songbook is a gift to the 2008 General Conference from the General Board of Global Ministries' Global Praise program. At each of the last three General Conferences, the board has provided delegates with a collection of songs from around the world.
Global Praise was created in 1993 "to gather, receive, and share the songs of Christians around the world," according to For Everyone Born's editors, Chris Heckert and Jorge Lockward, who was a lay delegate this year to General Conference from the New York Annual Conference. "Today the Global Praise program makes available songs, prayers, and stories of Christian communities to the whole Church through resources like this one," Heckert said.
Miller and his band are featured on a CD of For Everyone Born. The songbook and CD were "created to make global music accessible to worship planners," said Heckert.
The book is more than just music. It also contains commentary and history. Alongside each song are three sections on the context, the song, and "the prayer."
General Conference is the first event to use For Everyone Born. "It really has a different feel than past General Conferences," Heckert said. The hope is that all who joined in the worship at the event in Fort Worth will take the experience of the global cultures with them to their home churches and conferences.
*Freelance journalist Andrew J. Schleicher is a member of the General Conference communications team for the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: May 02, 2008