Onwards and Upwards – part 3 of Nick Langley’s discovery of Jesus, worship and more
In those early months of the band, generally speaking, I kept my head down. For starters, in the intervening 12 years of enforced musical absence, I’d lost my musical chops, and beyond that, I was still an interloper, an atheist among the good and the great. However, three things began to happen. Firstly, my little hands of concrete, to reference Elvis Costello, gradually began to remember how to play the guitar. That relieved some of the pressure. Secondly, I began to realise that Christians weren’t something to fear. No. In fact, some of ‘em are quite nice really. And thirdly, I began to question, and dare I say it, believe!
I started to enjoy the fellowship of the band and, despite my floundering and incredulity at the lack of organisation, began to actively enjoy participating in worship on Sunday mornings. After a year or so I also started making suggestions. I had recently become a Christian and felt more like a fully fledged band member. At a “whole group” meeting I mentioned the notion of a band rota – not an entirely exclusive rota, but one that aimed to guarantee a “core” band that would enable at least some sort of continuity and consistency in our provision of worship of a Sunday morn. I had recently taken a call whilst on holiday from one of the Worship Leaders effectively begging me to play drums the day after I returned from Cornwall and went on to outline an uncomfortable experience a few days earlier leading worship.
“Me, a bassist and a saxophonist. I’ve been leading worship for 15 years and this was the first time I’ve been embarrassed. I literally cringed my way through the service!”
He named names, but decorum prevents me from repeating them here, obviously. The band idea was accepted universally. Only kidding. At best I’d call it a “mixed” reception: a mix of yes and no! There was already a rota for the Worship Leaders. I suggested we try and ensure that, including whatever instrument the Worship Leader was playing, there was at least one guitarist, one keys player, a bassist and a drummer. At least that way we ought to be able to produce a passable representation of the songs. We could have additional keys players and guitarists, there would still be room for the bevy of flautists, violinists and purveyors of BVs that we seemed to have amassed, but a core band should be able to provide some sort of quality threshold. After much discussion and more emails than you could shake a stick at, the policy was accepted and agreed to.
The only down side I could see was that I felt, as the father of the idea, that I should offer my services as a drummer and bassist, both of which we were woefully short of, and both of which I could competently play, although I was definitely out of my comfort zone.
Another idea which I suggested at the time and which was also eventually accepted, was the cutting edge notion of determining the songs in advance of, not only the service, but the rehearsals that took place three days earlier. Add to that a sequential number to the left of the song’s title (whichever of the three they have cared to use) and Bob, as they say, is your proverbial uncle! No more references to Diane’s knee, no more squinting, no more crab-like sidling, no more crimson faced busking. A simple hand signal, and everyone’s, “in the loop”.
As the months rolled on, the Worship Team started to get used to the rota and song list system, and, dare I say it, we got better: as musicians, as a band, as a team. One of the greatest differences I believe it made was the realisation amongst those out of their teens, was that change wasn’t necessarily bad, or unchristian, or exclusive, that it could actually be a positive thing! Feedback from the congregation bore out that it was the right decision. All service is for God, but on an immediate level, service within the Worship Team is for the benefit of the congregation: a means to enable them to connect with God through music. If we’re doing it badly, why are we doing it at all? Does choosing the band and song list in advance mean that the worship is no longer “spirit led”? I’ve no idea, there’s no reason to believe it isn’t, but one thing I am sure of is: it sounds a whole lot better!
Nick is 46, married with 4 children, a musician, studio engineer and tired. Very, very tired!