We talked to people who plan worship in RCA churches. Here’s what they told us about the role worship plays in the spiritual life of their churches.
The honey-soaked tenor, the steady rumble of the bass, the decadent drizzle of a descant, the precise glide of an alto just below the surface of a familiar hymn. Every part sounds different, but they come together to form one song.
One Church, a new RCA Today feature, brings together the harmonies being sung around the RCA. In each issue, we’ll explore how six different people or churches approach one area of ministry. (We know, we know. There are actually seven people this time. It will normally be six, promise.) The RCA’s mission says that, as a denomination, we’re a thousand churches in a million ways doing one thing—following Christ in mission, in a lost and broken world so loved by God. Through this new feature, we want to highlight the diverse ways RCA members and churches are following Jesus.
This time, we talked to people who plan worship in RCA churches. Here’s what they told us about the role worship plays in the spiritual life of their churches.
Coordinator of worship and praise
First Reformed Church
Orange City, Iowa
First Reformed is the first church Amanda Haverdink has worked at that has its own brass quartet—and the first without an electric guitarist. For Haverdink, more important than the instruments or the style of music are the words: “It’s about if the words speak into the service and reflect the Lord. It doesn’t matter if the song was written two days ago or 200 years ago. We want words that are theologically sound, God-honoring words,” she says. “We have a multigenerational congregation. … I can trust that the Lord is going to lead me to the worship songs people need to sing.”
Minister of worship and arts
St. Thomas Reformed Church
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
It was an adjustment, Chanelle Schaffer admits. Her last church was in New York City and had Broadway singers in the choir. This one was a traditional church on a small Caribbean island. But Schaffer knew God was calling her. She has worked with the church to start drama and dance ministries and has begun mixing in different styles of music—gospel and contemporary and jazz. “We’re trying to find ways that everyone can come to the table and be fed,” Schaffer says. “Art leaves room for everyone in worship to receive what they need to receive.”
Brighton Heights Reformed Church
Staten Island, New York
The cast of Sister Act 2 would have been proud. Last Christmas, the youth choir from Brighton Heights Reformed delivered a contagiously enthusiastic rendition of “Joyful, Joyful,” complete with powerhouse soloists, choreography, and rap interludes. Many of the 100 or so young people at the church are already involved in worship through youth choir or orchestra. Some of the high schoolers also help train the younger members. “We believe God has gifted us with these kids so that we can cultivate their leadership and involve them in the service, not just on a youth Sunday but every Sunday. We’re all learning from one another,” Alfred Correa says.
Karl Digerness and Minna Choi
Director of worship arts and choir director
City Church of San Francisco
San Francisco, California
At City Church, Karl Digerness writes original music, Minna Choi composes all of her own choral arrangements, and the worship band features professional musicians. Yet the style is purposefully understated—Choi describes it as “folk jazz” and wants it to be accessible. “There’s a scriptedness to our services, so that anyone who walks in will never be lost,” she says. Original songs are always balanced with familiar ones. “Those are the songs my kids will remember 50 years from now,” says Digerness. “If they’re going to be ‘heart songs’ for people, I want them … to express people’s doubt and love, and to be able to hold and comfort them on their deathbed.”
Christ Memorial Reformed Church
Though she’s not the pediatric surgeon she once imagined, Breanna Chapman thinks “worship is its own kind of healing.” There’s this moment in worship, she says, when people realize that “no matter what they’ve been through … God is still there and can forgive them.” To share this message with as many people as possible, Chapman uses technology to communicate with visual learners and auditory learners in different ways. She has also introduced gospel influences to Christ Memorial. “Each of us on the worship team comes from a different background, but we can create something new together.”
Iglesia Longview (Longview Community Church)
Carlos Robles asked to join the praise ministry at his church when he was just 11 years old.
People tried to tell him he was too young, but he didn’t give up. Now, working at a church with both English and Spanish services, Robles sees the value in different ways of doing worship. “The Latino service is more energetic and with more intensity. The way that we Latinos express our worship is very effusive,” Robles says. “In the service in English, it is quieter. … At times, there are silences that fascinate me. I have learned … to enjoy and know God also in silence and calm.”
*Interview was conducted in Spanish and translated into English.