Contemporary Worship Service 6/16/2012
The first time I went to the Wooddale Church located off of highway 212 of Eden Prairie, MN was in 2005. I took a client of mine to services on the Saturdays I worked. I have since visited 2 more times on my own. Many years have passed but in recent times as I regain focus in serving God, I have been prompted in my spirit to go and visit again. Low and behold, I understood why God lead me back to this space. When God starts to process you, you need to be obedient to Him when he tells you go! GO! It was not an evening wasted rather it was one of learning about team playing, leadership via the music team as well as understanding the imperfections of life as it is, preached in the sermon. However, the focus of this "blog" is not the preacher or preaching like my previous "blogs", rather the essence of being a devoted member of a music team or leader shown at this place of worship.
I arrived in the parking lot of the Wooddale church at about 4:30pm 6/16/2012. I sat at the wheels and prayed silently, Lord I am here. There were but a few cars in the parking lot. As I approached the entrance of the church, I heard the faint sound of the music as it permeated the walls of the building. Entering into the space I sucked in the sweet energy of the music as it resounded behind the closed doors of the sanctuary. My heart smiled as I thanked God silently for making me come to this place of worship instead of going to an event that a friend had invited me to. There was a lady standing outside in close proximity of the closed door. I looked her way, greeted her and asked her permission to enter the sanctuary. What I experienced beyond those doors was truly a teaching that God wanted me to witness, a peek into what goes on behind the scenes before the service actually happened. I was fortunate to witness that!
I walked into to the room and quietly sat in the 3rd to the last pew. I watched as 10 professional and what seemed a talented group of adults and musicians rehearse on stage in the empty atmosphere of the space. From the sound engineer giving instructions to the lead singer who was reciting a prayer, and the director up front, they all looked poised and composed. There was minimal talking, as members took constructive criticism from their leader whom I came to know later as Miss Denise. She was quick on her feet giving instructions and making changes where needed effectively. Her motions as she honed in on the details and timing in the songs where phenomenal! She would use minimal gestures of a raised hand or a steady voice, as she would briefly sing a tune that needed to be fixed. All that and more I observed as she played the vital role she has been assigned as a leader. Each team member delivered on what was expected of him or her. Everyone appeared to be musically inclined as they read from their music folders and showed a level of professionalism that was very motivating to watch. Per Denise in a later conversation, not all the team member had musical backgrounds as I was thinking. The percentage of members that did not have knowledge of reading music, she would make notes that would assist them and show them how to read certain general notes as they learned by “ear”. Yet, another good example of a good leader!
At least 6mins or so before the service, I would engage in a dialogue with Denise to ask permission to blog about the service. She was very polite and kind enough to stop in her busy tracks to answer questions. She said with sincerity, “sure”. “ I don’t see why you can’t blog about the service, however, if you need more details as to why the service was created and more you may contact my boss about that”. She give me that information and I accepted it. I went on to tell her I am mostly interested in the musical component of the service and how it all comes together so beautifully. She stated that most of the engineering and the putting things into perspective happens at the Tuesday rehearsals that take place from 6:15pm to 9pm and before the Saturday services starting at 4:15pm. To be a member of such an intimate group, she continued you are asked to be a member of the Wooddale Church and have a relationship with Christ! I arranged with her to visit one of the Tuesday practices in my quest to gain an understanding of how other music teams are working behind the scene to make it matter for their church and God’s work. Perhaps I may also find more answers as to why God wanted me to come back to Wooddale after all of these years.
As my brief encounter with Miss Denise progressed, a part of me wished I was part of their team, a part of me wanted to come and learned new ideas and ways of approaching music with a team that appeared focused and determined to create a change in worship not within the confines of what traditional ways of worship are, finally a team that seemed to be in tune with the contemporary musical lingo of our times. That was just a selfish wish. I am already a devoted member of a team of praise and worshippers at The Judahfire Ministries International, City of Praise located in Brooklyn Park of MN. In our quest to combine West African beats and "contemporary worship" music as we raise a multicultural church, my curiosity and the spirit of God lead me back to Wooddale. It was definitely a refresher to come and experience western contemporary music and worship at its peek shown here at Wooddale. If anything I am motivated to learn how and what brings them to this level of excellence in “contemporary worship”. There is no other place I have found in the Twin Cites of MN that can teach you more than this place of worship on this particular topic!
Six minutes later Denise would postpone our conversation to the end of service as the doors opened at 5:03 to allow the public into the house of worship. Folks where already standing outside ready to come in. As they filled the pew, the song “ Your Love…” played silently in the background. A greeting comes on the projector that said, “Welcome to the Wooddale Contemporary Service". The service would start on time at 515. Everyone participating in the service needed not to be told or made aware of the next thing happing on the program. The prayers, preaching and music where concise and to the point! Excellence pure excellence!
I felt like I was at a concert when the praise and worship sections where on. It was as if the heavens had opened and a host of angelic angels had descended to join the team. Where there was glitches in the rehearsal or the song seemed like it wouldn’t work because there was not enough time to perfect it, the songs and their leaders all fell into place. One of the team members said after the service“ I pray a lot before I go up there and than I allow God to do the rest”. Indeed was my thought! Indeed! I resonated with this because it is part of my personal practice as a praise and worshipper. Sometimes no matter how you have trained to get through a process of preparation, it takes a special grace from God to help you get to that place of fully trusting that God would do the rest.
This brings me to talk about a brief caption of the sermon, “ We are not perfect but made righteous through the birth of Christ...” delivered by Pastor Wayne Pederson. Some scriptures that the preacher drew his sermon from were: Phil. 3:12-14, 1John 1:8 and so on. Since the purpose of this "blog’s" goal is not to focus on the preaching, I would just like to note my relationship of this quote to the concept of which I “blog”. The process of making musicians or team members that executed their work effectively at this meeting took some accepting that “we are not perfect” but God can make us perfect! God can allow us to shine in whatever we do if we put Him first and allow His will not ours be done. God can show up right on time when He sees that we are faithful enough to “focus” on the a task as praise and worshipers and be determined to make the best of every opportunity He grants us to usher His people into His presence.
I personally do not know Miss Denise but I do sense that God has bigger plans for her as she is serving diligently in this capacity. From what she acknowledged, she is finishing a degree in music. In this light equipping herself with the knowledge needed by God’s grace to do the work that God has in store for her. Her sensitivity to details and respect for her peers will take her far in this line of Ministry work. She would go to each team members following the service, the engineers, members of the team and the band silently talking to them as they nodded their heads as I observed from a distance. I may not have a lot more encounters with Miss Denise or maybe because who knows what the future holds. But I will certainly take away from this meeting a leader who appeared to be focused in ensuring that the output of the music group would be as near to perfect as God wants and allows it to be! Perhaps she can come and teach our team a thing or two on structure and presentation in how we should approach music as praise and worshippers. We could all feed off of each other’s strengths as we move forward in lifting God’s name in the varied ways that we do because of our different cultural backgrounds and ways of worship.
To you Miss Denise, thank you for being approachable and professional at what you do. I will definitely come and visit again!