Today’s post is written by Matt Nightingale, Director of Worship Ministries at Redeemer Covenant Church in Tulsa, OK, along with many friends from the Better Together group on Facebook.
One week ago today, the Covenant’s annual Midwinter Conference ended. I’ve been attending for twelve years now, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I have to connect with friends and colleagues from all over the country. In 2001, I was new to full-time ministry and new to the Covenant. I had inexplicably booked my flight to land at Midway Airport, so – not realizing what a distance I had to go – I dragged my luggage onto the nearest train and rode for what seemed like hours all the way up to O’Hare. By the time I (literally) walked across the highway and into the conference center, I was late to the first worship service. But even before I went to my room I stepped into the back of the room and what I saw was wondrous to me: a vibrant tapestry of people from many different ethnic backgrounds, worshiping in different styles and languages. And while it took a few more years for me to feel fully “part of the family,” I was immediately drawn into this wonderful family of believers.
Today I’m a commissioned Covenant pastor, and one of my favorite things to do is connect with other worship leaders at Midwinter. I’m an extreme extrovert, and for me, almost every minute is spent talking, running, laughing, crying, sharing, making music, worshiping and – of course – eating with my friends. This last week was no exception. I came home physically exhausted but so emotionally full.
Today in the Better Together forum, I asked Midwinter participants to share about their experiences, and with their permission I’m sharing some of their responses:
Jeanette Conver: “Being directed by Sid and singing Jesus is a Rock in a Weary Land was a highlight! It truly felt like we were embodying the message as we sang!”
Rick Lindholtz: “ANY time Sid is directing a choir at a Covenant gathering, I will be in the bass section… the worship and the preaching at Midwinter set a new standard for excellence…”
Jen McDonald: “The choir piece was fantastic and deeply moving. You all did an awesome job.”
Sarah Monson: “That there are many, many fantastically gifted, talented, passionate and gracious people in our denomination. Just love serving with you all!”
Andrew Thompson: “Thanking God for the creativity, colleagues and shared mission.”
Scott Austin: “I came away glowing with joy at being part of the Covenant. What a wonderful group of people.”
Julie Chamberlain: “Biblical and anointed preaching by Mark Labberton (Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning), Kanyare Eaton and Sameh Maurice was the highlight for me. In fact, Sameh’s been preaching to me all week — just can’t shake that one! I am praying in a whole new way because of his message. And the open-mic night…just blown away. Such a great night of glorifying God through the gifts of His people. So many incredible songs — songs I would do in my church THIS Sunday or download from iTunes in a heartbeat — and they were written and performed by my Better Together friends! You guys are amazing!! And then, yeah – just being together. I’m with Scott Austin – glowing with joy at being part of the Covenant!”
Susan Gillespie: “I choose the music for worship in my church… I don’t have the kinds of gifts that are so fulsome in this group, but I learn so much just being around you all, about the kinds of things that motivate ‘music people’ and how you all like to work, and to see things in new ways from the point of view of a very different gift set. I am thankful!”
Elizabeth McColl: “Very much enjoyed playing this year. We all know what it takes to put the worship sessions together and it was so good to be part of a team of all worship leaders.”
Chris Logan: “We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention open mic night … Amazing evening of diverse talents!”
Dru McLeland: “ I appreciated looking at the book of Ruth through the hermeneutic lens of the immigrant. Oh, and more rap music! Loved it at the open mic.”
Melchizedek Lockwood: “I enjoyed Glenn (Kaiser) very much, very inspiring experience at workshops & open mic…meeting you guys was great, came home refreshed…overall awesome.”
Dan Whitmarsh: “I was glad to see our president encouraging the reintroduction of liturgical dance into our worship repertoire.”
Chad Benkert: “I think all of Thursday night was a highlight, great message, amazing choir piece and communion. Then after all that was open mic night. It was great to hear the music that God put on different people’s hearts. I could easily say that was one of my top highlights. (It even beat out the amazing sushi we had!)
Danny Martinez: “The Midwinter band was excellent, the preaching was outstanding, the worship seminar was awesome, and of course, the fellowship! Glenn Kaiser, Jenny McDonald, Jay Phelan, Geoff Twigg, just awesome.”
Jen Lowe: “Gary’s reminder that there’s a reason ministry is a call not a preference hit home for me this year. I appreciated the abundance and variety of instruments during worship, including the vocal gifts of the choir. All the speakers were incredible and touched my heart in different ways. And it’s always so life-giving to see my friends and meet new ones.”
Tabatha Mason: “Sameh Maurice’s word to pray like crazy and story of the man who had seen Jesus when asked before baptism if he was ready to give his life for Jesus if that’s what it took, “If you had seen Him, you never would have asked me that question.” So beautiful.”
Daniel Johnson: “Mark Labberton’s unpacking of Daniel, putting it into our context in the church today, and how we tend to follow the “mesmerizing rhythms” of the culture around us rather than stay true to God, as Daniel and his friends did, even as they served in the highest levels of Babylonian government. Also Sameh Maurice’s three points: Begin with love, pray like crazy, and THEN share the truth of Jesus. Too often we tend to operate in reverse in our Evangelical fervor to get people to “go to heaven” if they die tonight…”
Tim Coyer: “Tuesday night, hearing the strings with ‘All the Poor and Powerless’ was one of my favorite moments.“
Glenn Kaiser: “The worship leader’s lunch gatherings as well as Jay & Geoff & Jen’s teaching/sharing were excellent. Amazing, cool open mic night too! Worship team sweet right through MW. Kudos!”
Karen Galdamez: “ I came to the Covenant 21 years ago when my dad was called to pastor a Hispanic church in Turlock and I fall in love over and over again with the Covenant. I love the open table to all cultures and all walks of life, the invitation to walk the Jesus life.”
I’m grateful for the testimony of so many who were blessed by our time in San Diego. I’ve saved two for last, because I think they have special significance. First, for those who couldn’t be with us physically:
Betty Fitzgerald: “This was my first MidWinter and I attended through Covchurch.tv. I must confess after viewing the opening Worship service I became a CovTV junkie! I would watch the clock waiting for the next broadcast. I was most touched by Danny Carroll’s message and honestly that surprised me because in our little corner of the world there are no immigrants to speak of. But God spoke to my heart through that message when Dr. Carroll said people move because they are hungry. At that moment I understood that those walking through the doors of of our church for the first time are Spiritually hungry. From that point forward I listened with attentiveness through that filter. And then Glenn Kaiser! Just so much fun! “Live your life for a change, you’re not taking it with you anyhow”. Ah, words to live by for sure.”
And finally, I love these words from a long-time attender of Midwinter. And I’m so grateful for the growing community of worship leaders.
Dan Schuttler: ”Midwinter used to be a dreaded rite-of-passage for church musicians, hunting and pecking our way through the mass of senior and associate pastors to see a familiar face and/or sympathetic ear of the few fellow worship pastors who dared to also attend. Maybe we’d get lucky and a workshop might be related to worship and the arts. Now, it’s almost 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Full and engaging worship led by a diverse groups of people, reflecting how God is changing us as a denomination. Workshops, open mics, classes and the wonderful connecting times….Wow!! I dread it no more (even when it’s in Chicago…Ha!)”
Hope to see all of you next year in Chicago, and until then, we’ll see you on Facebook! Please feel free to share more favorite Midwinter Moments in the comments.