Back at it

Uh, remind how all this stuff works again?

Uh, remind how all this stuff works again?

For the past twelve weeks at my church, we’ve had ONLY two services on Sunday mornings – one at 9:00 and one at 10:15. This is, of course, a switch from our “full” schedule of five services on Sunday morning – two at 9:00, two at 10:15, and one at 11:30.

Before we get back to that schedule, we have a couple of weeks of four services – two at both hours – beginning today, which means that for the first Sunday in twelve weeks, my morning involved a lot of Running Around. Not only were we in two rooms, but we also baptized a bunch of folks. I’m pretty sure every ten-fifteen minutes or so, I remembered some detail or item that needed attention (this actually began around 6:30 a.m. when I was brushing my teeth). Except a few things that didn’t go as well as they could have, considering this was our first time in three months to sync rooms, it was a pretty good day.

But the funniest part of the morning had nothing to do with having two rooms.

At the end of the first service, the band(s in both rooms) came back on stage to do a closing song. As we were wrapping up the video feed on the headset, I looked up and noticed we were missing Acoustic Guitar. Electric Guitar was playing ganjo/six-string banjo for this last song, and I saw Worship Pastor gesture to him to move over to acoustic; and he did. And because our team is awesome & Electric Guitar is a pro, the song was fine and went off without a hitch.

As it turns out, Acoustic Guitar had gotten waylaid by some visitors, and he was nice enough to show them where to go, and just didn’t quite make it back in time. However, in the few seconds that Electric Guitar was switching instruments, and capo-ing the acoustic guitar, he looked like he had never picked up a guitar before in his life.1  Since Senior Pastor was praying at this point, I’m guessing not many people saw that moment. I was even told that Acoustic Guitar started to come on stage, peaking through the curtain on the side of the stage, but then backed out. All in all, it was a pretty funny moment. And in the second service, all hands were on deck and in the right place for the closing song.

 


1. It also reminded me of the TV show from the late ’80s/early ’90s, Quantam Leap – when the guy appears in a new situation/time period and has to figure out who he is, where he is, and what’s going on. Random, I know, but it was kind of fitting.

And because the internet, here’s the opening of the show with a much more detailed explanation:

 

Guitar Slide Friday: Lead Guitar Version Redux

Athens, GA is a college town, and though my church is not in Athens, it is connected to the university community. University communities are, I suppose, by definition dynamic – undergrads complete their degrees in four years (give or take a few years), graduate students come and go, and professors find new academic positions. And as someone who has lived here for over a decade, I have seen too many dear friends leave as they move on to the next chapter in their lives.1 

Well, Lead Guitar is moving on to his next Thing (but thankfully not leaving town, whew!), and so this past Sunday was one of his last with us for the foreseeable future. I’m quite glad I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him over the years, and I will miss seeing him regularly on Tuesdays and Sundays. He’s been faithful, he’s got a great heart and a great attitude, and probably most importantly, he appreciates my love of guitar slides and has humored me on more than one occasion. But while I’m sad, I’m also happy for him because this is a good opportunity. So in his honor, here are a few of his guitar slides that I’ve posted here on the blog…

Here’s one of the first (since I started documenting this sort of thing). The slide is around 0:11 and unfortunately isn’t very clear in the mix:

Two in one song!!!!

Perhaps the most fun one:

And my most favorite of them all:


1. It is not lost on me that there is a slim possibility that I will be a ‘mover on’ in the future, but I’m not going to dwell on that just now. I’ll think about that later… #professionalprocrastinator

Appreciation

I have a billion things to be thankful for in general, and specifically today, not the least of which is that I’m hanging out in a lovely loft in a hip Chicago neighborhood on a Monday afternoon, listening to indie pop, and blogging. So the shout-outs are as follows: loft/Chicago = College Pastor for introducing me to Fabulous Chicago Actor and Amazingly Talented Husband, and to the both of them for being generally awesome and generous and letting me stay here; indie pop = Youth Pastor introduced me to Songza this weekend and now I’m listening to a playlist called “Sunshine Indie Pop.”

But it’s the post-Sunday post, and in this spirit of gratitude, I’d like to dedicate this post to Worship Pastor. However, before I get to that, yesterday in our first service, we had, um, technical difficulties, which resulted in Senior Pastor being heard and not seen at one point, and then Senior Pastor being seen and not heard at another. It was all really awkward, and during the latter, at least 150 folks were turned around looking at me. Usually in moments like that, I hide under the sound board (yes, literally), but yesterday I stood there and looked back at them. And maybe I laughed, because, well, it was really awkward.

But back to Worship Pastor. The tagline I have given him over the years is “There’s no one like him,” and I regularly tell him this, because, well, it’s true. If you know him, you know that you don’t really know anyone else quite like him. He has an incredibly wide knowledge and experience base, and is well-versed (and excels) in music, sport, design, audio, video, building and construction, and fixing things in general. We emphasize prayer and having a good attitude in our ministry, and he models those two things with great consistency.

And even though I thought he hated me the first year we worked together, am certain he only heard about 60% of the things I said to him in the first two or three years we worked together (I’ve since learned the advanced skill of communicating with him 🙂 ), and he can drive me crazy sometimes (as I can do to him, I’m sure), I’m glad to know and work with him. He loves Jesus and helps me love Jesus more.

So here are two unprofoundly profound photos of him. The first is (one of many, many photos that I have of) him on a lift installing something or running cables during one of many major renovation/installation projects, while the second was taken during the service yesterday, after we talked about the Awkward Moment from earlier in the service and some of our sound issues. So here’s to Worship Pastor–thanks for all you do, top to bottom, ceiling to floor, and everything in between!

Happy Friday Music Fun: Finally!

There are a few “hit” praise and worship songs that we have not done at my church. Somehow, these songs just never made it into the rotation, and now we never do them. Notably, this list includes “You Never Let Go” (Matt Redman, 2005), “The Stand” (Hillsong, 2005), and “Stronger” (Hillsong, 2007). More recently, we’ve never done “Your Love Never Fails” (Chris McLarney/Jesus Culture, 2008) or “Like a Lion” (Daniel Bashta/David Crowder, 2009).*

Another recent song that we’ve ALL wanted to do is “Forever Reign” (Hillsong, 2009; there’s also a version by Kristian Stanfill on the 2011 Passion album). We’ve tried to do this song at least twice in the past couple of years. It’s been on the set. It’s been rehearsed. But for one reason or another, the song didn’t make it to the music set in the service.

This Sunday we will attempt to address the “Forever Reign” shortage in our worship set. Having been in this position in the past, I will not believe that we’re actually doing the song until we’re actually doing the song.

Nevertheless, I’m really looking forward to it.

*Unless you count the one time that Bass Player/Youth Worship Leader did it on the Sunday after youth camp. Not that he doesn’t count, but we haven’t incorporated the song into our repertoire.

Freedom?

When we have two simultaneous rooms on Sundays for church services, there are limits on our service schedule. Broadly considered, since we have services at both 9:30 and 11, it’s a good idea for us to finish the 9:30 service sometime before 11. Also, we start services on a timer, and the syncing song needs to be nearly the same in both rooms. And generally, our worship (song) sets are on a timer, so each team needs to finish at (approximately) a certain time. Of course, within these limits, there is some amount of freedom for each team and worship leader to do what they want in that time.

However, beyond the schedule, sometimes our songs are limited. Whether it’s adhering to a certain time limit or simply everyone’s familiarity with a particular recording, some songs are less open to change and manipulation than others. This is especially the case when we do songs with loops, that is, additional sounds or tracks that accompany the live band. (This is just slightly related to an accompaniment track or what you might hear when if you ever sing karaoke.)

Loops can be used to add sonic variety or to provide a particular sound or fill that’s unique to a particular song, or in some cases, to compensate for a lack of musicians or instruments. But the Thing about using anything pre-recorded in live performance is that the map of the song cannot change (unless the track or loop is monotonous).

We used a loop for a song yesterday in which the first line is to be sung immediately. In the first service, Worship Pastor forgot that part and switched it up a little, leaving the first eight measures or so of the song a bit wonky.

What I found especially funny, and perhaps ironic, is that the song was “Where the Spirit of the Lord Is,” whose lyrics are “Where the spirit of the Lord is / There is liberty.”*

*I really wish WordPress allowed footnotes. The song is from the 2010 Passion album Awakening and is performed by Chris Tomlin and Christy Nockels and references 2 Corinthians 3:17. We’re familiar with another song on that album.

Guitar Slide Wednesday: This Sounds Familiar Version

We’re wrapping up a six-week sermon series at the church this week, and throughout the series, we’ve done two of the same songs each week in our music/worship set. That is, for six weeks in a row, we will have done both “Waiting Here for You” by Christy Nockels and “Awakening” by Chris Tomlin at some point in the service. Both of these are Passion songs from the 2011 and 2010 albums, respectively (I feel I must warn you, that Passion link automatically plays music when you go there). The incident where the band was playing in different keys happened while they were playing “Awakening,” but I’ve really enjoyed hearing how each of our different worship leaders sings “Waiting Here for You” each week.

“Waiting Here for You” has a nice little bass slide-in at 1:13, but as with many bass slides, you may or may not be able to hear it, depending on your speakers. So in honor of our band playing this song for the sixth time (twelve counting both services), and considering the fact that they might not want to play it again for a long, long time after this Sunday… Enjoy!

And even though it doesn’t really have any noticeable slides in it, and just in case you wanted to hear it again, here’s “Awakening,” too:

Which way?

Frequently, the post-Sunday post has to do with someone (often me) not knowing what the heck is going on, or being, at the very least, confused about what’s going on. Today’s post is no different.

We have two services in two rooms simultaneously at my church, resulting in four total services on a typical Sunday. One of these rooms is a lovely, typical Protestant church meeting room, which we call (as do most baptist churches) the sanctuary. It has rows of wooden, padded pews, a vaulted ceiling, hanging lights, large windows, and a stage with hardwood flooring.

Sanctuary

Our other room is a gym.

To say it’s a gym is really disingenuous at this point, because if you haven’t been in the room, and you’re thinking “gym,” I guarantee you, what you’re thinking is inaccurate. And not just because we have disabled and dismantled the basketball goals. We have a fantastic sound system, a stage set with truss, lighting, projectors, and screens.

Worship in the gym that looks remarkably un-gym-like

We also have chairs. Lots of chairs that have to be set out in rows for each Sunday, because during the week gym-like activities happen in the room (though not basketball, of course, unless it’s the kind without goals).

So nearly every Sunday, at the end of the service, we post a slide on the screen that says, “Please help us stack chairs five high.” This semester we began adding a line that says, “and move them to this side,” with an arrow indicating one side or the other. Previously, the chairs would get stacked around the perimeter of the room, and as a result, the edges of the room were never cleaned. This new way allows one side of the room to be cleaned each week.

However, the interns that are responsible for setting out the chairs for the service each week recently requested we go back to the old way because it’s much easier on them. Since I had just asked one of them for a favor, I told them I would not indicate one side or the other on Sunday. And this is what happened:

The stacks of chairs were left wallowing in their original stacked positions, as if undirected, folks were too overwhelmed with the thought of moving them to one side of the room or the other!

So, the next time we want the chairs on both sides, I shall include that information on the slide. But for now, I’m sorry, Intern Guys, but next week we’re going back to one side or the other.

Um, what’s going on?

In a meeting last week, I told Worship Pastor that one thing out of the ordinary on a Sunday morning had the possibility of making things really stressful for me. If you know me in the analog world, then this might seem kind of strange. I think I’m a fairly laid back and flexible sort of person most of the time, and certainly, one thing outside of the norm generally doesn’t (nor should it) phase me.

Yesterday, there wasn’t exactly anything out of the ordinary, but it wasn’t exactly a completely normal day. And there were two things that happened that likely went unnoticed by the majority of folks in attendance, but were quite stressful for a small group of people.

As we’re a “baptist” church, we baptize folks by immersion, and when we do this during our regular services, it’s sent via live video to the other room. Although our welcome is usually done via video, the pastor coming into the baptistry adds a component of possible mayhem, as there’s no way to really communicate directly when to come out.* So as that room finished their song, Senior Pastor came down into the water and began to speak. This is what was supposed to happen, except that we had done a poor job of syncing the song, and in the other room we were still singing and couldn’t go to the live video. So Worship Leader in that room had to basically stop Senior Pastor and tell him to wait.

Although all of us on the headset were freaking out, and likely the worship team in the other room felt a bit awkward on stage, in our room, it was a super smooth transition, and no one had any idea that something had gone awry.

The other incident was possibly even more subtle, and likely noticed by no one in attendance. To end the service, Worship Pastor began the closing song on the piano. When the keys came in, it was clearly wrong (to me, it really wasn’t all that loud nor was it noticeable). But when Bass Player came in, it was loud and kinda noticeable (again, to me. And maybe to a handful of folks).

I didn’t think much of it, but when the song and service ended, I knew something was up, because the entire band was on stage circling up around Worship Pastor. As is their wont, they made their way back to the booth and I found out that Worship Pastor started the song in a different key than was rehearsed when he began the song, and each member of the band discovered the discrepancy on their own, by entering in the wrong key a half step away. This is one of those moments when absolute pitch would certainly have been of benefit.

What an adventure, to do the same thing every week!

*Please don’t judge my research skills based on the fact that I linked to wikipedia not once, but twice in this post.

Smooth Operators*

Every now and again, there are moments in life that are so very perfect that you just couldn’t plan them if you wanted to–serendipitous, if you will. One of those things happened yesterday at church. But before I get to that, I will confess that as I was getting ready for church yesterday, I thought to myself, “It’s only one room today–should be an easy day!” It was not a not-easy day, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, and I was slightly unprepared for a couple of things during the service. I’ll also take credit for Female Worship Leader getting attacked by one of the stage lights while walking on stage.

Nevertheless, once we got going, Worship Leader kindly took a moment to recognize the tech folks who serve every week. In the second service, just as he was saying something to the effect of “our tech team helps things run smoothly and seamlessly around here on Sunday mornings,” Utility Instrumentalist (he plays percussion, bass, acoustic guitar, among other talents) dropped the bass in a not-very-discreet way. It was really priceless. Although I was recording the service, I missed that part. Thankfully, this moment lives on in Sunday Morning Lore… and here on the blog 🙂

Merry Christmas, y’all!

*This post title is a reference to a song by the ’80s band Sade. The song, however, has nothing to do with the post. But, in case you need your cheesy “smooth jazz/pop saxophone” fix, see below. You’re welcome.

Sunday shenanigans!

I’ve mentioned that sometimes things get rowdy in the booth, particularly in the second service. Yesterday, College Pastor stopped by during our welcome (which was a bit longer than usual), and the folks on the headset were in rare form… add in a few comments to the team on stage (I can talk to them through their in-ear moniters) while they have to stand there and look serious, and things were fun and funny, and possibly a bit distracting to those around us (my apologies).

Beyond the booth, Bass Player chose an inopportune moment to walk off the stage in the first service, while the rest of the team just stood there and let him go… Upon correcting the exit time in the second service, when the team was supposed to come back out at the end, they set him up and sent him out early… and all alone. We can do awkward really well at my church!

We only have one more week of “doing the same thing” then we’ve got a few weeks that will likely be quite different, due to Christmas and New Year’s falling on a Sunday.

Stay tuned for some Dwight Yoakam on Wednesday and much Christmas music to come in the weeks ahead!