The Indiana Wesleyan Years
Today, I continue on the journey we started several weeks ago. When we left off, Pam and I had packed our two girls and left for the flat land of Indiana. This is where we would spend our next five years. We felt that God was calling us into a full-time worship ministry and attending Indiana Wesleyan would fulfill the training I needed. The plan was to get a Bachelors of Science degree in Church Music. Three years later, I graduated with that degree. That’s the short story.
The longer story goes this way. We moved into a small house just off the campus in Marion. In addition to being a student, I would also have to continue being the bread-winner. When we first moved, we tried to have both of us working, but after one year, we discarded that experiment. God was faithful to us over the five years. What I didn’t realize at the time is that studying music is a time intensive discipline. In addition to the 15 hours of class work and study time, a music student is required to participate in other one or non-credit classes, such as class piano, ensembles, and voice lessons. Piano required 45 minutes of practice a day and I really needed it. The ensembles also required rehearsal time and practice time if you didn’t know the music. Voice lessons also required rehearsal outside of class. When I look back, it really is quite amazing that I graduated in 3 years.
I know of digressed here, because this is supposed to be about music and worship influence. IWU would be a source of influence as well as the churches we attended in our five years in Marion. The first church we attended was College Wesleyan Church. While not the official church of IWU, there is an unofficial relationship. The music “program” while we were there was excellent for musicians. The church was beginning to explore “blended” worship. Unfortunately, it really didn’t satisfy most. We used “The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration” and Word Music’s “Songs for Praise and Worship.” This was the first church we attended that would used worship choruses as part of the worship on Sunday morning. We had concurrent worship with Sunday School. That means those participating in worship missed part of Sunday School whether you attended the first or second session. I participated in the choir and worship band, (bass guitar, trumpet, and (for a few months, french horn)). Beginning in the second semester, I also joined the Chi Alpha’s Prime Time Praise band on bass guitar. Prime Time Praise was a Wednesday night worship service using “contemporary” praise and worship songs and was headed up by Chris Eads, the collegiate pastor. At the time it seemed cutting edge. Now, it really seemed quite traditional. At the end of my second semester, I was approached to lead Prime Time Praise. I accepted which meant in addition to all of the above, I added more to my plate. Prime Time used a heavy dose of Hosanna Integrity’s music and Maranatha Music. It was my responsibility to pick the music and rehearse the band. I also transistioned us from transparencies to slides (hey, we were really high-tech) In addition, during that year, Chi-Alpha started a new ministry called “Friday Night Live.” It was loosely based on several late night shows and included at house band (which I again led.) We used a combination secular and original segue music.
After two years at College Church, I got an offer from my choral professor to come and assist him at his church. This was a paid position as opposed to a volunteer position and for a college student that is a great thing. I accepted the offer and our family moved to Lakeview Wesleyan to assist with the music program. This was a great move for us. The church treated us like family. What were my musical influences here? For one, working under my mentor and choral professor Prof. Guy. I really got to see the inner workings of how things are put together. We put together several big concerts and each year we were there, there was the Christmas Pageant “From Heaven’s Throne.” I learned quite a bit on the technical end at Lakeview. We had the expertise of Ray Boltz’s lighting tech and a former sound tech for the Gaithers. I was also exposed to video projection for the first time and was involved in putting the weekly worship together as well as putting together special slide shows. We used the hymnal, “Hymns for the Family of God.” It was during these years I began to lead worship from not only bass, which is difficult, but guitar and piano. If I led worship without my bass, it was at the piano. It will be several more years before things change and we will get to them. I have fond memories of both College and Lakeview churches.
One of the great experiences we had in Indiana was to attend The Wesleyan Church’s General Conference. Prof. Guy led the worship and the choir for the Sunday rallies. It was a great experience. I ended up with several offers to go and lead worship at several churches afterward. None of them worked out, but it was cool anyway.
The music at college was different. I had never really been exposed to classical music until I got to IWU. The music program is classically based and I am glad it is. I received a solid musical education. I am indebted to my professors, many which are still at IWU. Bach, Brahms, Beethoven and others were names I got to know. I learned how to sing properly and learned the in’s and out’s of music theory. My second year, my choral prof. made me assistant director of University Singers. I was introduced to the music of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. I was also the band director for this group. Not only did we sing BTC songs, but we also performed several classical programs. Toward the end of my college career, I also ended up in basketball band, which at first I played trumpet and then moved to bass.
I graduated in three years, but God had plans to keep us in Marion for two more years. We spent the last two years ministering at Lakeview church, learning more in the process. I had no idea when God would move us from Marion, but after those two years, God started moving and we felt that we were being called to Flint, MI as the pastor of worship and fellowship. More on that next week.