Music over the years
Being involved with music ministry at church has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. From my early years of learning to play piano, the goal was for me to be able to play in church and use that gift for ministry.
Practising my lessons was not a favorite thing to do. In fact, I would have my older sister play the piece for me, and I would copy what she played. Learning to read music was difficult for me. It was easier to play by ear and use the notes as a suggestion rather than something that should be followed closely.
It was a summer Sunday evening service. The scheduled pianist wasn’t there, and the song leader scanned the group, knew that I played the choruses for the Sunday school opening time, saw me and said to the 12-year old “we need you to play piano”. I was terrified. But I walked over to the piano, opened the hymnal to the song and gave the starting note. Everything looked like black blotches on the page. I managed to limp through the song and live to tell about it.
In my younger years, I frequently went with others to minister at Union Gospel Mission (UGM) at the old location on Main Street in Winnipeg. The rickety upright piano desperately needed tuning and repair. The ivory was missing from some of the keys and I had to be careful that my finger didn’t get stuck in the hole in the wooden part of the key. Those who attended the service knew the words to the old gospel songs, would call out the names of their favorite songs and would join in heartily.
I’ve been playing piano for congregation singing for over 50 years. As that sentence appears on the screen, it makes me feel … blessed! I’ve been able to minister through music for a long time, and have experienced the changes and challenges of how music has moved from hymns, gospel songs, choruses to the variety and styles that we have in our churches. Whatever the style, ministry happens, and praise is directed to God.
For me, preparing for music ministry takes time. I need to reflect on the theme of the service – whether it’s a Sunday morning service where I lead our worship group, a funeral, a celebration time, or Communion. The words of the songs need to connect with what’s happening. Whether or not people know the words, I know the message of the song and that allows me to play from my heart. Some days are easier than others, as the words of the song flow through my hands.
I love music, and am often in awe at the abilities of other musicians and vocalists. Listening to other musicians and their interpretation of music and their style is an inspiration. God has given me the gift of playing piano. Turning that gift back to Him by sharing it with others is part of my worship.
This article was originally published in The EMMC Recorder Vol 59, No. 4