I am Pastoral Musician and Worship Enlivener (more on that title in a moment) at Trafalgar Presbyterian Church in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. I am currently President of the Hymn Society in the US and Canada. And along with my wife, I am part of Hilariter, an inter-denominational group of singers and players, based in Toronto, Canada, committed to diversity in worship and to exploring the worship resources available from around the world.
I am a lapsed (and recently re-activated) percussionist with a background in choral music, composition and classical guitar. I'm also a student of the renaissance lute.
An unusual background for a church music director, I'll admit - or at least it was when I began directing church music in the early eighties. At my first congregation, Beaches Presbyterian Church in Toronto, we developed a music program that included "traditional" strophic hymns, world music, and original music written by congregational members, including myself.
I had learned the global music from Pablo Sosa, Patrick Matsikenyiri and I-to Loh, among others, at a World Council of Churches Worship conference in the middle eighties. To it, we added some contemporary music, chants from Taizé, and songs from the Iona Community.
Over the course of twenty years, we found that this had transformed several key aspects of our worshipping community. First, the liturgy had become richer, more varied. From being a service with four hymns, some prayers and a sermon, it offered many ways for young and old, able and disabled, musical and not-so-musical, - the whole worshipping community - to pray, to praise, to lament, to celebrate as a singing community.
Second, the role of the choir had become something different. It could still offer a Tallis motet or a Gibbons verse anthem, but it could also lead the congregation in a Zulu church song, or an African American spiritual. It featured instrumentalists as well as singers: flute, violin, cello, concertina, recorders, percussion, guitar, and many others. It had also grown from being a performing choir into a group of music leaders that nurtured the song of the congregation.
Third, my own role had changed, and for a while we didn't have a name for it. It wasn't until Michael Hawn, from Perkins School of Theology at SMU in Dallas, came to worship with us at Beaches Church in the fall of 2003, that we realized that my role had become that of an “animateur” or an “enlivener”. This is a term proposed by Michael Warren, a Roman Catholic educator, quoted in Dr. Hawn's book “One Bread, One Body” (Alban Institute 2003).
When I moved to my current church just outside of Toronto, we decided that this word “enlivener” should be part of my title. We find that it stimulates ongoing discussion on my role in the music and worship of the community.
I am passionate (in a polite, Canadian sort of way) about nurturing congregational song. I also love exploring ways of bringing scripture to vibrant, dramatic, comforting and disturbing life in worship. We are also discovering that what we have been doing for twenty years has a new title: The Emerging Church.