Five years ago my wife and I were excited to be preparing a trip to England. It wasn't our first trip, but it was a sanctioned 'work week' because we were going to attend a bible conference at the urging of our senior pastor at the time. Kent Hughes had been urging me to try to get to Spring Harvest "Word Alive" - a week of bible teaching at which much of England's new music was being sung and shared around.
There's a lot I don't get about how this conference works. It goes through Palm Sunday, and I wondered (I still wonder) "How do all these church leaders manage to be away from their congregations at the beginning of the Passion Week?" Five years ago, I was also preparing for a sabbatical, the first half of which was going to be spent in Cambridge, so I finagled a "pass" on Palm Sunday to (a) take in Word Alive, and (b) make some arrangements on the ground in Cambridge.
Thinking about it now takes me back, but this isn't the space for most of those good memories.
At Word Alive, we met up with friends of Kent and Barbara who were teaching at the conference. There were others there in various leadership roles whom we had met over the years at College Church. And through them we met Steve James, song-writer, pastor, and publisher with Jubilate Hymns. Steve was leading music for the Word Alive gatherings, along with musicians from All Souls' London. It was pretty glorious.
I did not expect to find "interest session" workshops during the week. But since that was an option, I got into one with another song-writer, whose name I had just learned since arriving in Skegness. [By the way, you have to see Skegness to believe it.] Keith Getty was presenting some of his new songs for the church, assisted by his recently affianced, Kristyn.
Sure, I liked Keith's songs. I thought they were fabulous. But what really grabbed me was what Keith had to say about congregational singing, about the theology of song as it relates to ecclesiology, about head and heart and bridging generations, and about music belonging to the people and not to the musicians. We had a brief conversation and established a connection which has brought Keith and Kristyn to College Church a couple of times, once with his friend and some time co-writer, Stuart Townend.
We sing so much of Keith and Stuart's music, that I am often teased about it. I can handle it.
Much of what Keith said that cold wet day in Skegness, April 2004, is in this interview from the current issue of Leadership (a publication of CTI). Enjoy, and if you love the peoples' song from all the ages, be encouraged.