Thanks for your interest in worship at Harbor Church in MidCity.
This is an article written by Music Director Matt Cromwell about the process involved in creating the songs that fill this CD:
You Gotta Sing: An Experiment in Listening to the Spirit
There’s this great children's song that simply says:
“You gotta sing when the spirit says sing.
You gotta sing when the spirit says sing.
When the spirit says sing you gotta sing right a long
You gotta sing when the spirit says sing.”
Of course the song goes on to shout and clap and play when the Spirit says so too, but the singing is the point right now. When exactly does the spirit say: “Sing”? Is it right when the Sunday morning service starts, or right after the sermon ends? Is it only when captives are loosed or sickness is cleansed? No, the Spirit is singing like an ever-flowing river. It ebbs and sways, ripples and splashes, curves round and under rocks and trees and over cliffs and refreshes all with it’s singing. It never stops.
So what does this have to do with us? Well, our challenge is not necessarily to sing all day long (though living a life like a Broadway musical sounds fun!), but to learn how to stop and hear the ever-flowing ebb and hum of the Spirit in our everyday lives.
I believe that fully, but sometimes I doubt whether I’m capable. So last summer I decided to find out if me and a few other Mid-City poets (as Stephen likes to call them) could pause our busy lives and hear that ebb of the Spirit and speak clearly through lyrics and melody to the heart of our congregation. Here’s how it went: Scott and Laura Brewster graciously hosted us for a night of worship and inspiration. We started off by sharing a meal together and then by worshiping together with familiar tunes and praying that we could open our hearts. This was vital to the whole weekend because, as I’ve mentioned, you don’t just “turn the Spirit on” or off, the Spirit is always singing along. Instead we have to learn to listen. Worshiping together in music and prayer got us into the mode of listening.
The next morning we began our listening. I asked each person to take their Bibles and listen to what the Spirit says to them through the Word. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous exercises a congregation can do! Putting the Word in “normal” people’s hands means giving the power of interpretation and application to “untrained” hands. In this case, that is exactly what we needed. Our poets love our congregation and desire to see real transformation in the lives of our community and the Mid-City area. With that desire the Spirit can’t help but speak love and wholeness to those who seek for it. It’s truly amazing how the Spirit is willing and able to make the Bible living and active for all those who genuinely desire the will of God to reign.
All that listening worked up an appetite. So, over lunch we shared our notes with one another and marveled at the Word that was brought to each of us. Many of the notes were simple phrases or ideas or words. Some were almost full-blown poems already. But the ingredients of worship through song had clearly started to develop.
We split the group up into teams of musicians and lyricists and began singing the Word together. I remember clearly how after the first night of worship was dying down how Lesley Green, Annie Lam and I just kept going. I somehow started playing a subtle jazz rhythm on the keyboard in a minor key and Lesley picked up on it by “singing the Word.” At least that’s what I called it. She sang as words came to her, in the Spirit of beauty and strength that is so present with her. She sang with simple humming or syllables. Annie hummed and joyously laughed along with us as well. The song flowed and ebbed and had movement and stillness. It was really wonderful. That captures the idea behind “singing the Word”. Sometimes we try to “make words.” In those times the words might rhyme or fit well together, but they remain very human, very manipulated by human sinfulness and error. But by simply singing the Word the focus of the song goes to the great unmanipulateable Word of God. That is what congregational worship is about, raising the eternal words of God to the roof and into our hearts.
The product of all this was a good handful of songs which we’ve been slowly incorporating into the canon of our services. You might notice some of the titles: “Romans 8”, “There is Another King”, and “He’s a Harbor.” But it has been my hope since the beginning of this exercise that these songs would go with you wherever you are. That’s why we’ve been working with our worship Team and Eduardo Sabogal as our sound technician to make a CD of these songs. It will be available this May. I hope and pray that it would be a ministry and service to everyone in our congregation. But mostly, I pray that it would help you “Sing when the Spirit says Sing!”