By Christian McIvor
As a trumpet player, guitar player, and singer/songwriter/composer, I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to share my musical gifts since embarking on my career shift to ministry.
One particular gift I’ve found I posses is the ability to construct congregational songs around particular themes or phrases. This has been incredibly useful and fulfilling in my current position as a music minister, as I have been able to write theme songs for sermon series, and I’ve also had the opportunity to write theme songs and lead worship for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Events. Recently, I was honored have the opportunity to write a theme song for and lead worship at CBF’s Selah Vie retreat, which was held in Nashville this past August.
The theme for the retreat was “Visions of Hope,” based on the text of Hebrews 11:1-3:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (ESV)
The weekend included powerful messages from Frances Ford of Sowing Seeds of Hope in Marion, Ala.; Jorge Zapata of Ministry on the Border with CBF Texas; and Stephanie Vance, manager of Together for Hope, CBF’s rural development coalition. It was my first Selah Vie experience, and I was incredibly glad to have the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom were more than happy to assist with leading music in worship. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I look forward to participating again in the future.
I’ve found this fall semester to be difficult at times.
One of my ministry passions outside of music is creation justice/environmental stewardship. I have always been interested in this area but felt like I didn’t have the knowledge to back up my interest, so this fall I enrolled in a “Watershed Discipleship” course that was offered at Wake Forest. It has been an excellent and extremely informative course, but it has also been flat-out depressing at times. It has given me the constant, uncomfortable awareness that we humans have, on the whole, taken God’s gift dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26-28) as an invitation to dominate and exploit the rest of the natural world in order to provide for our own excess rather than as an instruction to be faithful stewards of creation.
In exploring and discussing the many ways in which we’ve created environmental disasters for ourselves, our neighbors, and for future generations, I’ve found it difficult to stay hopeful at times. At the end of one particular class where our discussion covered the many intersecting systems that are always at play and must be considered when addressing specific environmental problems (specifically, we discussed the water shortages that many in the country will likely experience in the near future as well as the recent U.N. reports concerning the severity of climate change), the instructor asked us, “Well, where can we find hope?” None of us in the classroom, including the instructor, had a particularly good answer.
That moment left me in a bit of a daze for days, honestly trying to figure out where hope could be found. Then I remembered the song I wrote for Selah Vie, “Visions of Hope,” and I was immediately reminded that hope can always be found in music.
Beyond hope, music can help us express any emotion in a spiritually powerful and healthy way. I would imagine many of us have a catalog of at least a few songs (if not more) that have helped us better understand our emotions and ourselves and given us new or renewed perspectives, and usually they move us most and allow us to experience the presence of God when we sing them with our entire being. The Psalms attest to this over and over. Psalm 100:1-2 reads, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with singing” (NRSV). And of course, vibrant, inclusive congregational song in our churches – no matter the style – has the power to change hearts and minds, guiding entire communities toward becoming more active and loving agents of Christ’s justice, compassion, and reconciliation.
The next time I start to feel like the world is getting to be too much, I’ll remember that God’s hope can always be found in singing my song.
Christian McIvor is a CBF Leadership Scholar who is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity degree (Class of 2020) at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He holds D.M.A. and M.M. degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Music and a B.A. from the State University of New York at Potsdam, and he currently serves as an Assistant Minister at College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC.
Christian’s song, “Visions of Hope,” can be heard at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYj8p5998HM