August Ministry Spotlight: The Arts at Epiphany

When in Our Music God Is Glorified
by John Benjamin, Jill Byers and JP Fultz


Music Ministry BannerOn July 31, many of Epiphany’s music ministry groups demonstrated how uplifting worship can be when glorifying music is made by many. Bishop Eaton’s visit afforded us a special opportunity to worship together and experience the synergy of musical diversity. That musical diversity is who we are at Epiphany, and it’s something worth celebrating.


Epiphany Chorale, Directed by John Benjamin
It was once said, “Many hands make light work … and great music.” OK, I added that last bit; but it’s true! Participating in Epiphany’s music program is an excellent way to make this larger congregation – sometimes difficult to really get to know anyone – feel more like a smaller, intimate group.

I have been using my gifts in church music since I was a freshman in high school, playing for my home church’s early service. Since then, I have served five other congregations, mostly in the capacity of organist/choir director. I also have served as a children’s choir and handbell director. I take my role as worship leader seriously, trying to pair music with the readings assigned for the day. At the organ, I pay attention to the text of the hymns in order to reflect each verse musically.

The fact that I have been making music for forty years might speak to how much I love it. Getting to know the folks in the choirs and the visiting musicians is like a large family with a small group experience. When I switched to a focus on chamber groups when I went from undergrad to grad school, I knew that what I was doing in the final pages of that experience was playing with and making music with other people. I discovered that I really didn’t want to be a solo pianist. What makes me happy is collaborating with other people. The highlight of my service is not the solo performances, but having people singing along.

Music is so important and enriching to life at Epiphany. Let’s imagine a worship service with no music. The pastor makes announcements, sins are confessed and absolved. There are prayers, scripture lessons, the sermon, a creed. We pass the plates, distribute communion, and we are sent out with a blessing. Please exit through the rear of the sanctuary. Last one out, hit the lights… *sigh* …Thanks be to God for music!! Don’t get me wrong; all of those worship elements I listed are purpose-filled and meet the requirements of Word and Sacrament. But, there are more than 250 times in the Bible where we are told to make music before the Lord.

People high school age through adult can sing in the Epiphany Chorale on a regular basis or seasonally. This is a non-audition group. Rehearsals are held on Thursdays at 7 p.m. in the Far Hills Sanctuary beginning September 8. You can join when your schedule allows. I will even rehearse with you on Sunday mornings. If organizing is your thing, there is often a need for help with the organization, filing and cataloging of music. Please contact me for more information about anything!

Bells, Directed by Jill Byers
I was coerced, way back in 1981, to join a fledgling handbell choir in my hometown of Eaton, Ohio. Grace Lutheran recently purchased three octaves of handbells, and when Adele Richter, the director, asked if I would ring, I agreed. “How hard can it be? I’ve played piano for years!” I thought. After all, each ringer is responsible for only two notes and the accidentals that accompany them, and surely a somewhat competent musician can handle that easily. NOT as easy as I thought, although several years of ringing and bell festivals made me at least somewhat capable.

When I moved to Kettering in 1986, I needed a new home church. My former director pointed me towards Epiphany, since it had an active handbell program. I attended a single service at Epiphany, liked the sermon Pastor Larry Hoffsis preached, and indicated I would like to transfer to the congregation and ring in the bell choir. Pastor Larry’s wife, Cindy, was the founder and director of the choirs, and she inspired me to stretch my musical wings and soar.

Fast forward to 2000: the Hoffsis family was retiring — Larry from ministering to the Epiphany fold, Cindy from directing three choirs. Who was going to direct the bells, we wondered? Someone pointed a discreet finger my direction and said, “There she is! She’s rung for years. Jill would be a great director!” Oh no! Not me! I’m a ringer, not a director. God, however, had other plans. Why else would there be a directors’ seminar that year right downtown at the convention center? And why had no one else stepped up to take the responsibility? After a crash-course on how to properly wave my hands to keep the beat, select music, and conduct a practice, I was very reluctantly off and dragging my feet — I wish I could say running, but it wasn’t so — that fall as the director of one of the three choirs. Dolores Anderson, a far more accomplished director than I, agreed to keep the other two choirs ringing until January, and then they were mine. She officially turned the baton over to me, and that was that.

As I enter my seventeenth year as Epiphany’s handbell director, I look back over those years and wonder — marvel — at the feelings this ministry stirs within me. I love both the triumphant, soul-stirring pieces as well as the quiet, meditative ones. I love that the congregation responds so positively to this music and feels that bells are important to worship. We ring these pieces with one smaller, but amazingly mighty, group. The dedication and drive which this choir displays awes and astounds me. Yes, they ring to the glory of God, but they also ring for the sheer love and challenge of it.

Epiphany could use a few more souls devoted to the fine art of ringing, both in our current choir and perhaps in a beginners’ choir. Anyone care to ring to the heavens?

Jubiliate Bells practice on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. beginning September 6. This choir takes musicians as young as middle school age. New ringers with musical experience are welcome to join. With interest, a beginners’ group with people as young as fourth grade through adult could be started with rehearsal the hour before Jubilate Bells practice. Please contact me, 424-3137, to learn more about either of these opportunities.

Praise Teams, Directed by JP Fultz
Psalm 96:1 “O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”

What strikes me about this Psalm is that the psalmist states two (seemingly) contradictory ideas in one sentence. Sing 1) a new song and 2) all the earth — sing together. How can everyone sing a new song together? If it’s new, how will we know the melody? Or the words? If we practice it to the point that everyone knows it, can we still consider it a new song? Welcome to the Praise Team! We love to sing and play new songs in a contemporary setting, but we also want to help those that have gathered for worship to sing together.

When we gather for worship, we are all coming from different places and circumstances. Some are celebrating, some are in pain, others are feeling complacent; and yet, we all can share in coming together to reflect and celebrate Christ’s redemptive work through His death and resurrection. Though we all approach worship from different perspectives each week, we sing together because we have been made into one body of believers. And we sing a new song because the way we individually approach our gathering may change from week to week and person to person – and the way we express our approach may change with that.

But ultimately, we sing a new song – together – because Christ’s love calls us to love and serve each other no matter what we are going through. We can take a part in each other’s celebrations, doubts, suffering, victories and more through the music we sing. Being a part of the Praise Team means we are blessed to be used by God to facilitate this in our gatherings and share in a unique way of serving others in our time of worship.

Praise Team rotates vocalists and instrumentalists, so there is no weekly rehearsal requirement. For an even less regular schedule, there are opportunities for subs or special instrumentation. We love to mix various age groups and skills together, and we sometimes have a Youth Praise Team perform. Come check out a rehearsal or two. If you are middle-school age through adult, please contact me to learn more about the ways in which you can sing a new song with Epiphany’s Praise Teams.

Watch for information soon about Children’s Choirs and Puppet Ministry!

In closing, we ask you to consider some of the lyrics in Hymn 851, When in Our Music God Is Glorified, and we pray that you find your place in the life of Epiphany’s varied musical groups. ALL of the musical groups at Epiphany are silent unless there are people participating.

1 When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried:

2 How oft, in making music, we have found
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound

5 Let every instrument be tuned for praise;
let all rejoice who have a voice to raise;
and may God give us faith to sing always:

For information about upcoming events and programs, read the entire week’s newsletter here.

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