Music Monday – Promises of Wonder

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A new live worship record from the Vineyard Church in Campbellsville, Kentucky is out and it has been following me around all week; be it grocery shopping, playing with the children, driving, I can’t stop listening to this record. Not only is it filled with solidly written congregational anthems and hymns, not only is it rootsy, folksy and true, it’s filled with the Holy Spirit and draws the listener into a posture of worship (even and especially when grocery shopping..)

Get this album now, and if you attend Renovatus it’d be worth learning a few, because we will certainly be enjoying them in our worship services soon! (One of the perks of my job, you know, getting to choose our songs and all…)

You’re welcome,

-Sarah

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Songs for the Hours

Songs for the Hours

Pre-Order the new Renovatus Worship record, Songs for the Hours now! Official release date is July 26th, stories from the writers to come. Mosey on over by clicking the album cover above and get yourself a copy.

Renovatus Worship Update

It has been a very busy time around here at Renovatus! We’re currently working on the next Renovatus Worship EP which I can’t wait to share with you in the next few months. For the past year or so I have been reading almost daily Thomas Merton’s “Book of Hours”. It’s a collection of Merton’s meditations, hymns, psalms, liturgical instruction and philosophies worked into a practicing cycle of dawn, day, dusk and dark. The rhythm of pausing during each time of day and night to enter into these beautiful words have brought a lot of life and rest to my soul. So when it came to make the next record I wondered if we could do something that mirrored this practice, but through music.

So the idea for this new EP is that we have a song for each time of the day, and meditations in between that allow the listener to move into places of centering themselves on God. So far most of the tracking is done, we have one day left and then it’ll be off to mixing and mastering. While it has only 4 songs and several ambient pieces, almost the whole team of Renovatus Worship volunteers have been involved in some way on this project, which has meant for a very sweet and unifying time for the group, and that is something that I think comes through in these songs.

Once we have this project wrapped up I’ll be moving on to work on worship for children, something I am most excited to share with you. I’ll be sharing my heart for what that could look like here on the blog, as well as inviting our children’s pastor into the conversation, so please check back for that too.

What else has kept us all buzzing around here like wee bees is our beloved Pastor Jonathan Martin is releasing his new book, ‘Prototype’ – the songs that are yet to come out of my experience with this book are buried deep. My prayer is that songs of sons and daughters freshly reunited with their identity inside of Jesus will emerge as this book is released into the world.

Here’s the teaser video for Prototype filmed and directed by the exquisitely talented Jacob Lewis. And because I can, I must boast that my sweet 6 year old son Jonah plays a pretty awesome superhero….

Preparing Yourself for Sunday

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We are currently in our series “Seen – Through the eyes of the women of the gospels”. It has been a beautiful series so far in which we are getting a real taste of how seen and known we are in the eyes of Christ. This weekend we will be hearing about Jesus and the adulteress in John 8. Read this with us in preparation for tomorrow, and as we take communion we will be singing John Mark McMillan’s “Sins are Stones” – a beautiful depiction of how the Lord has cast our sins as stones to the bottom of the ocean.

Also in our set list this weekend:

“Renovate Us” by Paul Stanfield, a Renovatus original. This song is the story of who we are Renovatus! Liars, Dreamers and Misfits welcomed in to the story of God. Take a listen:

Also the beautiful hymn “Before the Throne” , which sings of the death and resurrection of Christ, through which we are forgiven and raised with Him in new life. Our names are graven on His hands, and written on His heart. This version is sung by Sojourn Community Church

and another Paul Stanfield original, Psalm 139 which we will have recorded on our next project which we are very excited about!

Here are the words for your meditation, along with reading Psalm 139 which speaks so beautifully to being known and seen by God:

Where can I go from you? Where can I go from you? If I sleep in the deep where the darkness hides me You are there

I will praise you, for you are good
I will praise you, for you have made me
Beautifully made me

Where can I run from your presence? Where can I run from your presence? If I rise on morning wings To the farthest of the seas
Your hand holds me

Lord you know my every thought, when I rise and when I fall, you see me
Even when I choose to run, You always overcome, and find me
For there is no word on my tongue, Not a single note is sung without you
Before the psalm formed on my lips You restored my innocence completely
And that my soul knows well”

We are seen, known and beloved. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. He has cast our sins to the bottom of the ocean. If we think upon these things long enough we will want nothing more than to celebrate and worship together as we sing!

See you tomorrow, dear church! 

-Sarah

*Series artwork by Jake Page

Why The Liturgy AND the Shout?

The first line in our Worship Manifesto here at Renovatus is “We will embrace the liturgy AND the primal shout. We will incite worship that engages both intellect and emotion, believing that the head and heart are to be integrated and not divorced”

The reason we feel as a church that this is so important to embody in our worship is because  it allows not only the opportunity for us to respond to God in the primal ways that are deep inside of us, but it also allows for the formation of our love and understanding of God to unfold within us.

Embracing Liturgy and Shout together invites a reciprocal experience between God and His people where our love is poured out and He is revealed, a circle that does not end.

Liturgical rhythms (responsive readings, poetic hymnal texts, scripture in song) engage our minds in worship, inviting our conscious decisions and thought processes into action with the Living God. The primal ‘Shout’ of our worship is the outpouring of our emotions and the engagement of our spirit in worship to God that is Psalmic in nature, where our hearts get to respond to Him in the most primal of ways. The reason we incorporate BOTH of these ways of worshipping into our community is because they not only work together to bring discipline and freedom, they bring unity amongst the body of Christ.

Whenever we engage God together there is always the opportunity for our intellectual preferences and emotional needs to get in the way of the other. When we invite both the head and the heart into the experience we not only engage our whole selves, but we also engage the body of Christ in her fullness instead of fighting amongst ourselves over preference. 

We all have different seasons and rhythms of our walk with God and one another. Sometimes all I need is a simple meditation, a song that cries out “You are sovereign over us” over and over, almost as an act of Lectio Divina in song, until it sinks deep into my soul. I may need to sing to God “I love You” over and over until my heart is spent. But then there are seasons where I need  to be fed and formed by those who have gone before us in song because I have no song in my heart that is loud enough. I want poetry to awaken me to the multi-faceted God I serve who is beyond our comprehension, beyond man’s mind.

If I only worship when I feel my needs are being met, I’m only engaging God half the time, but He shows up all the time, as do the folks in the pews next to you. Understand that your mind being exercised is a holy practice, as is presenting our emotions to God in full honesty. One without the other does not acknowledge the fullness and complexity of ourselves, of God, nor the expression of worship in the body of Christ. 

So, if you find yourself in a service thinking “This song is too wordy” I encourage you to posture yourself to receive. Drink those words in and mull them over in your holy, beautiful mind and let them sink into your soul. Ask the worship leader about the songs that felt complicated and engage the process of understanding the song with them – I know they would enjoy that too!

Likewise, if you find yourself in a service thinking “this song is too simplistic and emotional” – again, I encourage you to posture yourself to receive. Remember to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice as scripture invites. You don’t have to shut off your mind, but you can step into a freedom that acknowledges the deep places in your soul that need to be called out, and that may require less thinking and more primal response. Often those songs are simple, less wordy, and hit us right in the heart. Do not be too proud to engage that. God wants all of you, head and heart, and if you can’t engage your emotions for yourself because  you need something more intellectual, you can at least engage the song emotionally for love of your brother or sister in this unifying act of singing together. This is the beauty of the body, we draw each other into the fullness of God if we allow it, even when it’s uncomfortable. That’s why we need each other.

-Sarah

For further thought: I recommend this recent interview with Isaac Wardell of BiFrost Arts 

Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

This Sunday as a church we had an interwoven service between teaching and worship, where we focused together on the three elements that make up our worship experience at Renovatus – Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

Psalms

We will embrace every season of the soul. We will explore a vocabulary of joy, pain, awe, doubt, love and every human emotion in our worship. We will rejoice with those who rejoice and we will weep with those who weep.” -Renovatus Worship Manifesto

The Psalms in scripture are most poignant examples of what it means to explore the emotions of the human soul and lay them bare before God. David, in all of his anguish and fear, his love and joy, he always displayed a consistent knowledge of the Love of God for him in his songs. Even when he was doubting and dismayed he called out to a God he knew to be living and real. David always knew that he was affectionately crafted, woven together with the threads of God’s good love in his mother’s womb, which gave him the freedom to give God all of his heart – the good, the bad and the ugly. And so we must in song as a church give all of our hearts to the Lord, giving Him permission to invade every season of our souls and when we do that unified, we find ourselves rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep.

This Sunday we sang together an arrangement of Psalm 139 by our dear Paul Stanfield. While we don’t have this song recorded (yet!) here are the words for your meditation:

Where can I go from you? Where can I go from you? If I sleep in the deep where the darkness hides me You are there

I will praise you, for you are good
I will praise you, for you have made me
Beautifully made me

Where can I run from your presence? Where can I run from your presence? If I rise on morning wings To the farthest of the seas
Your hand holds me

Lord you know my every thought, when I rise and when I fall, you see me
Even when I choose to run, You always overcome, and find me
For there is no word on my tongue, Not a single note is sung without you
Before the psalm formed on my lips You restored my innocence completely
And that my soul knows well”

Hymns

“We ARE your grandmother’s church. And your great-grandmother’s church.  And your great-great-grandmother’s church. We embrace continuity with the Church’s past in the form of hymns and ancient song. We seek intergenerational and cultural diversity.  We are a local representation of a timeless community.” – Renovatus Worship Manifesto

As a body we’ve always gladly drawn from an ancient well. We celebrate those who have gone before and honor the lives lived by the saints throughout the ages. We particularly love the old hymns because of their rich theology and poetic displays of God’s ways. They teach us as we sing, filling our minds and hearts at the same time. I (sarah) am most fond of old hymn books, and often begin my songwriting process by just pouring over old words and renewing the melodies, as I did with the song we sung together at Little Rock location, “O Word of God Incarnate”, which you can listen to and purchase here.

Spiritual Songs

Spiritual songs are often the most simple songs. When God is doing something by His spirit that feels too deep for words there are sighs, groans and simple expressions of gratitude that rise from the deep places.

We sang together a song that welcomed the Holy Spirit into our church, into the very room that He might breathe His love and affections over us. While we believe that God is always present and that His spirit is always moving, I think God really enjoys being invited. It’s also rare that we sing directly to the Holy Spirit and that’s why I love this song, “Holy Spirit” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt, which you can buy here.

Learning to worship God in spirit and truth will take a lifetime, of that I’m sure. But having these three expressions helps us get a little closer as a unified body in our songs of great love to God. I must confess, before I go, that this morning as we sung Psalm 139 together my soul needed the reminder that I cannot escape His affections, and looking out over you, dear bride, my heart was lifted in what has been a difficult season. Words cannot describe how treasured these songs are to me, but more treasured is the gift of singing them with you.

-Sarah

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The Liturgy and the Shout is OUT

We’re so excited to announce the release of our worship album, The LIturgy and the Shout! These songs are a collection of altars we have built for the church here at Renovatus. We believe that when the Lord does something particular with His people He is building His kingdom story, and we have the pleasure of marking His work in song, like altars of old. These altars in song remind us of His faithfulness and share our story and His goodness with the world.

Join us, if you can, this evening at Renovatus church, Little Rock at 7pm for a worship celebration.

Coming soon: Thoughts on our worship manifesto…

The Liturgy and the Shout drops November 9th

The Liturgy and the Shout releases on November 9th! This video features some highlights from our worship manifesto, which I will be going through line by line through the blog in the coming months. In the meantime, we will be holding a worship night at Little Rock at 7pm, and we hope you can come and celebrate what the Lord has done in this church and sing to the top of your lungs with us!

New Album Sneak Peek!

Here’s a wee peek into the Renovatus worship album. We’re having a blast, and we’re learning large lessons about leadership, musicianship, community, crashed hard drives….The long nights at the studio turned into some fun conversations about worship, the church, the beauty of human expression when it meets the renewing work of Jesus in the world. Check it out, and take these last days (3 days left!) to support the kickstarter!

Music Monday: Modern Hymns

I’m always on the look out for those who share my love of renewing old hymns for the church. I think that re-writing hymns can be a beautiful and refreshing approach to worship, delving into the rich theology and poetry of our grandmother’s church, but sometimes I think we can ruin a good hymn by trying to make it modern and relevant. We musically water things down, taking out the rising and falling melodies that feel intricate and nuanced in an effort to make them more singable. We try and make them fit our modern worship mould of soaring U2 guitars and anthemic choruses. This isn’t necessarily bad all the time, it’s just a fine line to walk between accessibility and creativity, and there are a few artists and groups out there that I think walk this line really beautifully and I am excited to introduce them to you.

First Up: Sandra McCracken. In the fall of last year we had the honor and pleasure of hosting a night of hymns with Sandra and guest musician Chelsey Scott, and it was a beautiful night where Sandra not only played us her  re-workings of well-known and not so well-known hymns but was also able to tell us stories of the songs and their writers. My favorite album of hers consists of a mixture of old and new hymns from Sandra, entitled “In Feast or Fallow”. Here’s the title track, featuring Derek Webb and Thadd Cockrell

Next Up: Isaac Wardell and Bifrost Arts. I listened to Bifrost Arts’ album “Come, O Spirit!” on repeat last year, to the point where my 4 year old was singing the flute parts at random times of the day. This particular group of writers and performers treat the hymns with a lyrical and dignified hand, keeping a raw bare bones quality for some songs and flourishing orchestral arrangements the next. The album has an indie sensibility, and with artists such as David Bazan, the Welcome Wagon, and Laura Gibson I found this collection of hymns to be completely refreshing from start to finish. Here’s one of my personal favorites, the title track sung by Aimee Wilson, “Come O Spirit” (Also be sure to check out their GORGEOUS Christmas album “Salvation is Created”)

Lastly, Page CXVI. From what I understand they are named after a page number in C.S Lewis’ book “The Magician’s Nephew”, in which Aslan sings the stars into existence. I’ve so far been really delighted by these folks and their many new offerings on old familiar hymns. I find they do balance the fine line of creativity and worship accessibility very well, and here’s a perk: free music on their website!

Here’s a gorgeous live version of “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us”, (one of the tracks you can get for free)

Renovatus, I’d love to know what hymns are currently stirring your soul. Use the comment section to share your favorite hymns and writers!

-Sarah