Words cannot convey what music means to me. I turn to music for comfort. Some songs are old friends, every note and beat familiar and reassuring. Some songs evoke emotions that I struggle to name, bringing either tears that need to be cried or smiles and dancing with pure joy. It connects me to people no longer living. An old hymn sends me back to my childhood standing next to my Grandparents in a pew of their church listening to their soothing voices. Sometimes music creates a moment for personal entertainment. I am the person belting out a song and playing air guitar or air drums in my car while receiving funny looks from other drivers at red lights. Music is a significant part of my life, so when the opportunity to learn the bass guitar was presented to me, I jumped at the chance! I was thirty years old at the time, and I hadn’t played an instrument before. I sang in my school choirs, so I had some basic music knowledge. I discovered that I absolutely loved playing. It brings me joy, and I get to worship God in a unique way!
I joined the Lawrence First Church worship team about a year ago. I nervously joined not knowing what to expect, or what they expected from me. I had a longing and a hunger in my heart to be a part of worship. That desire, and the encouragement from my husband and children, drove me even over my initial anxiety. Steve Woolaway began playing drums for worship about the same time. We connected over being the new band members, and our bond helped ease my remaining worries. I found all the worship team members to be an inclusive, encouraging, humorous, and patient group of people. After several months, I found my rhythm and place within the team.
My family adapted to my new weekly schedule. The kids and I looked forward to Wednesday classes followed by rehearsal. One thing I adore about my LFC teammates is how welcoming and encouraging they are with all children. Isaac, Ivy, and Ingrid were always welcome to stay and watch us practice. David always has a kind word and a high five for the kids. Isaac took to Morgan, as she was teaching his class, and she reciprocated his friendship. Several times, Kyle invited Ivy to play the drums with him while the rest of us were tuning and setting up. Dee Dee and Amy kept their eyes on Ingrid when she out of my line of vision. Oftentimes you could see Penny, Ivy, and Ingrid dancing before they inevitably ran off to play other friends. Chances were strong that the kids would end up hanging out with Pastor Alissa. I love how welcome children are at LFC. Not every church feels the same way about children, and as parents, it is one of the reasons my husband and I chose LFC to be our church home.
Rehearsals opened with a prayer. We would make time to read Bible verses about worship followed with discussions on how we can use the verse to prepare ourselves and the congregation for receiving God’s word. No matter how I felt going into a rehearsal, I left feeling renewed and refocused afterward. I practiced on Saturdays at home to keep the material fresh for the next morning. Ivy and Ingrid loved singing and dancing along. Isaac sat quietly listening to the songs until they were over. Then he smiled, gave a thumbs up, and said, “Good job, Mom!”
Sunday became my favorite day of the week.
Then COVID-19 arrived. Chaos and uncertainty hit everyone. The biggest shock to my family was the school cancellation in the beginning of March. The kids were excited about school closing, not fully understanding the significance. Then the University of Kansas cancelled classes. Dave, my husband, works for the theater department. His job is building all the sets for the theater performances. He has a physical job and cannot work from home. What would this mean for his job? Our worries about school and work were shared by most people, but the hope was the virus would disappear as quickly as it started.
Our church building closed. David Dunn contacted the team and asked if we’d be willing to meet to record songs for online services before lock down became official. It was a big ask, as we would play ten songs at one time with little practice, and the danger of exposure was ever present in our minds. The day before we were to record, I spoke with one of my friends. She was greatly concerned that I would choose to go out, exposing myself and my family, and she wanted to understand my reasoning. I explained that our church is taking every precaution and that social distancing isn’t hard in our space. I light-heartedly told her “One of our singers, Dee Dee, has been a huge supporter of hand washing, social distancing, and sanitizing things since before it was trending!” I really wanted to be a part of it, because I felt like it was important.
Why did I think my playing the bass for a church worship team was important in the middle of a pandemic? I told myself I wanted to feel normal, to see faces of my friends, and to continue to be a part of something that means a lot to me. In retrospect, worshipping with an instrument was giving my fear to God. Psalm 46: 1-3 (NIV) says:
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
He is our ever-present help in trouble! The world fell into chaos, and amid the craziness, He helped me. Even when I didn’t see it, He was working. We recorded our songs and we left not knowing when we would be together again.
The first Sunday of online church was new and different. My family watched together. Isaac watched without his noise-cancelling headphones. The girls and I danced around the living room with our two dogs. Dave sang along sitting on our couch, cup of coffee close at hand. We all sat together to watch the sermon. The second Sunday was the same. Each week the newness wore off a little. Would we be open for Easter? Not this year. Easter came and went. The weeks were beginning to run together.
What are we going to do for school? The kids missed their friends. School transitioned into online crisis learning. Ivy did well with learning online. Isaac did not. He is autistic and has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in place. He had zoom meetings with his teacher, his class, his special education teacher, his counselor, and his para. It seemed that some days all we did was log into meetings. It was tough for both of us. Ingrid’s preschool teacher set up zoom meetings for her class twice a week. Emails flooded my inbox. Zoom meeting after zoom meeting. I developed a new respect for the teachers making all of this happen. Our daily routine was becoming tedious and the days blurred together. School eventually ended with lots of mixed emotions of not being able to participate in the normal end of year activities. There was no closure with good-byes to teachers and classmates. My kids missed being in the school building by the end of the school year.
My phone rang one night while I was cooking dinner. My caller ID said David Dunn. I was surprised! He was calling to check on the family. He asked if we were doing okay. He reached out in a time that I needed encouraging, and I was really touched that he cared enough to call. A simple phone call made my week. A zoom meeting was set up for the worship team. It had been since March that I had seen most of their beautiful faces. We talked about how the virus had affected each team member. As an essential worker, Connor reassured us he was safe. We prayed for the essential workers on our team and for family members of the team who were essential workers. Bible verses of encouragement were read. Several other virtual meetings were set up. At one point during the quarantine, David and Kyle asked if we would each record our part for “Raise a Hallelujah.” It felt strange to play my part without the team. The bass line was awkward by itself. I worried about how the whole thing would sound. That Sunday the family and I sat to watch service, and I was amazed at the way the song came together. In 1 Corinthians: 12-20 (NIV), Paul writes:
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
I’ve read that verse many times, but it became real. In the microcosm of the track, we were separate parts, but we formed one song.
On April 30, Kansas released the phased reopening plan which started on May 4. The worship team met at the end of May to record for the first time since quarantine. Safety measures were in place, but even while social distancing, being together was refreshing. There were several more filming meetings as the phased reopening continued. Sharron came along with Lynn during one of these sessions. She sat away from the group, but in my line of sight. Every time I looked up; she smiled a big, bright, reassuring smile. I couldn’t help smiling back. After one service, I needed prayer for a personal issue that was weighing on my mind. I pulled Dee Dee aside after the service finished, and I asked her if she would be in prayer for me. She shared encouraging words and an insightful story that really helped me to feel at peace. Later that night, Dee Dee sent me a message that she was praying. I felt so relieved to have people I could confide in and ask for them to pray for me.
Services resumed outside at the end of June. It feels so good to meet in person again! I am thankful for the church leadership who are praying and making hard decisions to keep us safe. I am thankful for my church family. I am blessed to be a part of the Lawrence First Church worship team. A team that prays for our church. A team that lifts each other up. A team that reads the Bible together. A team that uses music to praise God! When COVID hit, and everything shut done, I had no idea how much I truly relied on the relationships I developed with my worship teammates. There were days when I wasn’t sure if I could handle the kids’ school and the responsibilities of everyday life during quarantine, but God was working on me. I find I still worry about the future, and I stress about things out of my control. God is still working on me. Even when I don’t feel it, He’s working. God placed all of us in a position to be helpful to each other, to be a working part of the body of Christ. I am blessed beyond belief that He used my love of music to connect me to all the incredible people at LFC.