My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul.
– Psalms 108:1
Florida Conference members who assemble in June to elect delegates and make other important decisions on behalf of the church won’t be the only ones open to God’s will at Annual Conference 2015.
Musical worship leaders Robert McMichael and Jarvis Wilson will step into the Performing Arts Center at Bethune-Cookman University with a plan of action – but ready to heed the call of the Holy Spirit.
“We’ll work on an outline together, with song selections and so on, but then at the time of the services, we’ll discern where the room is,” said McMichael, part of the musical duo from Atlanta who delivered rousing performances at the piano and organ during Florida’s 2013 Annual Conference.
“You can’t be locked into what you have planned, in case God has had a different idea,” McMichael said. “Two years ago, we had thought we would be doing traditional music, but the music took on a life of its own.”
McMichael calls that a “relevant blended moment,” and he anticipates some spontaneity when the conference gathers June 10-13 in Daytona Beach. In addition, lending their voices in song at the event will be the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home Choir and Bethune-Cookman University’s Concert Chorale.
B-CU Concert Chorale to regale conference crowdBy Susan Green
By the time Annual Conference 2015 opens at Bethune-Cookman University, the spring semester will be a fading memory and many students will be enjoying summer break.
Even so, chorale director Damon Dandridge didn’t have any trouble recruiting students and even some chorale alumni to lend their voices to the event.
“That speaks to their commitment and dedication to this organization,” he said.
Like faith in Jesus Christ, music has the power to unite people of different generations and create lasting relationships, Dandridge said.
In keeping with the conference theme of “Next Generations: Together in the Baptismal Waters,” he decided to invite former Bethune-Cookman chorale members to join students in a performance for conference attendees during the evening session Thursday, June 11.
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With a background in music and Methodism, Annual Conference worship coordinator Kandace Brooks can appreciate the importance of raising voices in song. She holds a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree in music, along with a Master of Divinity degree and a doctorate in homiletics from the London School of Theology. She is the senior pastor at Tomoka UMC, Ormond Beach.
She and McMichael said music will take a lead from this year’s conference theme: “Next Generations: Together in the Baptismal Waters.” Brooks said the theme is intended to shine the light on young people and youth to see what older Christians can learn from them.
“We will be celebrating their journey with joy,” she said. “Music has a way of spanning generations and uniting us in spirit. The Wesleys (Methodist founders John and Charles) understood this and used it in their worship.”
She said she is honored to work with McMichael and Wilson “because they are such gifted leaders and musicians – they are just so good.”
McMichael serves in the North Georgia Conference as the worship leader for the Mt. Bethel and St. Philip United Methodist churches in Marietta. Wilson is minister of music at Hillside International Truth Center and gospel chorus director for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Atlanta. The two have worked together on musical performances since 1997, when they teamed up to lead worship at Cascade UMC in Atlanta.
Through the years, they have worked together to blend their styles and experiences and lead music at various events, including workshops, national meetings and jurisdictional United Methodist meetings. They also have been booked for nondenominational and interdenominational events.
McMichael and Jarvis are planning the music for six worship services at this year’s Annual Conference, plus clergy and laity sessions. Brooks said the opening service will set the tone for the whole conference and will carry the theme forward.
McMichael spoke fondly of the Florida Conference ordination service two years ago.
“I think on that Friday night, the spirit moved because people were saying yes to their call --- God was there.”
For this year’s ordination, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 12, the Beachside Brass Quintet of the Daytona Symphony will join McMichael and Wilson.
“In the beginning, we will be offering gathering music, and as the service goes on, the music will swell,” McMichael said. “It starts instrumentally, then goes to a participatory moment when the congregation will begin to participate.”
The university’s Concert Chorale will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 11, before a presentation by Rev. Adam Hamilton of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. The Children’s Home Choir will sing during the Friday afternoon session.
Even though the gathering will have aspects of church business and housekeeping, McMichael said he always views the audience as a congregation.
“We are gathering in the name of God as a worshiping community … to acknowledge the presence of God,” he said.
Brooks said music also can bridge potential divisions in the church.
“I believe that music touches us on an emotional and spiritual level and it will bring us together at this very diverse conference in terms of race and age,” she said. “Music becomes a language of its own and offers a new and deeper expression of our praise and devotion.”
McMichael will already have a 2015 annual conference assembly behind him when he reports to Daytona; he’s the music leader for the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference to be held June 1-3.
“There, too, we will be striving for an encounter with God,” he said.
McMichael said he usually does about six such events a year.
“Just knowing that people are drawn closer to God, with the result being that they receive direction for their lives” inspires him to keep performing, he said.
“Therefore, God is actually touching humanity. … Our relationship with Jesus Christ never disappoints us.”
For information about Annual Conference 2015, click here.
-- Anne Dukes is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.