Contemporary Praise and Worship at VTS

Date: August 16, 2022

The music at VTS has always been spectacular. I say “always” like I haven’t only been here for two years, but for the two years I’ve been here, the music has been spectacular. For someone who did not grow up in the Episcopal Church, or any sort of Liturgical-leaning denomination, the music has been a wonderful and welcome change from the contemporary praise and worship music that accompanied me for most of my life.

In college, and for a short time after, I spent time in more Evangelical spaces, as a Worship Leader, leading praise music from a stage with a guitar in hand or a piano between me and the congregation. When I came to the Episcopal Church, that stopped. I didn’t see that there was room for that sort of worshipful expression in our church, and I was okay with that. I was of the mind that this sort of music was simply not the way that the Episcopal Church expressed its worship to God, and that was alright with me.

By the end of my first year in Seminary, I missed it, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do about that. I thought it was something I needed to get used to, something to make my peace with, something to accept. But after a conversation with Kimberly Dunn (Class of 23), at the beginning of our second year here, where she asked if I would be willing to help lead a contemporary worship Evening Prayer service with her, I started to see that there was some openness to this sort of worshipful expression (thanks, especially, to our Dean of Chapel, Dr. Strout).

Since that conversation in Fall of 2021, a group of students have held monthly contemporary Evening Prayer services and have seen that students and faculty alike, cradle Episcopalians and later-in-life converts alike, are finding a real, genuine, authentic expression of worship in these songs and methods of worship that may have been unknown, or even hurtful at points in their lives.

For me, I have seen this a tool for redemption in my own life. I have seen that for the God I serve, there is not a thing that is wasted, that all things are being renewed and reconciled, even the things I thought I had to let go of. I’m still very aware that one of the things that drew me to the Episcopal Church in the first place was the simple fact that I am standing in a tradition that is older than I could reasonably comprehend, that I say the same prayers, sing the same songs, and affirm my faith in the same words that millions of Christians have, for thousands of years before me. I never want to lose that. But bringing in my love for Contemporary Christian Music, sharing that with my Christian siblings here, does not negate any of that, and, in fact, has the potential to enhance it.

The Contemporary Praise and Worship Chapel Team will be leading a variety of services this coming school year and we are excited to see how the Lord will use them!

Gavin Tomlin, MDiv 2023
Bicentennial Student Body Secretary

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