“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10
This last weekend, I experienced again a taste of heaven. From October 4-6th, I was given the honor of leading worship with a team of 6 vocalists and 4 band players at Intervarsity’s annual Fall Conference for campuses in Western Massachusetts, and ya’ll, it rocked my world. This year’s theme was Reconciliation, and one of the ways that God met me in that theme was through my experience of leading worship.
At around 12:30pm, JoDeanne, our Intervarsity Staff Member at Smith and Worship Leader for Fall Con, and Julie, president of the Smith Christian Fellowship at school (falls under Intervarsity) and one of my greatest friends, and I headed from Smith College to Toah Nipi in New Hampshire and prepared for our 1.5 hour ride. Just for some background, Intervarsity is an International Christian Organization, which has their own chapter here at Smith College. In New Hampshire, the organization owns a beautiful retreat center that has beautiful cabins, a large central dining area, and a body of water where people can rest, kayak or canoe, write etc. There’s something so special about that place. Anyway, everyone else would meet us a little later than 5pm, but we were heading there early because we would be leading worship with the band and three other singers.
We sat in the car and chatted about all of the “things”, like the importance of multicultural worship and what ways we wanted God to meet us over the retreat. I remember sitting in the passenger seat, listening to JoDeanne telling us about her heart for the conference and the work she put in attempting to choose songs with her Worship partner, Cindy, that would both represent the cultures and ethnicities of many in our audience and the different song preferences of our audience. I wish you were there to listen to this wonderful woman of God passionately talking about how much she cares and God cares about people, especially those in underrepresented groups, feeling seen in spaces of worship and given the opportunity to worship in the comfort of their style and culture. Our conversations in the car paved the way for how much the conference would be a learning opportunity for me.
The team just worked. There was something so special about the team that I was a part of. We were led by JoDeanne and Cindy and were broken up into groups of Tenors, Altos, and Sopranos, two in each. We all worked so well together, the vocalists and the band, because we listened to each other, allowed each other to worship freely, and gave space for leaders of songs to lead through the songs as they desired to sing it. Practicing wasn’t just practice, either, but it was a collective experience of worship even without an audience in front of us. We were a group who loved God, and who loved each other deeply.
Over the weekend, we sang songs like “Great Jehovah” by Travis Greene, “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”, “Al Que Está Sentado En El Trono”, “Raise a Hallelujah by Bethel Music, “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship, etc., with over 200 staff members and students from all over the Southern New England area, and it was absolutely AMAZING. AH-MAY-ZING. Hands were raised, laughs were shared, knees were bent, kissing the ground, and tears were shed at how beautiful our God is. Songs were sung in different languages, in different styles, from different cultures. Some of the sweetest moments in the entire conference were hearing different people saying “thank you for representing us.”
Through my time leading others in worship, I had so many special and intimate times with God myself. For the second time in my life leading others in worship, I sang spontaneously, where my heart sang a song to the Lord and the audience followed the song that was made up in the moment. It went something like this: “Your love is a love so kind, Your love is a love so pure. In you, I am found/ whole”. It was repeated over and over, and I could tell that it was truly God speaking through me, declaring His love for His people. On Saturday night, I also shared a testimony about how through my experience being led in worship in Spanish and through studying the genealogy of Jesus, God revealed to me just how intentional He was in making every single part of me, including placing me in a Dominican family (more on this another time). He made no mistake with me, with us, and is absolutely in love with every part of us, and knowing this helped me to better appreciate the cultures and ethnicities of others.
God also met me personally apart from being on the worship team. Over the conference, we talked about Jesus being the true reconciler, being the only hope that the world has for true reconciliation in this world. We talked about so many other important and wonderful topics like forgiveness working with reconciliation, and hope found in God for restored relationships and a restored new world. Two weeks before the conference, actually, I felt like the Lord was calling me to walk with Him through my childhood, and recognized that a lot of my relationships really need healing and reconciliation. On Saturday night of the conference, I found myself speaking with staff member Jeremy, who encouraged me to pursue reconciliation with others, and to do so diligently. I am beginning to see now how beautiful it is to a live a life in the way of God with God, where relationships are being healed, and I am being set free even more from the unforgiveness that held me bound. Ya’ll, it’s exhausting to harbor unforgiveness.
There were many other conversations had and many other ways that God met me over this conference, like visions and dreams that I have had for myself being reaffirmed by others who didn’t even know me prior to the conference, but of course, I have to stay on topic! Trust me, I could go on FOREVER.
But for now, that’s how being a part of the worship team blessed me, which led me to pursue a life of reconciliation with others and fight tirelessly for justice and peace in my own relationships and in the world. It’s Jesus’ mission in the world, so if that’s what He is about, that’s what I’m about.
I love you SO much and hope that you get to experience freedom in your worship and continue to walk with God in fighting for justice and reconciliation (cross-culturally, interrelationaly, and even spiritually with God) in this world.
If you have any questions at all, about any of these topics or anything else on your heart, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be free, my friend,