fellowship with people that were pretty much like me, 2nd generation Korean-Americans. I went on to stay in Asian-American mono-ethnic ministries throughout college and grad school. I even met my wife in this context, So I will always thank God for putting me there!
each other through the good times and bad, and to play really great music from a huge range of traditions in a way that honors the histories that the songs have come from.
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that I will be the first to reveal
this, but my name always beats me
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I could have never imagined that I would be a part of a worship band. After college, my path in life was clear in the field of music therapy with children and adults with disabilities. I had a successful practice and was beginning to publish some research, when a holy interruption came three years ago.
I was invited to lead worship at the Duke Divinity Center for Reconciliation Summer Institute in 2011. I am positive that I must have been the last person they called because I had no credentials besides the
fact that I led worship at my church every so
often. And this was no ordinary crowd at this conference; it was an intimate gathering of leaders from all over the world who sought retreat and inspiration in their
work of reconciliation around the world. Catholic and protestant, young and
academics and practitioners, the worship services were to reflect each voice from the different parts of the world. Eager and much afraid, I decided to take on the challenge, but I knew that my narrow scope of worship practices would not cover the diversity of the participants. I called up some friends of mine, and together we forged our way through the week.
What we didn’t know was that the Lord had plans for us to continue down the path of what it meant to journey together in facilitating worship experiences along the lines of reconciliation. We continue to discover the degree to which worship serves as the very content to facilitate reconciliation and to break down the walls that divide us. We also realized that as a band these areas would be exposed within our collaborative process. As the band leader and facilitator, I knew that it would take time before all of us felt equal at the table. It took nearly two years for some of us to be awakened to our own voice and to take ownership as an equal partner in our family. I like to think of it as a microcosm of what the work of reconciliation may look like.
We have learned much and still have much to learn, but as a Rwandan proverb states, “If you want to go fast, walk alone. But if you want to go far, walk together.”
I am Nigerian.
I always hope that I will be the first to reveal this, but my
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name always beats me to it. My accent never betrays me though as I’ve been in the U.S. too long to have anything other than an American accent! This is fundamentally who I am – a Nigerian-American woman who has the amazing privilege of being a Christian.
I may seem odd for this, but my faith came after connecting to my ethnic identity. I am a Nigerian-American Christian. I don’t really take to the idea that we are all Christians first – this may be true for many, but for my reality’s sake, I claim the opposite. And it is okay for me to have a stake in this claim, because for me, they live together anyway. And my identity is important because my faith works in it every day.
My faith works with me to navigate what it means to be a Nigerian-American, to be a Christian, to be a Nigerian-American Christian who grew up in African American churches and now attends a predominantly white Presbyterian church who would love nothing more than to live into the original intention of the church. You know, the whole “there-is-no-Jew-and-no-Gentile-in-Christ” thing.
This is my reality. I am a part of the church exactly as I am and try to figure out how I can live in that church faithfully. I learn from faith and my church experience and glean all that I can from them. But I also recognize that there are deep voids in the church. Sinful ones. And many of these voids I have no chance of impacting or changing – but some of them I do! We do! I believe that there are paths of brokenness that
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can be erased – but it takes everyone in the church confessing that they have walked down a worn, beaten path for too long. The church continues down a treacherous path when keeps “others” out of their church or huddles around people “like them” in and
through church – majority and minority alike. I too have done this and hope to join the body of Christ in seeing that there is another path, a path already forged in discipleship and resurrection.
For me, recognizing the resurrection is the power behind reconciliation. I want to recognize possibility through the church. My prayer is to have the imagination to recognize the possibility that Jesus has made available to the church to actually be and not just do church.
This is what makes me a Mender. I believe in investing in the “what-ifs.” I hope to help the church recognize that it has resurrection potential, resurrection possibility. But with such a large goal, it seems impossible to know where to start, so I suggest picking a specific vehicle for reconciliation.
And for me, my medium is music.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
I am a Mender.
Stevie Wonder. Bishop Hezekiah Walker and LFC. The Clark Sisters. Justin Timberlake. PJ Morton. Pastor John P. Kee. Jesus. I’m musically inspired to talk about life, faith and Jesus, and the aforementioned people played a major part in my musical formation from my childhood to, now as a young adult, worship leader, servant, songwriter and worshipper.
I am originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina and I grew up in a Christian home where my grandparents raised me. I attribute most of my spiritual formation to my grandmother, the late Mother Joyce A. Bryant. I grew up in the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), where in the four walls of East Russell Street Church of God and North Ramsey Street Church of God, I learned what music was and how it mattered to me as a Christian.
I am a part of Menders because I believe that what we do: the worship, the reconciliation, the journey, the music
Where I am in Christ and life, as a 27 year old man, is not where I thought I’d be. Currently, I am getting to know God more and more. After receiving a seminary education at Duke Divinity School, my passion for music was renewed. The summer after graduating from seminary, I found out about a music internship through a fellow classmate. The internship was hosted by Making a Melody, LLC and East End
Fellowship Church out of Richmond, VA. I had been praying for an opportunity like this because I was serious about pursuing music as a profession. During this summer long internship, my passion for music, songwriting and producing were re-ignited. Appropriately called the “Urban Congregational Songwriting Internship,” that internship (in the summer of
2011), also challenged me to think more about other types of music outside of Gospel and Christian contemporary.
I grew up on many types of music including Gospel, Classical, Jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop to name most. Could a Christian be a faithful witness while singing other genres/styles of music outside of Gospel/CCM (Christian Contemporary Music)? Could a Christian do both “Christian-based” music and “secular” music?
Because I grew up in a household that listened to all types of music namely Soul/R&B, Jazz, Country and Gospel, I did not see a separation between the “secular” and “sacred music,” until I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, and threw all of my R&B CDs away. I had heard somewhere in my church and early-Christian walk, that listening to “secular” music was unacceptable. This was all reversed when I graduated from seminary, and saw “worship” music in a broader sense.
Worship music did not just include the worship songs we sang on Sunday morning, in church services or on the gospel radio station. Worship included songs about life, love, relationships and commentary about societal issues plaguing our world and communities today. My viewpoint about worship and “worship” music definitely goes against the “sacred-secular” divide, as well as pushes to re-define what music is and how it is to be used. I am no less “saved.” Nor am I a Christian who is straddling the fence.
Being a part of Menders challenges me to re-think worship altogether and what it looks like to different people, from different backgrounds
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and traditions who have one thing in common—the love of worshipping God.
I joined Menders because of Harold’s cooking. Just kidding. But for real, Harold can cook. And I think that the frequency and quality of Harold’s cooking is a clear sign of God’s grace and mercy. And in a sense I became part of Menders because of meals.
Before I became a Christian, in my grammar school years, I wanted to be a rock star. A child of the ‘90’s, I remember singing the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the karaoke stage at the town fair when I was eight years old. As I got older, I learned how to play the guitar and started writing songs, and by the time I was twelve years old, I was learning, writing and recording music from the time I came home until I went to bed (with a quick break for dinner). I played with others sometimes, but most of my time was spent alone in my “music room” molding my future fame and glory.
was fourteen years old, I became a Christian. I learned the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in a compelling way, and believed it. And I was thrilled – how amazing that I could know the
Creator of the universe. Soon after, the youth leader at the church I was attending asked if I would play guitar for the youth. I welcomed the idea eagerly, and began learning CCM worship music, such as “Lord I Lift Your Name On High,” and “Shout to the Lord.” I eventually spent hours writing Christian songs, and began my pursuit of being a full time Christian music artist. With, of course, short breaks for meals.
When I first heard the Gospel and began my walk of discipleship, the focus was on knowing God and growing with God. So my music focused on fostering personal relationships with Jesus – for others and for myself. This was good, but while I was in
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college I learned that the Gospel is bigger than just me and Jesus.
It’s the announcement of a Kingdom (and a King) in which all brokenness is healed, a Savior who was pleased to “reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col 1:20).
Our band eats a lot of meals together. And then we have seconds, and then when we’re finished we sit at the table and talk some more. We don’t work separately in our enclaves and then break for a meal. The meals are perhaps the most important part. And I think that because of this, we’re beginning to learn what it is to embody the Gospel for which we so heartily worship God.
I’m in Menders because the meals inform the worship – the worship comes out of relationships that break down the racial and cultural divisions that separate the Church and hinder our worship. I’m in Menders for the meals.