How We See

Inside Out is currently doing fantastic business in America, released to overwhelming critical acclaim, everyone is flocking to the cinema. I know we can’t wait to see it as a family (unfortunately it’s not out until the end of July in the UK….just in time for the school summer holidays…)

Inside Out is set inside the mind of Riley, where her five emotions: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness, try to lead her through life as she moves with her family to a new city. Pete Docter, the director, first began developing Inside Out in 2009 after noticing changes in his daughter’s personality as she grew older. The film’s producers consulted many psychologists and researched the mind in preparation for building its story. Initial drafts were unsatisfactory, and the production was revised significantly with the realization that interpersonal relationships guide human emotions.

Winning With People

We are just about to start a new series at EBC called Winning With People, based on the book by John Maxwell, and the first part is titled How We See. And if its not obvious by now…this Inside Out clip is going to be used to open the service. The story we’re using is from Luke 7: 36-50, where Jesus is anointed by a sinful woman while at Simon’s house. Simon is self righteous and believes he is better than everybody else…and so does not see Jesus for who he is, nor the woman for who she is. Whereas the woman knows herself, and so sees Jesus for who he really is.

Who we are affects how we see other people. Who we are affects our relationships with other people. Just as illustrated in the Inside Out clip, our emotions and the thoughts in our head can often dictate how we relate to one another. It can be as simple as if we’re angry or happy, tearful or sensitive, we can either rub others up the wrong way or misinterpret how others are acting towards us. I know I’ve been guilty of that (although not very often as I’m usually so perfect and fun)….

But at a deeper level we can all have ingrained opinions and almost subconscious reactions whether these are genetic, from our background, from other influences or experiences. It could be argued that certain press and media outlets thrive on these negative preconceptions…we seem to be in the thick of a raft of headlines about “benefits scroungers”, “work-shy”, “immigrants” and “celebs”…and we get hardened to the images and articles we read when often the real stories are somewhat different.

The Lens Principle

John Maxwell better defines this as The Lens Principle (again from his book Winning With People), which he defines as:

Who we are determines how we see others.

The big question is:
What is my perception of others?

This means:

  1. Who you are determines what you see.
  2. Who you are determines how you see others.
  3. Who you are determines how you view life.
  4. Who you are determines what you do.

At its simplest we could define this as stereotyping: all artists are flighty, all singers are divas, drummers hang around with musicians, all programmers are dorks etc… But how we’ve been brought up, who our friends were (or still are), parent’s opinions, the press we read and much much more will have an affect on how we view the world, and how we see people.

W.W.J.S.

163-1468Now I don’t think it’s my place to say what you should or should not be reading or listening to; my point of view, my background, my family situation, the newspapers I read and the TV I watch is possibly the same or maybe completely different to yours. But I’ll leave you with this:

There was a craze in the late 90’s for wearing WWJD bracelets, which, if you were around in the 90’s you’ll know stood for What Would Jesus Do? So maybe a subtle change to this, as we think about How We See people would be to have a bracelet with WWJS on it: What Would Jesus See?

The Power of Three (or more)

I’ve written before here of my admiration, appreciation and all out love for John Mayer. While we all wait for him to release something new (it can’t be long now, can it?), here’s a clip from 2010 of The John Mayer Trio performing Try in New York:

…also featuring the talents of Steve Jordan on drums and Pino Palladino on bass, for a band of three, they make an amazing sound and show.

One of the enviable roles of being a worship leader is the rotas…and I get the privilege of doing this every term. Some may rather be playing songs, practicing their instruments, listening to new songs (or old songs) and customising their pedal boards/drum kits/music folders…but not me. No, there’s nothing I like more than sitting with a calendar and a list of people and their availability, and then working out how to fit them together… OK, so some of this paragraph may be a lie…

We put the rota together, we aim for a balanced band with the hope that come Sunday they will lead the congregation in musical worship, make a joyful and balanced sound to the Lord and through the service help the congregation encounter the Holy Spirit. And some weeks it goes really well, some weeks it goes OK, and I’m pleased to say we very rarely we have a problem.

But what does happen from time to time is we get the balance off a bit…whether it’s because we’re missing piano one week, or we only have female singers, or there are two guitarists and no drummer… We all have to work with who we’ve got, and although we are fortunate to have a good mix of musicians, we still have weeks where we can’t have drums, bass, guitars, keys and singers. And some weeks we sigh, and some weeks it feels a bit sparse, and some weeks it just works.

The point is, as illustrated by the clip; you don’t need a huge band of musicians to make a joyful noise. The John Mayer Trio is a trio (the name is a giveaway….), and we can trace the lineage back through the years…only having three people in the band didn’t hurt The Police, or Cream or The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Nirvana got on fine as a three piece as did ELP, Green Day and Muse. And taking this set up even further (or should that be diminishing?), The Black Keys, The White Stripes and Royal Blood have not struggled with being a duo…nor The Pet Shop Boys, Daft Punk and The Civil Wars.

They work (very well!) with what they have, and they make it a feature…The White Stripes and The Black Keys would sound odd if they added a bass player, just as Jimi Hendrix or Nirvana lose nothing from not having a keyboard player or female harmony. So how can we apply this to a Sunday worship team?

  1. The Fraction Principle: which we have talked about before, but in a nutshell, everyone plays to a fraction of their ability/level according to how many are in the band. So if there are five of you, a fifth, if three, then a third. You don’t overplay, but similarly, you don’t underplay. Strumming barre chords won’t cut it if there are only three of you.
  2. Listen: Three pieces (and two pieces) work because they make sure their sound fills the entire spectrum. So the bass player fills the bottom end, the guitar or keys fills the middle and adds colour, and the vocals go on top. If you’re leading on guitar or keys, don’t stay too high or too low…you need to fill the middle ground.
  3. Arrange: Every song benefits from being arranged…if you all start at the beginning and hopefully get to the end together, you’ve played the song, but everyone (including you!) will be worn out. So stops and starts, dynamics, changing sounds for different parts of the song and harmony will add texture and colour, even if the song only has three chords.
  4. Flexibility: It is much easier to work as a smaller group, if there’s only three of you then you can be really dynamic, if you’ve been playing long enough you can make changes on the fly and stop and start and communicate instantly. It’s the difference between driving a well tuned and balanced sports car (small band) as opposed to trying to steer an oil tanker through jelly (big band not really paying attention….)

I have been as guilty as the next person for bemoaning not having a drummer/missing keys on Sunday/only having girl singers, but if we approach it as a power trio and Try with what we have…I think we’d all be surprised by the results!

It’s in the presentation

Nine Inch Nails isn’t the first band you think of when it comes to presenting worship, but this clip of them live at Lollapalooza is, I think, one of the most captivating but simple performances I have ever seen. (I wasn’t actually there…but you and I have YouTube…)

Notice how there aren’t lots of fancy lights, impressive and expensive stage sets…everyone (of course) is in black and most of the band rarely look at the audience. Yet the way the set starts with a solitary ghost light illuminating Trent Reznor as he sings…then as the track builds instrumentally, so does the band…literally person by person, instrument by instrument. Even by the climax in the middle, the staging and lighting is still sparse…with enormous white flats raised behind the musicians (again one by one) with the stark floor lights casting huge dramatic shadows. Simple but effective. Striking and memorable, but on a budget.

Set Dressing

We at EBC have been working on creating a new stage set for each of our series…we already have a pretty decent setup with a good number of static LED Par Cans and a small array of moving head lights, and our stage area is draped in black curtain which outlines the stage for us and also does an extremely good job of controlling the sound in the hall. But black material is as good at absorbing light as it is at absorbing sound… We have a services budget set aside for Sundays, which is usually spent on music, props, licenses and decor, but recently we’ve started setting aside a small portion for set dressing.IMG_1260

For the past year or so we’ve had up some white muslin which provides a bit of contrast and also a creative backdrop for the lights. For Easter we took it all down and just had a stark, wooden cross which was illuminated in outline by some LED fairy lights (it sounds slightly cheesy, like a Christmas/Easter juxtaposition but trust me, it was effective and tasteful. And then when Easter was complete we started experimenting with a material called Correx, which is like a plastic corrugated cardboard (the same material which estate agent boards are made from). This is large, cheap, flexible and pretty strong.

As you cIMG_1261an see from the pictures, a couple of sheets suspended make a great backdrop. We got several sheets of the 8′ by 4′ Correx in white from eBay (a pack of 10 was around £80 including delivery). The flats were created by cutting the sheets at random angles, and then rejoining them with centimeter gaps using bent paperclips from the church office… The cuts provide interest, but also the way they then hang slightly unevenly make for interesting shadows. All in all (I made two smaller flats for the stage right as well), the cost was around £15.

We’ve also used the Correx to make light tubes which are placed over our Par Cans, and picture frames for our “50 Shades of Grace” series. There have been some questions from the congregation…looking for meaning in the randomness of the set…but the overall feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and there has been more intrigue as to how we created them!

It’s in the Presentation

So I encourage you to experiment with your sets, how you package the background, how you approach your presentation beyond song choice, sermon and printed media. Big and bold has impact, but doesn’t have to have a big budget! Check out more ideas here, and as always, go around with your eyes open for ideas…there is plenty of inspiration around if you look out for it. I’ve also been collating ideas on a Pinterest board as well.

Here to Serve!

I don’t think I have any guilty pleasures…as I don’t feel guilty about them! And while many of them may be distinctly “uncool”…I am now of an age where I don’t feel too bothered about them. So…confessions: I still love Level 42 from my 80’s teenage years, I have penchant for rom coms (as I have confessed to before), and these past few Wednesdays two of my favourite US TV shows have started their new seasons in the UK, Castle and the country juggernaut which is Nashville.

Great songs, pretty actors, lots of fabulous guitars and outstanding music week after week. Admittedly some of the storylines are a bit “soap”, but captivating and light at the same time. I also love the fact all of the actors can sing and play…when the audition process took place it was a prerequisite….no dubbing or voice doubles…if you were going to act as a country star, you had to sing like one too!

OK, all well and good you may say. Nice music. But how does it link to the blog? Glad you asked…

Well, 3 seasons in we’ve seen the ups and downs of most of the character’s love lives, big concerts, intimate gigs, ruthless record execs and even murderous fathers. And there are at least three songs in each episode…often at The Bluebird Cafe (I wish we had one locally!). And our “stars” are always there in one way or another….at the front or behind the scenes.

This is where it gets complicated?

So Gunner and Scarlet (who sing in the clip above) met at the cafe while she was waitressing and he was working sound. And they’ve gone on to be signed, make a lot of money from publishing, done tours…but they still come back, and serve behind the bar, work the sound board. Avery Bartlett was a wannabe star who dropped his band so he could pursue a deal in LA…the deal went sour, he came back to Nashville with nothing then got hired to be guitar slinger for one of the biggest artists…major tour, living his dream. And he still comes back to the Bluebird to help behind the bar, work the sound desk, support the artists. Deacon Claybourne, the guitarists guitarist who has played with everybody and is renowned…still makes the time to help at the bottom. Zoey Dalton is realising her dream to be a singer…but she still serves at the Bluebird.

Any regular readers will know we did our church weekend a couple of weeks ago, and again, this servant behaviour was modelled by our band, by our leaders, by our congregation. So although the musicians were very visible at the front over the weekend, they were just as active behind the scenes in the setup and clear down, the loading of vans and lugging of boxes.

Happy to serve!

Our leaders may have led us over the weekend, but they were also there on the Thursday preparing the marquees, putting our chairs, refilling the urns for hot drinks and taking out the rubbish.

And this happens every weekend at EBC…those who are in an upfront role are also working tirelessly behind the scenes, serving refreshments, winding cables, hoovering and taking care of business! We’ve always said if you are serving up front, you need to serve up back too, and I’m pleased to say it’s something we don’t have to enforce, our teams just do it! And I hope it is the same in your church.

I used to listen to Kids Praise albums when I was a little kid….Psalty the singing songbook…was it just me? And the songs have stuck with me…straight out of the bible, easy to remember:

If you want to be great in God’s kingdom

Learn to be the servant of all.

Nashville doesn’t have room for divas, and neither does church. 

5 things learnt from our weekend

So we’re back from our church weekend away (long time back actually…just taken a while to recover…), and it was great…really great. The weather was incredibly kind, the infrastructure (marquees, generator, toilets and showers) worked really well, the shared aspect between the two churches was wonderful and we all had a great time together. This didn’t happen by accident, so I thought I’d post about some of what we learnt in the planning from our weekend away:Tents

  1. Prepare your music in advance: We were going to be in a field for four days, so unless we brought a photocopier, we would be stuck. And similarly, rather than bringing all of our music, I figured it would be easier to select a short list of songs and then prepare folders for the weekend. That way, if it got lost, it wouldn’t matter.
  2. Rota your band in advance: I already knew who was coming, and I knew how many sessions we needed to cover. What I didn’t know for sure was what songs and feel would be required and when…but I simply rota’d a general band lineup for each session based on who we had with us.
  3. Get all of your sound and light working in advance: The weekend officially started on the Friday evening with a celebration, but some of us were there from Thursday evening preparing the lights and sound. We brought our lighting system from EBC, FBC brought their PA, and between us we had a pretty good set up which worked well all weekend.
  4. Soundcheck: Now this was slightly different from a regular Sunday, as we were going to have several different bands for each session with no time between for soundcheck. What helped us was using the In Ear Monitoring system from FBC, so we were responsible for our own stage mix. Which meant the engineer was only responsible for the Front Of House sound. We did do a line check on the Friday afternoon to make sure all was working.
  5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: None of this would have been any use if we didn’t have a band. So the planning extended back weeks, confirming who was going to be there, confirming the songs (with the band and the church office), confirming what we were going to bring, confirming everyone’s responsibility and when over the weekend.
  6. All of the above (and much much more) meant generally the weekend went really smoothly. So much so that we’re already talking about plans for our next joint weekend in 2017.

And out of these things, what can we apply to our Sunday mornings?

  1. Prepare your music in advance.
  2. Rota your band in advance.
  3. Get all of your sound and light working in advance.
  4. Soundcheck.
  5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.

Simple really…

Now apologies for being offline for a week, point 6. should be “allow for recovery”….normal business has resumed and I shall be posting on Thursday… Have also been busy putting this together, my other job:

Community wasn’t built in a day

There are countless books, videos, courses and step by step guides out there on community. It’s one of the things which most churches aspire to, and arguably one of the ingredients of a happy and rounded life.Tents

But it seems in our busy, 21st century culture, community is becoming more and more relegated to being online when we can fit it in and contain it. For instance, I have 422 friends on Facebook, of which probably 22 I see regularly. I am connected on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest (yes, I am a man with a Pinterest account). I probably still have a MySpace profile somewhere, I’ve dabbled in FourSquare and I set up a TuneTeams account recently. And that doesn’t include old school emails and texts. So I am incredibly overconnected in my digital realm.

But the reality is, most evenings (when I don’t have rehearsals, meetings or are carrying out “dad taxi” duties, I am at home…with my family, enjoying catching up on the events of the day and unwinding from a days work. Which is not a bad thing. But it’s not community.

Face Time?

I was in London today for a meeting about a couple of upcoming audits which I am doing. Now I could have emailed it in, we could have exchanged data, maybe even Skyped if it came to it. It would have saved me the commute, and the train fare. But putting in the “face time” as we call it develops my relationship further with the client, it shows I want to make the effort, and we talk far more about work and not about work than we would have done in a brief email or a focused phone conversation. It takes time and effort, but it builds community.

This coming weekend we are having our church weekend, something we try to do every year. This year we have taken the step to share it with another church in our area, FBC. We’re camping at Wellington Country Park, we’ve hired in huge marquees, generators, toilets and showers for the 200 or more who will be sharing the weekend. It’s almost a mini festival! We are running events on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we have a visiting speaker, children’s and youth work. There are leisure activities being planned, movies, a very silly quiz night and much much more (did I mention the buffet, hog roast and barbecue?). We’ve been planning it for probably the best part of a year, it’s taken a huge amount of planning and logistics, and I will be on site from Thursday to Monday, when the inevitable big clear up has to happen. And I don’t even want to thing about Tuesday evening yet (when I’m going to have to reinstall our sound and lights ready for next Sunday).

Is it worth the effort?

It’s taken a massive amount of effort to put on; time, money and heavy lifting! But we will have a whole weekend together without the distractions of work, TV, cooking and general day to day. We can do what we do on a Sunday without the need to rush onto the next service, or to get home to put on lunch. There is a program so there are things to occupy us through the days, but there will also be plenty of time to be together, to share, to chat, to eat, to just be. And although I know it’s going to be a great weekend with fantastic content, the opportunity to spend time with friends, make new ones, and just grow our community together is going to be the most important part of the whole weekend.

The only way to build community is to be one. The only way to cultivate relationships is to invest in them. Which takes time, lots of time, spent together. So instead of reading the books, working through the programs or “liking” your friend’s status, why don’t you spend some time, quality time with your community this weekend.

I’ll be posting about this next week, as I’m probably going to be off grid, in a field, with deer for the next 5 days!

Progress

I got a new phone this past week, as I’d started the new business and my old iPhone 4s was starting to show it’s age. I upgraded to a brand new big silver iPhone 6, it’s amazing…big screen, fingerprint scanner, fast processor and 64gb of memory.Performa 6320

This is a picture of my first Mac, back in 1996 when I was a second year music student at university. It’s a Macintosh Performa 6320, and it came with a built in CD Rom drive, 120mhz processor, 12 meg of RAM and a whopping great big 1.2gb hard drive. It cost me over £3000, without a printer, and it saw me through the rest of my time at University and beyond. The year after I graduated I shared a house with some of my Uni friends, all of us had Macs, but mine was the fastest! I still have it, in the loft!

My phone, which I slip into my pocket, use to play games on the train and to Google pictures of kittens, has a processor which is 10 times the speed, over 50 times as much memory and is always connected…no dial up or waiting for a modem to download. And it certainly didn’t cost me £3000…

Now aside from asserting that I am a certified Apple fanboy, you may ask, so what? And to that I say, progress. In 20 years my big, beige, expensive desktop has transitioned into a small, shiny, fast and portable device which I slip into my pocket and generally take for granted. But if I look back…

Anniversaries!

This month sees a number of anniversaries for me, May is our wedding anniversary (16 years!), and my birthday this weekend also marks the one year anniversary of starting this blog, and also the 13 year anniversary of us moving (yes, we moved on my birthday….planning….!) to Bracknell to start the church plant which was part of EBC.

In 2002 we met as a church plant in our local sports centre, which meant loading up cars and trailers at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, transporting everything and meeting a small team to set up, rehearse, run and then clear up and hope to be home some time after lunch. Over the years our volunteers and members changed, children arrived, our senior minister moved to another church and so Chris who started as a student minister and then assistant minister became the senior minister of EBC…cue another change of direction, a bringing together of the three congregations and a gradual merging of the different teams. And we only had one child and a relatively empty house.

Where are we now?

We are now one big church with multiple expressions of worship during the week, we have actually just passed 500 regular attenders on our list. I have a big pool of musicians and artists to draw on for the band, for drama, for stage dressing, sound and lighting design. We had a major upgrade in our main hall which saw our sound go digital, plasma screens installed for the congregation and a comprehensive lighting system. Our song list has shrunk from 2000 to 300 to currently around 65. And there are now five of us sharing the space which is left in our house…

We don’t always notice this, as we’re planning for this Sunday, then next Sunday, then June. We can forget we no longer get feedback from our sound system (which always works on a Sunday and isn’t dependent on tape and string to hold it together). Although there may the odd typo on our PowerPoint very occasionally, we don’t experience our overheads being loaded back to front or not quite focusing on the screen. Bringing everybody together has led to better shared resources, less personality clashes, and a sharper focus than we had ever had in the past. Progress can seem slow in the day to day and week to week, but reviewing from past years…the rate of progress is incredible!

One of my all time favourite songs by Steven Curtis Chapman is “I am found in You“, the words of which I always come back to:

I may not see, in front of me

But I can see for miles when I look over my shoulder

Cause Lord it’s clear, You’ve brought me here

So faithful every step of the way

I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next 12 months. I’m not sure where I’ll be in the next 16 years. But I can look back, marvel at the progress, and see where I’ve come from, and who it was who brought me here. So as you look ahead and plan for the future, or as you watch YouTube movies on your phone, don’t forget to look over your shoulder, see where you’ve come from and how you got here.

But is it “Christian”?

I’ve been doing this blog for almost a year, and I’ve been sourcing and using all sorts of different artistic media for well over a decade now, and something we’ve always done at EBC is use a mix of Christian music, worship music, and secular music. Similarly our media, TV clips, movie clips and illustrations are sourced from many different backgrounds. Now I know this doesn’t make us radically different to a lot of churches, but at the same time, I would argue that we are still in the minority, especially in the UK.

The clip is a song by Josh Garrels, an artist I discovered just hhis year when he released his new album Home. His voice and artistry is, to me, a thing of absolute beauty. His songs profess an exploration of faith, although maybe not in the traditional church sense. These aren’t songs of worship, but again I would argue that they are worshipful. There is a clear spiritual thread which influences and runs through all he does.

I’ve read interviews with very famous Christian artists and songwriters where they have stated they only listen to “Christian” music, and I’ve also seen shows where the biblical direction to “be in the world but not of it” is taken to a literal extreme…so apart from living on planet earth, everything else (TV, music, relationships, shopping, phones…) is completely unacceptable.

What I’m not saying…

Now I’m not advocating incorporating the latest Lars von Trier movie into our Sunday services, or covering a Slipknot or Eminem track in it’s entirety as part of the benediction. But we acknowledge that our God is The Creator, and that we are all made in his image. So we should not be surprised when we see a spiritual influence and acknowledgement in so much art, be it paintings and drawings by past masters through to modern songs and films.

I am a drummer, so aside from having thick skin and only being able to count to four, I am well used (especially in the past) to receiving general grief from those who don’t believe drums belong in church, let alone secular and contemporary songs. Yet here we are, leading worship on electric guitar, using clips from current TV shows and movies and making use of an extensive lighting array.

…but what I am saying…

And for those who wouldn’t usually set foot in a church, if they get invited and then experience a song, or clip, or illustration which they are familiar with…well it puts that element into a completely different light, and hopefully also gives them a new understanding. We’ve used scenes from Harry Potter at Easter…a better allegory for willingly giving your life for others I’ve yet to find, we’ve used songs by Pink to illustrate family breakup, clips from Big Bang Theory, Friends and Outnumbered which show relationships in a far better setting than we could ever create. And they all raise questions, get us thinking, and set us up to be able  to then answer some of these questions with biblical truths.

The message never changes, it has remained the same and relevant for over 2,000 years. But the medium we use to communicate and share the message has to change to fit into culture. And to fit into culture, we have to understand it, and use it.

The Greatest Gift

So we’re almost halfway through May, which means it must be about time for Christmas planning…. No? Well, even though this post is nothing to do with the festive season, here is one of my all time favourite Big Bang Theory clips…

We’ve just started a new series at EBC called “50 Shades of Grace” (see what we did there….), which while blatantly ripping off the title from a well known book series, has nothing to do with the content of the novels or movie (not that I’ve seen or read either….)

The first part of the series was simply called “Saved“, and looked at how we all fall short, we all make mistakes, but everyone can be saved through the grace of God. And this gift of grace is freely given and freely received…the cost has already been paid.

Free?

In my “other” life as a royalty accountant, I work with many companies and artists in the music industry, and they have been getting to grips with the whole Freemium model which is growing within the industry. Companies like Spotify, Pandora and BeatsMusic, cover mount CD’s and YouTube means there are now so many ways of exposing artists and sharing their creations, but the majority of it makes no money and is perceived by the consumer as free…if I can stream it/watch it/consume it on my laptop, why should I pay for it? And if it’s then “free”, it’s value is diminished…we don’t treat it in the same as we may have a CD or Vinyl which we would have previously bought.

Church is quite often perceived in a similar way. I posted the other week about our volunteer celebration, and how for some church just “happens” when behind the scenes there are countless people making it “happen”. Week after week we put on a service which has great music and arts, an interesting and challenging talk, sometimes drama, accompanying literature and good quality refreshments, and all it costs is an hour of your morning. Theatres and concert venues would charge you lots for a similar experience! But because it’s “free” is it’s real value diminished?

Always Grace

Grace, the thing that separates the Christian faith from other faiths or world views. Grace is a free gift, free for us to grasp and receive and live in its light. We can’t earn it, we can’t buy it, much as we may try we cannot “be better, be more good” to deserve it.  But because it’s “free”, do we again devalue it, not take it as seriously as we should, not realise how important and how incredible this gift is, and how much it actually cost in the first place?

In the clip, Penny has just got Sheldon a napkin signed by his hero, Leonard Nimoy. But to Sheldon this is possibly the greatest gift he could ever have received, and no matter how many gift baskets he lavishes on Penny, he is not going to be able to repay her and show his gratefulness.

We cannot repay Jesus for his gift of grace. But we can accept it, we can acknowledge it, and we can be thankful every day for He who saved us, and gave us all the Greatest Gift.

As a bonus (as my posting has been all over shop these past weeks…), here’s a great new song from Matt Redman at this years Passion conference….Always Grace.

Reason To Celebrate!

In January I ran a whole series of posts on the theme “new”, including Play With Something New, All Things New, A New Old Song and A New Wooden BoxCelebration!

Well I’m delighted to report I have a new job! Well, contract. And…business too!

A bit of background: I work at EBC 1.5 days a week as Creative Arts Director, and the rest of my week is spent in the music industry, working with artists, publishers and labels on their royalties. Now in an almost perfectly divine symmetry, I’ve this month set up my own company to manage this…which means I can contract out some of my time…to the church.

So this May I’ll be starting a six month project with EBC to overhaul and refine our communications.

How we got here?

Another bit of background: As I’ve blogged about on this site regularly, we’ve spent a lot of time as a church refining our Sunday services. From the music, to the media content, to the publicity, to the language used when speaking, we even refine down to timings, orders and transitions so the Sunday service experience for any attender is something memorable, effective, and hopefully challenging and inspiring enough that they want to come back for more.

What has struck me more and more over the past few months is, while we’ve got to a stage where our worship services are consistently great, our attention to detail and systems have not been applied to …well pretty much any of our other communications. So our emails, website, social media, paper (lots of paper) while by no means bad are just not co-ordinated, generally have a disparate feel and are overseen separately by several different people.

What to do?

So my new project is to examine all we do in terms of communication output and refine it. We’ll be creating and implementing a new logo for EBC, and setting an overall theme in terms of fonts, colours and presentation so all of our output is consistent, easily identifiable as coming from EBC and beautiful! Our staff emails will all have consistent footers, in a similar font, our website will be much more user friendly especially for first time visitors. And we will finally properly bring ourselves into the 21st century with properly set up and managed social media presence.

I am really looking forward to this challenge, and what I want to do is update regularly here, as I believe it’s another important part of communicating the message for and from the church. So expect to be reading much more about colours, identity and style guides in addition to the ideas and observations already being shared here.

Celebration!

This post also marks EBC passing the 500 regular attender mark, which is a major milestone in church attendance and growth (there were 300 of us in 2008). And finally, I realise this is my 100th post on this site…just before our anniversary (I started it on my birthday in 2014), so yay me! Let’s celebrate!