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!

So Help Me God

I’m just emerging from a particularly busy and difficult season in my life. Our senior minister has been pretty unwell since last summer, so I was doing a lot of extra work at EBC (which I really enjoyed doing) in addition to my usual responsibilities. But I only “work” at church 1.5 days a week, and the rest of my working week I work for my own company doing royalty accounting and specialist music business advice for musicians, bands and labels. And I am very happily married with three wonderful children…who are all at school, have homework, go to bed late and still get up early…(I thought it would all change once they were out of nappies?) And I do try (sometimes!) to have a social life and date my wife…who is also working full time! So with all of the above, and of course Christmas…I was (we were!) somewhat frazzled by the end of 2014

Now I’m pleased to say I’ve come out the other side, church have been particularly kind and given me a lot of recovery space in January (I felt semi-retired to be honest…but they assured me I am wanted back….) and now we’re at the end of February, I am right back into the thick of it. And we’re again ramping up…we did a great joint service at the beginning of the month with our friends at FBC, we’re planning a big church weekend in May, service prep is well under way. I’m in the middle of setting up a new limited company to take the music business forward, there is just as much homework to do, the house needs redecorating desperately (our middle daughter Naomi has been diagnosed with severe dust allergies, so we need to rip out the carpets and remove the soft furnishings a.s.a.p.) and we’re still attempting to squeeze in a social life and actually date.

When I were a lad…

I remember from when I was but a young boy (not that long ago…) we used to listen to the Kids Praise cassettes in the car, even today I can remember most of the songs which Psalty the Singing Songbook used to sing. Do My Best came from Kid’s Praise 5, Psalty’s Camping Adventure, and the opening line was

“I can do most anything, through Christ who strengthens me. Even climb a mountain when I’m four (even three!)”

I am sure that under many other circumstances we would have just crumbled, and there are still days when it’s the most we can do to crawl out of bed in the morning. But I know I’m not doing any of this alone. We work together as a couple. We do it together as a family. We share it all as a community at our church. And we do it all through God, who strengthens, guides, and carries us when it’s too much.

This is an oldie but goody from dc Talk…so the clothes may not have dated well, but the song and the sentiment are bang up to date:

You’re there when I call
And You’re there when I fall
Even though I don’t deserve it all
You, You light my way
Through the night and the day
And from You I will not stray

So help me God
To put my faith in You
So help me God
Before I come unglued
Call it my addiction
I can’t get enough of You
So help me God
To put my faith in You

I have days, and will continue to have days where I try to do everything under my own steam, and in my own strength. But more and more I’m learning that if I share the load, stop trying to do it on my own, and look to Him who is here for me…I can do a much better job of everything. So Help Me God. 

Finding Your Calling

I may (yet again) be showing my age, but unbelievably 2014 is the 20th anniversary of the first series of Friends. Ross and Rachel, Monica and Chandler and Joey and Phoebe first appeared on our screens the 22nd September, 1994, and stayed there for 10 years, 10 seasons and 236 episodes. And then stayed pretty much on rotation ever since. As Comedy Central are doing their countdown towards the “favourite Friends episodes ever“, I am finding my daughters are discovering this series (as it’s on every evening I get home…), and I am seeing episodes which I possibly missed (who knows?!) or am being reminded of 10 years after broadcast. This clip is from one of their Christmas episodes, where Phoebe has volunteered to collect donations outside Macy’s.

When I left school some 22 years ago, I didn’t really have a clue as to what I wanted to do. I knew what I enjoyed doing (music, concerts, movies, reading), but I had no idea as to how it would translate into a career. And then I went to University and did a degree in Music and Technology, so I learnt more about music, recording, live sound, playing in bands…all of which I really enjoyed. And while I was there I met the girl of my dreams…who is now my wife. But I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do. So I graduated, and got a job as I had a fiancé and plans and bills to pay and student loans to clear. And to be honest, my career path continued along this path for a good few years…I did jobs which paid the bills, kept me employed and which had some semblance of a career path…but really they were all a means to an end.

Finding Your Calling

Finding Your Calling, Discovering Your Gifts, Getting in Your Sweet Spot, Realising your Passion…there are so many phrases and descriptions which we use to describe how we find what we’re best at. And there are plenty of accompanying programmes and surveys, questionnaires and conferences which are devoted to just that goal. I’ve done some of them; when we first set up our leadership team to start our church plant, when we were going through Investors in People at a previous company, they even pop up from time to time on Facebook (although “Your Ideal Dog” and “Which Harry Potter Character Are You?” probably don’t count in quite the same way…)

And alongside my “Day Job” (for want of a better word), I have had my church career…starting playing drums for the worship team in Kingston, co leading a church plant in Bracknell, curating creative ideas for our Sunday services and graduating to band leading and worship leading for the whole church. I would comfortably say for the whole of my church career, I have been operating in my sweet spot, growing, learning and developing my skills to be at the stage I am at now…managing the band, putting together our Sunday services, writing new content and leading.

Jeremiah and the art of saying No

This Sunday at EBC we’re continuing our Story series, and looking at Jeremiah. God called on Jeremiah, but he made excuses and said he wasn’t ready, he wasn’t qualified. “I can’t speak for You, I’m too young!” he says. But God called him out, God equipped him, and with God’s help he was able to do his calling. This is a story that repeats through the bible, with Moses and Jonah and Mary…”surely you can’t mean me” or “I would never be good enough” are constant replies. But if you are genuinely called to something, you need to have the faith and courage to pursue it.

As I’ve said before, Steven Curtis Chapman is one of my all time favourite artists, and his songs just have an amazing ability to resonate and speak into so many areas of my life. One which I constantly come back to is I Am Found In You, which has the amazing line:

I may not see, in front of me

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

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

So faithful every step of the way

While my day job has been consistent and moderately successful, my church calling has always found me performing according to my gifting and abilities, and they’ve grown and strengthened the whole time. I genuinely do feel as though I’m operating in my sweet spot, and while it really doesn’t pay me a lot of money (and I am fortunate to be able to be paid just a day a week to do this), the challenge, sense of community and satisfaction are second to none.

Some of us may be called to collect coins outside of Macy’s, some have a desire to be CEO’s or tax collectors. Some will be millionaires, and some will just get by. Whatever your situation, find your calling and try to work in your sweet spot…and as you pursue it, no matter what, look over your shoulder occasionally to see where you’ve come from. You may just be surprised.

Manic Monday

Its Bank Holiday here in the UK which means I have an extra day off, and inevitably it’s raining. I’ve also just come back from FortyFest, a mini festival that one of my old friends organised (very successfully) to celebrate his 40th birthday. There was a beer tent, fish and chip van, hot water on tap (tea and coffee is always an important consideration, even in the middle of a field), and a 40ft trailer that doubled as a stage.

We had several bands for our listening pleasure, including a trio that possibly should have concentrated more on tuning their instruments, a guitarist dressed as an angry bird, and his singer doing a cover of The Final Countdown with the synth riff played on a kazoo. Variety was the order of the day, and we had plenty of it. It was a really special occasion, and a great opportunity (aside from the dad dancing) to catch up with friends that we hadn’t seen for a while.

As I was sat in the field at FortyFest, supping warm beer, picking grass out of my chips and listening to the music, an old song came up that I haven’t heard for a while:

1986, I was 12 and discovering pop music and girls…and that same year The Bangles released this great pop song, Manic Monday. The all girl group had a string of hits including Walk like an Egyptian and the number one slow dance song, Eternal Flame. I remember going to a guitar show later as a teenager and Rickenbacker Guitars had released a Susanna Hoffs signature model…I don’t think they sold many of the guitars, but I know that the posters of Susanna and her guitar disappeared very quickly (I know the guitarist in my band at the time had one up in his bedroom!)

Originally written by the ever prolific Prince for another of his bands, The Bangles took the song (with his permission of course) and made it their own…”Banglesed it” as they said. With the iconic chorus:

It’s just another manic Monday
I wish it were Sunday
‘Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
It’s just another manic Monday

So aside from packing down a tent in the rain and negotiating traffic, this Monday has been relatively easy. But so many Mondays aren’t this way…I know for me too often it’s not a day I look forward to. This is a great opener for a work series series at church. We at EBC have used it on a few occasions: when looking at work/life balance, making good use of our sabbath, and just examining work in general.

What do you do to prepare for Mondays? And does your Monday ever intrude on your Sunday?