The Rev. Mieke Vandersall is the founding pastor of Not So Churchy. She has been to numerous Music That Makes Community workshops and uses paperless music when she leads worship.
I attended my first MMC workshop in St. Louis in 2010. At that point in my life I was seeking a traditional parish job as a Presbyterian pastor, but because of the restrictive policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) against out LGBT people I was unable to live into this calling. The stories behind this reality are complex and long, but the result of these stories is that I felt a call emerging to begin a new worshiping community.
I entered into my first night of the workshop and was led in song. I remember being overwhelmed with the feeling that I was worshiping for the first time in a very, very long time. I was being served through the incredible feast that the leadership of MMC provides. My soul was being watered and nourished and I began, even in that first gathering, to get back in touch with my passion for ministry and for providing the kind of space I experienced that first hour of worship. A space that allowed for my voice to be heard clearly and yet blend in with the clear and beautiful voices all around me.
Part of what attracted me to MMC was the paperless singing. In addition to starting a congregation, I had a burning desire to lead others in song. As a Presbyterian, I come from a tradition where there isn’t a lot of liturgical singing outside of hymns. I found this to be a deficit and I needed the teaching and confidence to be able to lead others in shorter songs and responses. The first time in the MMC workshop that I led a song I thought I was going to die. It was so hard and vulnerable and yet I knew that God was working through me. And so I kept trying and practicing.
That workshop gave me the sparks of confidence to realize what God dreamed in me. Thanks to the practical resources and unlimited encouragement of MMC, I began Not So Churchy, a new worshiping community in New York City that welcomes worshipers who have been turned away by the institutional church and are seeking entry points back into community and relationship with God. Through singing together we discover our own voices among God’s hurting and precious world.
All of our liturgy is sung and improvised each time we gather, including the Eucharistic liturgy. It is hard to believe that after those first days of terror in song leading I now sing and improvise the Eucharistic prayer. I could not be doing this without MMC.
Leading through song has built trust, has built deep, enduring relationship, and has built a new worshiping community. I give thanks to MMC for their vision and the opportunities they offer to the wider church and I urge you to give generously to their Fall Fundraising Campaign. I, for one, couldn’t be living into my call without their leadership.