Music educator shares in worship with the Italian Mennonite Church

Posted on October 20, 2011 by VMMissions Staff

When Phil and Marcia Lehman left Bari, Italy in 2009, Centro Koinonia prayed fervently that God would provide musicians. Over the past two years, these prayers have been answered through church members like Luigi, Elena, Valentina, Francesco, Chris, and Melody. However, the church desired more training, prompting them to request that VMM send me as a resource person this summer, because of my formal education and experience in leading worship, as well as my history with the Italian Mennonite Church. Having grown up in Italy and studied music at the graduate level in the United States, I agreed, knowing I was being called to use my gifts for God’s glory.

Training the worship team has been multi-faceted. We studied what the Bible has to say about praise and worship, and discussed how past experiences each person brings to worship influence how they approach God. Together, we also worked on prayer, humbly asking the Spirit to unite us, to refine our motives, and to enable us to praise God in ways that challenge our human fears and inhibitions.

Along with training in the foundations for worship, we spent many hours in careful rehearsals, both individually and as a group. It was especially rewarding to see the team’s growth in areas from playing an introduction to singing with accurate breathing technique and eliminating distractions from worship.

Part of my assignment was updating the church’s music file. Through this process, I was reminded of the beauty of the original Italian worship songs. The songs were written directly out of the Italian believers’ experience, and contain Italian tonalities, poetic rhyme, and rhythms that flow naturally from the Italian context. Because of this rich history, I challenged my brothers and sisters on many occasions to compose the new songs the Holy Spirit ignites in their hearts.

The final aspect of my assignment was offering a choral workshop during the annual retreat organized by the Italian Mennonite Church. It was thrilling to watch God bring together an eighteen-member choir, and to lift our voices together in praise of the One who reconciles us to God and transforms our lives.

I come away from this experience rejoicing in God’s empowering presence. I’m humbled by the many expressions of thanks and appreciation and invitations to return in ministry I received from my Italian brothers and sisters. It is my joy to partner with God and God’s people in worship!

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