I had the privilege of attending one of the Melbourne University Overseas Christian Fellowship’s (OCF) worship practices recently. A club that I involved myself in over the past 2 years and a place that helped me find myself in Christianity. During my time here, I feverishly attended the club’s weekly Corporate sessions, always priming myself up to enjoy the wonderfully wholesome worship performances led by the very friends that I have made there.
So, after being invited to witness first-hand how they produce their onstage magic, how could I refuse?
The worship team I joined was a group of 6, all of them have had varying experiences serving within OCF’s many worship teams. Yet, it was the first time they have gathered together to play as a band. Comprised of Grace (who led the night’s proceedings), Anita, Kane, Jia Wei, Issac and Zung Ding; each member more than capable of holding their own when it comes to musical proficiency. With years of music experience under their belt, their gathering could almost be seen as an amalgamation of innate talent that was bursting with excitement to play in tandem with one another.
I was washed over with a wave of anticipation and hype. To be a fly on a wall within a room of creatives was all I ever wanted.
Prior to the actual practice, Grace made sure to humble everyone with a word of prayer. In it, she made sure to remind them of the reason that they’re worshipping in the first place – God. There’s no room for personal egos or bravado, only space left to wholeheartedly praise the name of the Lord.
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
Worshipping is an act of selflessness that combines both outwards affection for God while simultaneously blending it with individual skill. Anyone can sing to hymns and songs in church or at Christian gatherings, but there’s always the need for a team to lead them. It’s an admirable responsibility that requires all parties involved to thread the fine line between showmanship and reverence.
So, as I watched the 6 of them engage each other in a nearly endless discussion of each song’s technical details while also sweating over the sequencing of the overall performance, I couldn’t help but find their passion endearing. Here was a team that clearly enjoyed the act of playing music with one another, yet the core purpose behind their actions was never lost on them and that captivated me.
The initial setlist they had planned was as follows:
- Beautiful Exchange
- How Great is Our God/How Great Thou Art?
However, as all performances go, things rarely go according to plan. Due to a myriad of factors with the group’s composition, they had no choice but to give up on performing “Beautiful Exchange”. So, with their worship session planned 3 days since the time of their practice, it seemed almost implausible to me that they would have enough time to rehearse and perfect another song by then.
“Guys, do you mind if we switched songs?” Anita called out, leaving me completely bewildered as everyone else agreed to it almost immediately.
They were unfazed by this sudden obstruction and immediately began throwing out song choices, all while having a blast doing so. Now, I have had VERY limited experience with performing musically onstage, but I still remember how painfully hard it was to practice nearly every day to execute a song to its perfection. Yet, here are a group of people that could look past all that, gleefully throwing songs at a wall to see what could stick.
Eventually, the team settled on “The Passion” by Hillsong Worship. It was a song that I was familiar with so I became curious if they could learn its entirety by that same night. So, colour me shocked when I was subjected to a perfect (albeit rough) run of the entire song by everyone involved the very moment they locked down on the song choice.
Immediately, they once again dove right into technical discussions while I racked my head over how they even managed to accomplish that feat. At first, I chalked it up to all 6 of them being musical prodigies that were in perfect sync, but after applying more logic and thought to it, I realised that they all had one thing that I lacked – experience.
As a freshly converted Christian, I barely knew any songs when compared to my peers that have been attending church since the time when they could barely speak. Years and years of exposure to countless worship songs would have led to ingrained memories of how each song is sung and played. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that everyone there was more than familiar with each song they had chosen for their set.
Integrating life experience and their individual talents while coating everything with a healthy dose of religious devotion, I saw worship teams in a whole new light that night. They are not platforms for gloating nor are they stages for boasting. My encounter with this incredible group of people was a harsh reminder that the band I see every week aren’t just there solely because performing is in their nature, but it’s also to ensure that there is someone to lead us in worship. It is a call to rally the faithful, to shift the focus away from those performing in front of us, and instead, directing it towards God.