Every year, the Methodist School of Music (MSM) runs a six-module course on Christian worship called CCW. At MSM, we believe that worship leaders cannot merely be skillful in singing or playing an instrument. They must be grounded in the biblical, theological and historical foundations of worship, in addition to being skilled in their service. They must also be acutely aware of the impact that worship has on the congregation’s spiritual formation, and the pastoral aspect of being a leader in the worship ministry.
The course is conducted over six months, with one lecture series and one practicum session per module. This year, MSM plans to launch an Intermediate Level of the course for those who have attended CCW previously and would like to pursue worship studies at a deeper level.
Here are what some of last year’s participants have to say about the course:
Timothy Goh, Wesley Methodist Church, CCW class of 2021 (English), Worship Leaders’ Track
As someone relatively new to the worship ministry, I took up this course in hopes of learning more about worship—its heart, significance and forms. However, through the course, I have come to discover so much more, broadening my understanding of praise and worship: in learning about the relational habits embedded in songs; history and trends of worship; different types of services (i.e. thematic, liturgical, experiential); and discipleship through music.
Particularly, two lessons from the various lectures and practicums resonated with me. Firstly, I learnt that worship is a significant discipleship tool that shapes the congregation towards Christlikeness. Previously, I had only thought of worship merely as an “appetiser” to the sermon, preparing the hearts of the church to receive and listen to the message. However, through the course, my perspective has shifted. Realising that worship songs themselves are imbued with theology, I have now come to see the worship set as an extension of the sermon, helping the congregation remember scriptural messages, God’s character, story and calling for us.
Beyond this, I have also gained clarity into the differences between a performer and worship musician. While both seek the attention of the audience, the worshipper redirects this attention towards God and His word instead of the self. Working towards excellence, the worshipper also seeks to bring their best offering to the Lord; but in humility, does not seek to manipulate the congregation into a response but recognises that God is ultimately the one who convicts and moves hearts. These lessons have transformed me, helping me be more aware and intentional in my personal worship and ministry.
This course was really insightful and useful. I would definitely recommend it to those serving in the worship ministry. Whether one is an experienced leader or new like me, the course is rich in content and there are takeaways from which everyone can benefit.
Jasmine Loh, Charis Methodist Church, CCW class of 2021 (Chinese), Worship Leaders’ Track
Through the six modules of study, as well as through attending MSM’s first episode of Conversations, titled “Online Worship: Reflections & Insights”, I discovered that we can only learn to worship through worship.
The most enjoyable part of the course was the morning worship services, as this was where I experienced first-hand the sacredness of worship, and witnessed what a smooth flow of worship looked like.
My favourite module was “Worship and Spiritual Formation”. How can the congregation’s spiritual life be nurtured and cared for in corporate worship? It is through reading Scripture and understanding God’s Grand Story, as well as through remembering what God did in the past, what He is doing in the present, and what He will do in the future. Now when I worship on Sundays, it is as if I had an extra pair of eyes and ears to listen to what God is saying to me, as well as what He is saying to the congregation. I now experience personal worship and corporate worship in a different way.
Salai Nay Lynn Htun, Chin Baptist Church (Yangon, Myanmar), CCW Class of 2021 (English), Church Musicians’ Track
The year 2021 did not start well for me and my country. As you all know, the COVID-19 virus still threatens us and the military coup has hurt us physically, mentally and spiritually. Questions have been raised among the Christians: Where are you, Lord? Are You not working? Does God still exist? Does prayer work?
We are like the Israelites when they were in the place of Marah. Everything seems bitter for us. But as the tree made the water sweet, the CCW is the tree that made my spiritual journey sweet again in the midst of all this bitterness.
The six modules of CCW equipped me well and expanded my understanding of worship more. Since I came from a Baptist background, we normally give importance to the sermon alone. After attending this course, I realised that the entire worship order is equally important: gathering; word; table; and sending.
Though I am not from the liturgical tradition, now I am starting to understand how all these worship styles can be blended: liturgical worship; thematic worship; and experiential worship. Liturgy brings worship into daily life as the work of the people in the service of God. Worship can shape us, transform us and make us disciples. We Baptists do not observe the liturgical year; however, I have come to understand how it helps us recall and celebrate the mysteries of Christ—His life, death, resurrection, ascension and impending return.
As a musician, I have learnt that we must first worship God personally before we lead others to worship. Even preparing for the worship must be the actual, personal worship, and not just technical preparation. The song choices we make must magnify who He is, what He has done and how we can respond to Him.
Sacred musicians focus not on themselves but totally on God. Like Ethan and Heman of King David’s time, we must have a worship life, the attitude of training ourselves daily and training fellow musicians in order to produce excellent sound in worship. The most important thing is to let God speak through us (e.g. how Psalm 88 and 89 were composed by Ethan and Heman).
In spite of the importance of worship elements and excellent music, the heart of worship is the most important. I have come this far not only because of the lecturers have taught us, but also what we, as participants, have learnt from each other.
Amelia Leo is a Programmes Executive at the Methodist School of Music (MSM) Worship & Church Music Department. / Screenshots courtesy of MSM