Music at Foothills UMC

Music at Foothills UMC

This is the second in a series of articles relating to four key areas in which we connect with God and each other through our membership at Foothills UMC: Pastoral Care; Music; Children, Youth, and Young Adults; and Community Outreach. Recognizing we have one of the best music programs in East San Diego County, and as part of the “Pledge Plus” campaign, please consider making a financial gift to the Foothills UMC General Fund in honor of the powerful connection of music and spirituality in your life.
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Connect: Music at Foothills UMC
By: Steve Hable, Susan Naslund, and Elaine Northcutt

"Music touches us at a way we don’t understand.”
- Eric Naslund

When you attend a worship service at Foothills UMC, you might not be aware of the music deeply entering your being – from the way the sequence of notes makes a satisfying melody in your ear to the way particular lyrics touch your heart – but be assured great care is taken to frame your musical experience.

While the styles differ between the two Sunday worship services at Foothills, everyone is inexplicably touched by the richness of our music.

“I can’t imagine a church without music,” said Diane Douthitt who regularly attends both services. Whether it’s praise songs or traditional hymns, she said singing in communion with other people is joyful. “I feel it in my soul.”

“The most extraordinary worship experiences are when the preaching pastor and the music team work as one.”
- Jack Erb

When selecting music for the first service choir, Director of Music, Dennis Keller, explained that “text or style should support the service. There must be a balance of new music and familiar in our folders.” Even so, he often seeks “to reflect a good mix of styles from African rhythms to contemporary idioms, while always paying homage to the great singing traditions of the Christian church.”

In the second service worship setting, Contemporary Music Coordinator, Tim Robertson, and Praise Band Leader, Bobby Cressey, collaborate on music choices, picking first the appropriate offertory song to reinforce that day’s message. Bobby said, “I think our music sets the tone of both celebration and meditation for the congregation.”

“Every now and then, a musician or vocalist will smile while playing or singing, and it feels like you see a little bit into their soul.”
- Linda Miller

Although, Bobby and Tim have careers outside of Foothills music, both feel God’s call to help lead the congregation in worship. Whether online, or live in church, pay attention to Bobby’s feet and Tim’s upturned countenance. Watch the musicians exchange a quick grin during a particularly well-executed riff.

The look of concentration on the faces of choir members may sometimes mask the joy they feel when singing difficult pieces together. “When we are singing, it is a beautiful blending of people from different walks in life who help coordinate the whole Sunday experience,” said choir member Marilyn Honea. “We feel the harmony between us.”

“Singing ‘Silent Night’ with lighted candles IS Christmas.”
- Jeannie Parsons

The amount of planning it takes to deliver a worship service – especially on Christmas or Easter – would intimidate most people. Dennis described the months of preparation that goes into the final product, including meetings, retreats, and rehearsals. It is mind boggling, but all that hard work pays off when the lights are dimmed, the candles are lit, and the congregation joins in the refrain. All is calm. All is bright.

“Walk, walk, sway.”
- Patti Kneale

For many children, their first musical education happens at our church. Over the years, Foothills has invited kids to participate in a chorus, the hand bell choir, musicals and plays. Dedicated parents mouthed along with the words in rehearsals. Directions to “walk, walk, sway” cannot be forgotten by those who helped their children learn liturgical dances. Through it all, many young lives have been enriched by their experiences with Foothills’ music. And, some of the best moments in church have been offered by the little ones who have led us in worship.

“Music is the soul of worship.”
- Lianne Moss

In addition to beautiful voices, having the right instruments provides a foundation for the whole worship experience. Over time, we have been accompanied by pianos, guitars, drums, hand bells, and a wide array of stringed and brass instruments. In particular, the pipe organ in our sanctuary displays the great love and dedication of individuals who had the long-ago vision to incorporate it into our sanctuary design. We are privileged to enjoy these special sounds when it is played by our impressive organist, Chris Kim. (An article on the pipe organ is coming soon.)

“The Spirit becomes present when the band and the congregation begin to energize each other.”
- Theresa Erb

Before the first note is played or the opening words are sung, the musicians pray to invite God to their worship experience. They do not consider their gift of music to be a “performance.” Rather, they offer themselves as conduits for the Spirit to move in and through the congregation. As Marilyn Honea explained, “We are part of something bigger than ourselves.” It is that inexplicable feeling of awe that sometimes causes us to leap to our feet, smile or even cry.

“It is through music that I feel most connected to God.”
- Alan Kneale

We give thanks to the music staff mentioned above plus Linda Cree and many other talented singers and musicians who share their gifts with us. Live music outside on the lawn has enhanced our connection to God during the pandemic, and the combined creativity of Steven Topham, Bobby, and Tim have given us special pieces online.

Still, we admit we are anxious to be singing together in the pews again. Like ascending a musical scale, we will take the steps necessary to return to the live, glorious music at Foothills.

When we next have an opportunity to worship in the sanctuary, let us extend our gratitude to God who enabled the great composers across time to write the music that elevates our awareness of what it means to be a human being, and to awaken our knowledge of God’s great purpose for us and in us.

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