Worship Questions

Letter to the church

Dear Church,

Session (the elders of Knox), would like to share with you an update about worship.

For over a year now, we have been thinking a lot about the renewal of worship at our church. In October of 2016, as part of Knox’s strategic plan, Session created a Worship Renewal team to evaluate our current worship practices and think about how we might renew and improve them.

This team gleaned the wisdom of our church by holding two congregational gatherings, interviewing individual congregants, and conducting a church-wide survey. They also heard from both of our music directors and visited four other churches.

This year, in January, the worship renewal team created a comprehensive report for Session. In April, a Session retreat was dedicated to the topic of worship renewal.

From all this work, some key themes emerged. Our church’s desires for the future of worship at Knox included:

  • Joyful singing along with times of quiet, silence, and prayer
  • More musical leadership and participation from those in our church
  • Incorporating the creative arts
  • Experiential, sensory response of our whole selves to God’s revealing presence
  • Ministering to others, including layers of welcome for newcomers

As Session looked at how to accomplish these goals, we recognized that directing music and pastoring the church in worship are two distinct job descriptions. Pastoring the church in worship into fresh experiences of God’s story and presence, recruiting and discipling worship leaders, musicians, and artists requires a role that carries a pastoral mandate. While some of our goals for worship at Knox can be accomplished by music directors, some of our goals require a new, broader mandate.

Currently, our staff positions are based on a model of excellent execution of music in our services, sometimes with the help of paid, professional musicians. Our hope for the future of worship at our church is that we will experience the overflow of what God has been doing in a team of worship leaders, musicians, and artists from our church who are being discipled and mentored by a pastor. We believe that this model will lead to worship that is truly participative, multicultural, and responsive to the Spirit’s leading in our church.

Titles and job descriptions matter. Our current positions focus on music. We realized that we needed to create a role for a bigger vision of worship.

As a result, we have created a new job description for a single, full-time Worship Pastor, which will be posted later this month. A search process will seek to have this new position filled by August of 2018.

This means that all three of our current worship staff positions will be ending next August. These positions are currently staffed by Roger Bergs, Ken Michell, and Suzanne Schaafsma. This decision was made after a long and careful review of the options, realizing that good people would be affected.

We created a single, full-time role because we want to bring integrated leadership to both of our worship services, 11am and 5pm. We also recognized that building worship teams with members that are being discipled, mentored, and pastored will take a full-time commitment.

Roger, Ken and Suzanne were notified of this change at the beginning of November. Session has created a new Worship Transition team that includes Eva Aboagye, Ray Chin, Ann Chow, Phil Reinders to help us transition well to our renewed vision of worship. We are paying particular attention to caring for Roger, Ken and Suzanne, and the impact this announcement has on them personally and professionally. Each is invited to consider applying for the new Worship pastor role, while we recognize they also need to be given freedom to explore other opportunities that God may be leading them towards.

Session wishes to emphasize that this decision is about the future direction for worship at our church and not in response to any concerns of the skills or performance of any of our worship staff. We are grateful for their continued dedication and wholehearted service to our Lord. They are each well-loved staff members and so we also realize this direction will require all of Knox to demonstrate patience, trust and prayer together.

If you have any questions about our announcement, don’t hesitate to speak to any member of the Worship Transition Team or elder.

On behalf of Session,
Ray Chin
Clerk of Session

Responding to your questions

Why did Session make this decision to hire a Worship Pastor?

For the past two years, Session has been studying the worship practice of Knox Church in order to move us in renewed directions. Previous worship studies at Knox had recognized the need to renew and rethink the purpose, goals and forms of our worship services. For example, the Long-Range team (2002) noted over 15 years ago:

“Our congregation is growing more diverse in ethnic origin, family background and denominational heritage. We also reflect different levels of maturity in the Christian faith. Today many who come into our church have no church background at all. They often have very little biblical knowledge. They may not be familiar with our hymns and the traditional forms of Reformed worship.
What does this mean for the life of our church? It means we must continually ask hard questions about how to help newcomers enter into worship more effectively. Worship that is biblically faithful yet also accessible to all persons (particularly those newcomers who have little background in the Christian faith) remains a key challenge in the renewal of our worship at Knox.”

We have realized we need to see growth and renewal in our worship at Knox.

Families have struggled to keep their children engaged in current worship offerings; newcomers have found challenges to unfamiliar worship forms; people from different cultures have named hopes for more multi-cultural expressions of worship. Session commissioned a team, the Worship Renewal Team, to review our worship practices at Knox and make recommendations to Session for the renewal of our worship. Based on this information, after study, retreats and prayer, Session made the decision to create a Worship Pastor position that would give overall worship leadership to all our services, both the 11 and 5 pm.

What is the new Worship Pastor position about?

Our vision is to move forward toward an integrated worship ministry at Knox under the leadership of a single worship pastor for all worship services. The new position is one that will focus on developing and encouraging worship that is widely participative, multi-cultural, and accessible to our culture. We see the need for a leader to encourage and develop the musical and leadership gifts of our entire congregation, building teams, incorporating the arts as well as serving as a pastoral musician among the congregation.

We have been operating with two separate music directors focused on musical direction. While helpful for the time, this two-director system has developed into an overly complicated structure. Moving to a single worship pastor will streamline the process for developing biblical worship at both services.

But why get rid of two very fine music directors?

This is not about getting rid of current staff but about moving towards a new future we see ahead. Yes, the impact of this decision is that current staff positions will be concluded. But the motivation for this is a renewed future worship at Knox. And also, all current worship staff are invited to apply for the new Worship Pastor position.

What about the choir?

Session values the worship ministry of the choir and looks forward to the continuing ministry of the Knox choir in our worship services. We are planning to either incorporate choral direction into the worship pastor position or develop a separate choir director position.

What about the 5 PM service?

The 5 PM service will continue on. We see this service as a continuing important place to serve students, shift workers and others.

Will this Worship Pastor play the organ?

We are not making organ playing a requirement of the new position, as that would narrow the list of possible candidates. As needed, we will seek out organists from the congregation or from the organ community.

Who will make the decision about the new Worship Pastor?

A Search Team is being appointed by Session. They will lead an open search process, in which Roger, Ken and Suzanne are free to apply for this position. During the search process, we will make sure that worship ministry volunteers will have opportunity to engage with final candidates. The Search Team will make a recommendation of a single candidate for Session’s approval.