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  • Writer's pictureErica Koser

The Heartbeat of Shelter Church

Part Two in a series on Shelter Church.

When we began to explore what Shelter Church would look like, we knew that we wanted a rhythm to worship that was simple, easy for people to pick up, and something that was unique to who we wanted to be as a congregation. As we noodled on ideas, sticking possibilities on post-its to the wall- we knew we needed a liturgy that helped mark the start of worship but that would be easy to learn and follow. We began to wonder what it would look like to commission a song- something completely original to shelter church. We loved the words of Jan Richardson's poem And the Table Will Be Wide. It encompassed our hopes and dreams for shelter church. We wrote to her to ask if we could use the words as we composed a song. She graciously agreed. I talked to a friend of a friend who composed music and led worship. We told him what we were looking for and asked if he would be willing to take on the task. He agreed and we placed it in his talented hands and waited.

Not more than a few weeks passed and Brian emailed me his first version of the song. He told me it was a little rough but he had had his worship team record it so we could see what it sounded like. Collette and I eagerly clicked on the link and cranked up the volume on the computer. And then we got goose bumps, and then we cried, and then we knew, without a doubt that we had our gathering song. Brian had taken Jan's words, our hopes and dreams, and created something so beautiful, so simple and so very much filled with the heart of Shelter Church.

Sitting in our office, we could imagine what it would be like- listening to our congregation sing this song of welcome and love each week. As is often the case with God, reality was even better. Those first few weeks, we mostly heard each other- our clear soprano voices leading and inviting others to join us. Before long, Shelly's loudly off-key melody joined in, then Tim and Raquel with Raquel tossing in a little spanish translation along the way. Each week as our congregation grew, more voices began to confidently sing, solidifying the Gathering Song as the song of Shelter Church. A couple members asked to take the words home to put on their fridges. Raquel took a copy so she could translate it all into spanish.

A year and a half later, this song is our heartbeat. A few minutes before we shift from dinner into worship, I give a little announcement that we are about to begin. Tonight we were accompanied by Joe on the banjo- he had been picking away at a tune in the corner, providing a little atmosphere to the end of the meal. As 5pm approached, I offered a few announcements and then invited everyone to join in our gathering song. Joe picked a few opening notes and we all launched into song. Shelly sang way off key at the top of her voice while somewhere in the back, a rich baritone held the melody perfectly. Some of the guests did the congregation invented hand motions to go along with the song and others quietly fumbled with the sheet of lyrics and just lip synced the words. The singing seemed louder tonight- maybe it was because I was leading solo today and Collette's voice wasn't there to mingle with mine. Maybe it was because tonight we really needed this song to remind us all that we belong. Regardless of the reason, it was a true cacophony of joy and welcome. The heartbeat of shelter church- alive and well.

Thanks to Brian Schroeder for his amazing composition. Up next: Your Prayer is My Prayer


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