"It's a God Thang! " by Francis Wyatt
Ive lived in the Dayton, Ohio area for 15 years. My wife, Cheryl and I recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary, and we have two lovely, energetic kids, Brandon and April. I was in the Air Force Band at Wright-Patterson AFB for ten years and I have been playing as a professional jazz musician for about 20. I had the pleasure of being part of the tenor saxophonist, "Joe Henderson Group," and played with other great jazz musicians like Bobby Watson, Jay McShane and Michael Brecker. Id always thought Id end up living in L.A. or New York doing the "jazz thang." So the question is, "How did I end up as Director of Music at Ginghamsburg?" Considering that Im an African-American male leading worship at a 99.9% anglo-suburban church, Id like to think "its a God thang...!"
In 1997, Kim Miller, Creative Worship Director at Ginghamsburg Church, attended a local street concert late one summer evening. Cheryl was singing. Kim approached her about whether she would be interested in singing at church, not knowing that one of Cheryls dreams was to do exactly that. Thats how Kims story "I found Cheryl on a street corner one night" began. Cheryl shortly thereafter became one of G.U.M.s worship leaders. As God would reveal, I wasnt too far behind.
My wife came home and told me about the offer and I was excited for her. To be honest, I wasnt excited at first when I found out it was a United Methodist church, because of preconceived notions of what a U.M. church was. (Thats called prejudice I thinkbut nonetheless thats where I was.) They needed a percussionist for a Christmas service, so I joined my wife for the experience. And that it was!
I had always been looking for a situation where I could praise the Lord with my talents. But being a percussionist, that left few places where I could truly and freely serve. My background is in "jazz and funk." But I love to write and play country, Greek, reggae, Latin or any style that is done well. I guess you could say that Im a true "mutt" when it comes to music. Lo and behold, that seemed to be exactly what was going on at Ginghamsburg. So I began playing occasionally on percussion, drum set, bass guitar, and sometimes keyboards. But that versatility seemed to be a plus for what was going on here. It didnt take long for me to go from playing once a month to playing weekly. Then, when the music directors position became available, I guess I was a comfortable fit due to my wide love of musical styles and the relationships I had formed with the other ministry members.
I was ready to take on the responsibilities of
the new job. Then I realized how much responsibility it really is. Im plenty confident when it comes to putting together a band, but standing in front of a congregation, sharing Gods love and opening my heart to rejection was beyond my comfort zone. Remember, I was a drummer by trade. I built my career on putting as much stuff (drums and such) between me and the audience as possible. So when God called me to this, I wasnt sure I wanted to answer. But with encouragement from those around me, God is working miracles in and through my life.
I believe all who play and sing at G.U.M. are ministers of music and we are all under the authority of Gods Word, the Holy Spirit and church leadership. It is not a popular concept in American society to place oneself under the authority of another, but I believe it is biblical. Simply stated, this means we are servants of the church rather than the other way around, and we are committed to the Ginghamsburg statement of purpose, " to win the lost and to set the oppressed free."
I depend on the talents and gifts of those around me. Through Gods Word, Ive learned that my ministry here is to do what I do best, and to let others do what they have been gifted to do. For instance, our drummer, Keith Hitt, is an ordained Baptist minister. So I rely on Keith to bring to the ministry the spiritual knowledge and maturity that the Lord is blessing me with through him. I learn so much from everyone around me every time we are together. It is truly my second family. Amen!
Fran Wyatt is Music Director at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, OH. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org