Sandra Maria Van Opstal is the author of numerous books, including The New Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, which received Christianity Today’s 2017 Book of the Year Award of Merit for Church/Pastoral Leadership. She is a second-generation Latina, and the pastor at Grace and Peace Community in Chicago. Sandra is sought-after as a speaker, trainer and activist because of her passionate and incisive messages on Christianity and multi-ethnic worship. Sandra took time to do this interview about her life and her book at a coffee-shop amidst a busy week of trainings and consultations.
Recorded live at a group discussion for the Antioch Worship Leadership Trainings at Madison Church, Shelli Fynewever and Eric Nykamp talk about the notion of creating a culturally-hospitable worship environment. As a part of this panel discussion, Shelly and Eric introduce the work of the pastor and activist Sandra Maria Van Opstal and the humor of comedian (and YouTuber) Kev On Stage.
Members of the Antioch Podcast team gather around the microphones to share stories of their experiences leading worship outside of the worship tradition in which they were raised. This early episode of the podcast may exhibit some of the quirks of our early attempts at podcasting and not be of the quality that later episodes exhibit.
In this inaugural episode, the members of the Antioch team (Laura Pritchard, Attah Obande and Eric Nykamp) talk about the reason for making this podcast, as well as a bit of their personal backstories about how they each came to lead worship in the multi-ethnic congregations of Madison Church. This episode was recorded to help answer the frequently-asked questions about the podcast, summarized below:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Antioch Worship Leadership Podcast?
The Antioch Podcast’s tagline is “Leading Worship Diversely Together”, which is a great way to summarize the topics our podcast covers. This is a podcast of conversations about:
- Worship Leadership (e.g. worship leading skills, leadership development, theology of worship etc.)
- The Unique Aspects of Worship Leadership in Ethnically-Diverse Congregations (e.g. non-expert stance, new standards of excellence, musical homes, inclusive decision-making power etc.)
- Ethnic Diversity Within the Church (e.g. history of racism, histories and personal stories, building common origin-stories of the church)
- Worshiping Together as One Diverse Body (e.g. discussions of current songs, music, art forms etc. which are relevant to ethnically-diverse congregations)
- Congregational Unity Forged Through a Commitment to Biblical Justice (e.g. The core belief that if one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers with it.)
Who is on the podcast?
There are two kinds of podcast interviews that we create:
- Cast Interviews. A circle of regular “cast members” composed of worship leaders from the Madison Church campuses regularly gather around the microphones to discuss topics related to worship leadership. You might want to think of these episodes as “One Topic: Many Speakers.”
- Expert Interviews. We also record interviews with various writers, thinkers, theologians and worship leaders from both inside and outside of Madison Church whose thoughts, ideas, and wisdom has relevance with worship leaders in ethnically diverse congregations. You may think of these interviews as “One Speaker: Many Topics.”
Who is your target audience for the podcast?
There are two audiences we have in mind for every podcast. The primary audience is worship leaders at Madison Church. This podcast was initially created to help both novice and experienced worship leaders share their “best practices” for leading worship in the ethnically diverse congregations that make up Madison Church. The secondary audience, which is considerably larger, are other worship leaders outside of Madison Church who similarly want to grow in their skill and knowledge of how to lead worship well in their ethnically-diverse congregations as well.
Why have a podcast for worship leaders in ethnically diverse congregations? Isn’t worship leadership the same everywhere?
Every congregation certainly is unique, and knowing your congregation is an important part of tailoring worship designs to help each congregation uniquely experience and understand God more fully. However, many mono-ethnic congregations have shared understandings about what “excellence” is because of their shared cultural values. In multi-ethnic congregations, there are not as many shared cultural norms around appropriate use of time, volume of music, style of music, language of worship, ways of making decisions, interaction styles with authority figures, conflict resolution, what “following the Holy Spirit” means, uses of prayer, disclosure of personal information, and history of interactions with dominant ethnic groups … among others. Because there is not a common standard of excellence, worship leaders in diverse church settings need to develop skill sets that goes beyond what any worship leadership conference or training does when it comes from a mono-ethnic viewpoint. Most of the materials available on worship do so from a white-normative viewpoint, which is not generally applicable in a multi-ethnic setting.