Mark D. Roberts

Part 8 of series: Sharing Laity Lodge
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In my last post I wrote about meeting Brian Moss, a musician “after God’s own heart.” Earlier this week at Laity Lodge I added three more musicians to my list of talented artists who seek God’s glory in all they do. (Ironically, they happen to be friends of Brian Moss.)
jeff johnson-brian dunning-gwen franzAt a pastors’ and leaders’ retreat that happened a few days ago, we were led in musical worship by Jeff Johnson, Brian Dunning, and Gwen Franz. Jeff played keyboard and sang. Brian played flute and other similar instruments. Gwen played the viola. Sometimes they played as we listened. Sometimes they played as we sang along. One night they led us in what they call a Selah service, a worship time of performed and sung music, along with silence and prayer.
This trio played several familiar hymns as well as newer songs, many written by Jeff Johnson (sometimes in collaboration with Brian Moss). With strong Celtic influences, their music was as entrancing as it was pleasant to the ears. They had a marvelous way of enhancing the meaning of Christian music through their instruments. And, unlike some performers who can’t get out of the spotlight enough to lead worship effectively, this trio exemplified the humility that’s essential to strong worship leadership.
You may very well have heard some of the music of Jeff Johnson and Brian Dunning. Many of their songs have been included in Windham Hill recordings, as well movie soundtracks (such as Gangs of New York). One of their albums, A Quiet Knowing – Canticles for the Heart, is one of my all-time favorites for times of prayer. I have probably used this album well over a hundred times during my personal devotions. (For an example of the instrumental music on A Quiet Knowing, check out this clip of “Amazing Grace.” For more information on this album or to order it, look here. You can also find their music at iTunes. For more information and a way to sample and/or purchase the music of Jeff, Brian, and their colleagues, check out the ArkMusic website.
The Selah Service is one of Jeff Johnson’s latest passions. It is a worship experienced that uses music, Scripture, prayer, and silence to facilitate devotion to God. It is similar to a Taizé service in its simplicity and open-heartedness. If you’re looking for new ways to grow in your personal worship, or to help you church to grow, check out Jeff’s Selah Service website. There you’ll find more explanation, examples, and resources.
A Quiet Knowing ChristmasI was very pleased to learn that Jeff and his colleagues have produced several Christmas albums. I purchased two of these and am listening to them with great delight. Both feature instrumental arrangements of Christmas and Advent music, some quite familiar, some more unusual. (If you’re familiar with the Windham Hill Winter Solstice and Christmas albums, you’ll recognize several of these arrangements.) Click here to listen to a part of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” from A Quiet Knowing Christmas; and here from a bit of “Sing We Now of Christmas” from Stars in the Morning East – A Christmas Meditation. (Photo: A Quiet Knowing Christmas)
I love the music of Christmas. But early in the Christmas season, which is actually the season of Advent if you follow the Christian year, I’m not ready for “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” blasted by a 50-voice choir. And I’m really not ready for endless versions of “The Little Drummer Boy” in shopping mall Muzak. I want music that invites me slowly, quietly into the Christmas spirit, music that heightens my hope and expectation, which is what Advent is really all about. The Christmas albums produced by Jeff Johnson and his friends are perfect for this purpose. I highly recommend them. In fact, if I were you, I’d go straight to the Ark Music website and examine what’s available. You can also purchase these albums from Amazon, if you prefer: Stars in the Morning East; A Quiet Knowing Christmas. (You get a better deal from Ark Music, but you need to use PayPal.)

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