“Concept album” book on worship
Review by Sarah Brown
What is the subject?
The book uses the concept of a grace note – an embellishment that is neither melody nor harmony – to delve into the music of worshipers and artists. For the purposes of the book, Kathleen Francis offers a definition of grace notes as “the music we create to highlight and ascend to God, the Melody.”
The purpose of Grace Notes to is address questions the church asks surrounding musical worship. Francis contributes through weaving her own musings and experience into the gleanings of 13 worship leaders such as recording artists Brian Doerksen and Steve Bell and CMU instructor Christine Longhurst, whom she interviewed.
Who is the author?
Francis has a history in pastoral ministry in the MB church, and in the past few years has expanded the forms in which her ministry takes by beginning to write. She has a passion to build connections between people and inspire us to deepen our connection with God. She has two adult children and, after living across Canada, now makes her home in Winnipeg.
Why this book?
The immense value of this book is the privilege to hear from the heartbeat of diverse, wise, worshipful artists – Francis included – from the West to East Coast. She gracefully guides the interviews to zero in on the crux of the passion they each carry and then expands on those messages in her own writing following each interview.
Comment on the book’s theological perspective in light of the MB Confession of Faith.
Article 6 speaks of worship as the community celebrating God’s character, affirming our submission to him, building one another up, and seeking God’s will. It speaks of how we are nourished and renewed by gathering together to respond to him and give him glory.
Most of the insights shared in the book are regarding corporate worship. Interviewees highlight different aspects of worship, and Francis weaves those pieces together gracefully into a beautiful and rich mosaic of what worship in community looks like.
Grace Notes provokes us to ponder the purpose and beauty of music in the church, and reminds us of the richness that comes from asking questions and listening to the discoveries and bounty God has developed in each of us as we grow in relationship with him. Francis passionately shares that we each have a grace note to contribute. When we offer it up in community, we create a sacred and holistic sound that ascends to and connects us with God, the Melody.
Grace Notes is presented as many stories and thoughts, and though it is divided into four Movements (sections), as a reader, I would have benefited from a more overt roadmap explaining the reason for the route along the way. The book reads like is a sort of “concept album” that seeks to take the reader on an intentional journey, but like a such a recording, it leaves a fair bit of the thought behind the arrangement up to the reader to discern. I would have appreciated a little more interpretation from Francis, the guide, throughout the journey. However, I do appreciate the artistry that comes from begging these questions of the reader.
Who should read it?
Anyone who desires to learn more about artistry in the church or is interested in a variety of valuable insights into worship. Songwriters and worship leaders will also find many precious gems throughout that will refresh your hearts and challenge your patterns.
“The use of music in worship is a powerful instrument to play upon the heart, to enliven and awaken it to love. Singing songs that remind us of our glorious, gracious God generate and invigorate our love.”—Kathleen Francis
“I always tell young writers, if you find yourself wanting to sing a certain thing and you can find a song that says what you want to sing… then have the humility to use that song. But when you look and all you find is a gap, there’s your writing assignment”—Brian Doerksen (as told to Kathleen Francis)
“I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to be holy before I lead worship. Ironically, I would find that some of the most incredible times of leading worship and of the presence of God were at times when I just came to be vulnerable before Him as someone who’s been ransomed by the love and blood of Christ. It’s taken a lot of pressure off me to need to do works so I can seem worthy enough to be able to lead worship.”—Charl Eksteen (as told to Kathleen Francis)
“The Voice of God is fitted well to the language of music. The language of music is unique. Shame and guilt, threats and condemnation are not in the language of music. God’s approach is not to push, cajole or control, but rather to invite and to draw. Music may draw us into humble confession but does not burden us with guilt. Grace notes minister grace and remove chains.”—Kathleen Francis
[Sarah Brown is a worship and intercession apprentice with MB Mission Central Canada and directs Bread We Break, a province-wide young adult worship ministry.