worship tricks

worship tricks [first series]

no 13: connect

a new album worth checking out is brooklyn and beyond by DJ kenny mitchell. he was involved with revs church on the south coast in the uk but is now based in new york and travels the world DJing - seems to have a good reputation. it's a mini album (7 tracks) and only costs £7.00. it's quite an eclectic mix of break beats, drum and bass, and even a bit of garage thrown in but it retains an overall consistent style throughout. whilst the tempo does get up in places it still feels fairly reflective and laid back overall. thrown into the mix are plenty of spoken samples. i recognised none other than andrew jones' tones along with roger ellis (from revelation church)! my personal favourite track is 'connect'. it's worthy of being worship trick 13 i think. this takes a sample from some preacher and spins it over a laid back groove - the gist of the track is that in much the same way as in the old testament musicians would play and when they did it enabled the prophets to connect with god, the DJ now can fulfill the same function by playing tunes to enable people to make that connection. in my experience music functions like this for me (though often not the music on offer in most churches). the thing it reminded me of in particular was an argument i had with a good friend (who i'm sure won't mind me recounting it). we were talking about alternative worship and what place singing had in it. i'm not averse to singing, but i said that in grace we often had whole services where we didn't sing. my friend said that one of the problems with alternative worship is that it doesn't get you to the place that singing does - i.e. afford you an intimacy with god. i said at the time that i totally disagreed because for me listening to music with images flickering on screens, maybe during communion while people were going up to receive bread and wine afforded me exactly the intimacy that he was talking about. i don't need to sing to get it! there's no singing on this album as such - just instrumental music and beats with spoken samples but it takes you somewhere....

the album is on survivor records. this in itself is a bit of a shock/surprise. survivor is a subsidiary of one of the main uk christian label (kingsway) that produces worship music. even what they put out as contemporary is still usually locked in a rock/folk band performance idiom and sounds like every other worship band or album you've ever heard. it's certainly not a place where many risks are taken. but this is definitely a very different sound. they have set up a subsidiary of the subsidiary now called 'emerge' that i guess this is one of the first releases on.

there is also an interview with kenny mitchell in this month's youthwork magazine. talking about the use of dance music and the usual way of doing worship in church he says

'it requires a change of thinking from the way church worship usually operates. it's about taking people on a journey which is why most club nights run for hours on end.... most people expect to have an experience and for the DJ to take them there.... so it's very different from a DJ trying to fit into a 20 minute church slot.'

now this seems glaringly obvious, but there are so many times when the church makes the mistake of trying to co-opt something e.g. dance music into its already existing structure or way of doing things (and it doesn't work) rather than re-imaginging the whole deal. in my view re-imagination about the whole way we do church and worship is precisely what we need rather than a kind of categorical imperialism that squeezes the new thing into an old mould (didn't someone say something about new wine and new wineskins once?.....)