Contributing Writer Sarah Chew
On Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m., the Samford Worship Arts ensemble hosted its first independent worship night, pulling students and music styles together to create an eclectic event. The repertoire ranged from a cappella and traditional music accompanied by violin to gospel and contemporary worship songs with drums and guitar.
To singer and leadership member Anna Johnston, a junior with a Secondary Education major, the unique thing about the Worship Arts Ensemble is its high proportion of non-music majors. The open-door policy ensures that her peers, who include students in business and veterinary medicine, each bring a unique voice to the group.
“The point is to combine people from all over campus with different worship styles, and get together and worship,” Johnston said. “The biggest benefit is getting to experience worship and music as our outlet without it being our job.”
Despite its diversity, the group could not exist without one unifying factor.
“Our main goal is to have fun and spread the Gospel,” Johnston said.
The Gospel was the theme of the worship night, giving the audience the chance to meditate, proclaim, and express gratitude centered on God alongside the ensemble members.
While the worship night showcased the talent of its members, director Jonathan Rodgers emphasized worship and community over performance. To him, the music programme needs connection and purpose to be complete. Without that, music is just notes on a page, or, as he put it, a recipe.
“All this music tells me is what to do to make a great meal. When it comes to life, that’s the song. I want to invite people to the banquet table: let’s enjoy a great meal together. It’s more than just a collection of recipes,” Rodgers said. “If people leave here saying ‘Oh, that sounded nice,’ I think we’ve failed. If they haven’t left feeling something — if they haven’t been moved in some way — we’ve missed the mark.”
Rodgers joined the Samford Worship Arts Ensemble as director this year, adding onto his full-time position as worship pastor at Hunter Street Baptist Church. He’s excited to be in the energy of a college environment again and has found the tight-knit community of the ensemble members inspiring.
With the fall semester drawing to a close, plans are already underway for WAE’s involvement in the spring, both on and off campus. Samford students can look forward to supporting the ensemble at the spring night of worship. Beyond that, Rodgers hopes to take the team to local churches to lead worship, which they were able to do last year.
As far as participant outreach goes, another round of auditions will take place in January, and interested students can try out to sing or play an instrument. More information can be found through WAE’s Instagram page, @samfordwae.