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Music
Ministry

 

Philosophy of Worship and Music

We grieve to see the divisions that matters related to the style of worship has caused in many churches. We do not believe that any particular style of church music is more beneficial or more spiritual than any other.

After years of thoughtful consideration and significant experience in discerning the best approach for our particular congregation, we have specifically decided to not follow the current trend that is visible in many churches of exclusively embracing a style of worship built on the sole foundation of Contemporary Christian Music. Rather, as a matter of respectful conscience, we have come to see authentic, time-honoring worship take the center of all we do in our worship services at Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

We have come to understand that worship is our vertical response to God’s life-transforming work in the world in general, and in our lives in particular, through the redeeming power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ and through the in-dwelling power of the Holy Spirit. All other programs of our church—that is, the horizontal aspects of our ministry—stem from this corporate pursuit of worshipping the holy God who loves us and gave His Son for us.

Therefore, in our worship, we choose to honor God with the very best “language” we can find. Just as we treasure the roots of our Presbyterian Reformed heritage and Biblical authority, we value our foundation of Christian hymnody—sacred music at its time-honoring best—further enhanced, when most appropriate, by the careful selection of music purposefully chosen from a wide variety of musical styles, including the folk, gospel, and Contemporary Christian Music genres.

We believe that a mature understanding of our faith is accompanied by a mature appreciation of our use of time-honoring church music that connects us to the millions of Christians down through the centuries who have sought to love and worship God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Just as our Christian Education targets a person’s theological awareness of Scripture, we intentionally make appreciation and understanding a focus of our musical education for adults, youth, and children. In other words, we are not content merely to cling to a particular style of music in worship. Rather, we make it a point to very carefully and thoroughly educate the people in our congregation as to why we choose to use certain music in our worship services. This gives us a greater appreciation for the depth of the texts, as well as for the beauty of the musical settings.

Musical ensembles, beginning with our children, not only develop musical knowledge and an ability to lead our congregation in worship, but also give our children the opportunity to learn the theology behind the texts they sing. Thus, our Christian Education and our Music Ministry remain necessarily and beneficially entwined.

In addition, we celebrate the Liturgical Year, not slavishly, but with as much consistency as the calendar and preaching schedule allow. Through the observance of various holy periods and special days, we remember our Christian heritage and our connection to believers who have gone on before us. Through these special festivals, we teach our children, and new disciples in the faith, the Christian story as it is found in Scripture and as it has been expressed down through the ages by those who have devoted themselves to worshipping God.

Whether it be through liturgy, hymnology, creeds, or Scripture, we believe in the historical foundations of the Christian faith, and we seek to celebrate them with the best resources we can bring to worship.

 

 

Music Ministry Leaders

C. Thomas Brooks C. Thomas Brooks, Minister of Music and Worship, coordinates the development of our weekly worship services and oversees the leadership and development of all our music ensembles. He brings to Redeemer Presbyterian Church (EPC) a wide range of sacred and secular choral conducting and music leadership experience.

In addition to his responsibilities at Redeemer, he currently serves as the Director of the Erie Philharmonic Chorus, as the Director of Choirs at Mercyhurst University, and as the Conductor and Artistic Director of the Boston, Massachusetts, musical ensemble, Lyricora.

A graduate of Houghton College (NY), New England Conservatory, the Hartt School of Music of the University of Hartford (CT), Professor Brooks also studied at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX.

In 1971 he founded and conducted the Mercyhurst College Choir and Chamber Singers, and in 1972 was named conductor of the Symphonic Singers of Erie, Pennsylvania, posts he held until 1974.

In 1974 he moved to the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, where he conducted the Hartt Chorale, the Collegiate Singers, the Hartt Touring Opera Theatre and the University Civic Chorus and Chamber Choir. While in Hartford, Professor Brooks also conducted the Arts in Unison Bel Canto Opera Company, Connecticut Light Opera on the Sound, the America’s Youth in Concert Program to Europe, and was co-founder and musical director of the New Lyric Theatre.

From 1978 through the summer of 1984, he served as Choir Director at Calvary Church in West Hartford, Connecticut, working with Shirley Wilson as organist.

In 1984 he joined the faculty of Texas Tech University as conductor of the Collegiate Singers and Musical Theatre, and also served as associate conductor of the University Concert Choir and Chamber Singers and conductor of the summer musical theatre season.

While living in Lubbock, he served as Choir Director at both First Baptist Church and Second Baptist Church.

In 1987 he became director of choral activities and chair of vocal studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, choral conductor at the Chicago Academy for the Arts and guest conductor with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra.

In 1988 he joined the faculty of Gordon College as Chair of Fine Arts and the Chair of the Department of Music, a position he held for 25 years.

From 1999 through 2014 he served as Director of Music for Traditional Services at the historic Park Street Church in Boston. From 1993 to 2000 he was conductor of the Montage Chamber Singers, and conductor of the chamber choir Cantillare from 2003-2005.

Since 2008 he has been conductor of the Boston area chamber choir Lyricora. In that year he also became co-founder/co-director of the Salzburg Institute with its international symposia, lecture series and summer undergraduate study program in Vienna and Salzburg, Austria. He has been guest conductor of the Portland Repertory Opera Theatre (ME) and conductor with Commonwealth Opera (MA) and the Northshore Light Opera Company (MA).

He has served as state president for the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association and has been conductor of the Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island All-State Music Festivals.

His educational video series, Singing, Acting, Surviving, coauthored with stage director Ronald Luchsinger, was released by TRL Enterprises in conjunction with Schaffner Music Publishers, which also publishes the Thomas Brooks Choral Series. He is currently coauthoring a new text on training the high school singer with his wife, soprano, Susan Brooks.

 

 

Shirley Wilson Shirley W. Wilson, Music Associate/ Organist and Children, accompanies our worship services, accompanies our music ensembles, and oversees the development of our children’s music ministry. She brings nearly 50 years of experience as a church musician and children’s music educator to her responsibilities at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (EPC).

Growing up in an evangelical Christian home, Shirley received her earliest training in church music by observing her beloved uncle, a pastor/musician ordained in the Evangelical United Brethren Church. She followed in his footsteps and began her formal musical training at age six. During her teenage years, she served as a church pianist and organist and sang in a church youth music group.

Shirley graduated from Houghton College (NY), with the degree of Bachelor of Music in Music Education. She continued her formal education completing 30 hours in a Master’s program at the Hartt School of Music of the University of Hartford (CT). She earned a Master of Science degree in Elementary Education at Central Connecticut State University.

During her years of formal employment, Shirley taught Elementary and Middle School music for a total of 32 years in three school districts in New York state and Connecticut. She also served as a volunteer church organist and choir director for five years in two churches and a paid church organist for 26 1/2 years in two churches—of which six-and-a-half years were spent playing on the largest pipe organ in northwestern Pennsylvania. She also served as the Director of Children’s Music for eight years.

Shirley has also served in significant leadership roles in church and parachurch organizations: nine years on the national Board of Directors of the Christian Educators Association International (CEAI), 15 years as founder and president of the Greater Hartford (CT) Chapter of CEAI, as a Sunday School teacher, and as an organizer of women’s retreats. She has also served as a featured devotional writer for the CEAI website.

Shirley has published numerous articles in the CEAI national magazine, Teachers of Vision, as well as articles in the Music Educators Journal, Pennsylvania Music Educators Journal, and the Choristers Guild magazine, The Chorister.

In addition to her role in music at Redeemer Presbyterian Church (EPC), Shirley coordinates the Women’s Ministry and writes a weekly “Devotional for Women.”