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Interns Lead Worship for Local Congregation

By Rachel Judy | June 16, 2011

Yolanda Day
Photo courtesy of Center for Worship

During a recent worship service at First Presbyterian Church (FPC) in Norfolk, Va., Selenia Washington watched the crowd from her spot on stage with the worship team. Seeing a head bowed or a hand raised, the quiet nature of the worship there surprised her. "I didn't know how people worshiped in other churches," explained the divinity student who grew up in a Pentecostal Holiness church.

Washington found herself on the platform of one of Norfolk's oldest churches thanks to an internship with David M. Edwards, artist-in-residence in Regent University's Center for Worship. In addition to teaching worship courses at Regent, Edwards is the worship leader at FPC.

Along with Washington, Edwards also welcomed three other interns from the School of Divinity during the 2010-11 school year—Dan Yoon, Yolanda Day and Marie Lister.

Having an internship at a local church has changed how each intern views worship and their calling as leaders. "Ever since I can remember, [worship] has always been something I have participated in, had a heart for, had a passion for, but never really stepped out in," Day explained. "I think it was because it was so close to my heart, and it was such an intimate thing for me that it was hard to take it to a public platform."

The platform at FPC provided a safe and challenging place to learn. "There's a difference between learning material in class—retaining information, knowledge, whatever—and then giving it out, practicing it," said Yoon.

Yoon—who grew up in a Korean American church—also found the style of worship to be quite different. But, similar to his fellow interns, he quickly realized that leading worship in a new setting was exactly the thing he needed to stretch himself. "It's actually given me a deeper appreciation for the church as a whole—Christ's body, the world at large—and I appreciate the uniqueness, the differences," he said.

All of these students came to Regent with a love of music and worship, but they were uncertain about how that passion would play out. Taking courses from the worship track offered by the School of Divinity, they met Edwards and were struck by his enthusiasm for his calling. Likewise, Edwards was drawn to his students and eager to plug them in. It was only natural that he start at the place he knew the best.

"They have the opportunity to create, really do what we do in class," he explained. "We talk about Christian Leadership to Change the World and that's what we're doing in worship as well."

Besides singing on Sunday mornings, the students regularly attended worship team practice and were given opportunities to work behind the scenes with the church's audio/visual team. "Being able to see how teams are coordinated, how they're on a rotation, setting notebooks up, helping to plan bands going out into the community ... all of that helps to cultivate 21st century leaders who are able to be confident in their craft and apply what they've learned," Day said.

"I am a visual and hands on learner so, for me, internship sounded like the perfect route," said Lister, who found value beyond singing on Sunday mornings. "The people [of FPC] loved and embraced me with such love and compassion. I even went to events the church had just because I felt like family there. Professor Edwards always introduced me to new people. He even connected me with the organist at FPC. In that connection she has taught and shared with me her classic training in liturgy and classical church music. It was mind blowing."

"Our interns are a rich gift to us. Their energy, joy and desire to learn is infectious among our worship team and congregation," said Jim Wood, senior pastor at FPC. "I am also convinced that the opportunity they have to practice some of what they have learned in class in the real environment of worship seals so much of what they studied—an ideal blend for effective education. They have been a particular joy for me as they have been so open to building a personal relationship with me. These relationships have been so encouraging for me as I consider the future of the Church and the leadership of His Body which Christ is entrusting to them."

"At the heart of it all, it's really learning how to love others," Yoon said. "The internship has taught me not just these practical ministry skills, but I'm also being stretched as far as building relationships."

He continued, "If we keep in mind that it's about how to love God and how to love people better, then it'll always pay off no matter what it looks like."

Learn more about the Center for Worship.


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