Student & Alumni Stories
Karen Clark '13
School of Divinity
Pastor, Worship Leader & Teacher
Before ever hearing about Regent University, Karen Clark began her studies for a degree she didn't even know she wanted or needed. Serving as a worship pastor, Clark had been using books written by Regent's Artist-In-Residence David M. Edwards to develop teachings for her team for more than a decade.
While in the Hampton Roads area, Clark jumped at the chance to attend one of Edwards' seminars at Regent, and, after being personally encouraged by Edwards to pursue her master's degree, she started to look into the Worship & Renewal program.
"All the pieces began to fall in place," she says, "I applied for a scholarship and got it; my pastor, church and family all supported me; I had the green light to go ahead and do it; and felt like I was walking in obedience."
During her time at Regent, she was able to define her life's purpose and goals, and hone her skills as a leader. "Obtaining this degree was a catalyst for me to be a leader who knows, goes and shows the way," she says. "I didn't always have the words to verbalize and show the way to go, and while at Regent, I felt like God was showing me how to be more confident in that."
She also discovered talents and learned how to strengthen them. "I loved the life coaching class, and I think god was opening my eyes to the fact that I was already doing that, but I needed to be better equipped at mentoring."
With Edwards as her mentor, Clark flourished in her calling while still working towards her degree. "[Edwards] opened the doors for opportunity when he sent me on his behalf to a worship conference in Kansas," Clark explains, adding, "I know I'm called to do it and equipped to do it as well. And now that I have my masters, more doors have opened up for me to speak."
Currently, Clark is the worship and arts pastor at Warwick Assembly of God in Hampton, Va., and is sharing what she has learned with others. "My passion lies in the next generation of worship leaders ... they need someone to lead them, equip them and show them who they are in Christ."
Clark stresses the importance of the generations working together in worship and facilitates different times of teaching that allows the youth—as young as 7th and 8th graders—to learn alongside people several years older.
"Heaven is every tribe and tongue, but what about every generation?" she asks. "The only way to cultivate a culture of honor is if everyone worships together—old and young—so they can see that it matters to each other."
Though she had never dreamed of getting her masters, Clark does not regret following the Lord's leading. "Before coming to Regent, I had served as a worship pastor for more than 20 years," she explains, "and I feel like Regent helped me find my voice."
Anthony Martelle '13
School of Divinity
Singer/Songwriter, Worship Leader
From owning a successful construction business in Maine to releasing his first worship album as a worship leader in Hampton Roads, Anthony Martelle '13 (Divinity) has let Christ guide his steps and plans to keep it that way.
"Regent was the training ground that has enabled me to chase after my calling," he says, although initially, Regent University wasn't even on his radar. Martelle explains that he stumbled upon the School of Divinity out of curiosity about where his favorite artist—Jason Upton '00—had received his degree.
"Once I started looking into Regent, I began to hear from God," he says. Martelle sensed his journey to Regent was both for his education and relationship building. Direction on what to do next would come in due time.
Over the course of earning his Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in Worship & Renewal, Martelle developed two major skills. The first, and most powerful of the two for him, was the ability to deconstruct ideas that were already instilled in him. Essentially, he learned to confront, dissect and then research why he believed what he believed, and then rebuild it.
"It was clear in my very first class that I could either skate through or develop the necessary tools to reshape the way I think to be more effective in whatever my calling was for the future," Martelle explains.
He says his second area of growth was in leading and teaching about worship across denominations—skills developed through the sheer experience of doing what he loved.
"I learned very quickly how to respect the church you are leading and how to tailor your approach while still doing a little bit of teaching—which is very important," he explains.
In addition to his current role as worship director at Riverbend Church in Suffolk, Va.—serving under the same pastor that Upton once had—Martelle is a worship evangelist, guest leading at other churches and events. "I aim to use music as a way of sharing the gospel and helping others engage with Jesus. My heart is to empower worshipers to be fierce," he says.
And that is exactly what his first album, released in December 2012, does. In the vein of Christian acoustic rock, The Calling tells a story of being called to worship, with the purpose of calling the listener to a place of worship.
"We need to be like David—to tell our souls to wake up. Worship doesn't always come naturally," an impassioned Martelle explains. He teaches this principle to every congregation he leads, using a specific track from the album to illustrate that message.
He and his wife, Adele, continue to listen for God's direction as their ministry grows. "We are literally going to follow Jesus wherever He sends us," he says. Martelle keenly understands that music is a powerful foot in the door to communicate the gospel and the heart of worship to others.
Ja Miller '11
School of Divinity
Artist, Worship Curator
Ja (Jason) Miller, who has worked as a vocational artist for 12 years, began to see how his calling as an artist was also an important way to serve God in the church as he accelerated in his faith and talent during his mid-20s. When he first came to Regent University, he didn't know such a specific position existed, but as he took more and more classes, Miller discovered exactly how to use his artistic talent to share his faith—as a worship curator.
He chose Regent based on two criteria: He needed a school with online courses he could take from his home in Ohio, and he wanted a school with a notable, Christian foundation. "When I began in 2007, Regent was ahead of the curve with its online programs and excellent integration of the Bible and academics. Also, being from a charismatic background, I wanted to go to a school that encouraged and facilitated my core beliefs," Miller says.
His journey at Regent not only led him into his calling, but also brilliantly equipped him for it along the way. Miller explains that his identity was challenged alongside his intellect. He strengthened his skills in research and theological study and grew personally, thanks to Regent's fundamental emphasis on spiritual formation.
"Without the influence of Regent, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today," he says. "I was kind of a radical, ready-to-give-up-on-the-church Christian, bent with emerging cynicism. Regent helped me regain my faith in the church and reconnect with understanding the Bible. That is why I am where I am today."
Most valuable to Miller was the mentorship he received from Dr. Diane Chandler, associate professor in the School of Divinity, and David M. Edwards, Regent's artist-in-residence and creative director of the International Center for Worship. "[They] helped me discover my calling and grab onto the significant meaning of it," he says.
Without realizing it, Miller had already started his ministry several years earlier. "It wasn't until David M. Edwards told me about Jonny Baker, a forerunner of worship curation in Europe, that I understood. That helped define the idea and make it tangible as a vocation." Now, Miller is a worship curator, working with his church to infuse art into worship services. He describes his role as someone who is "responsible for and envisions worship services as a whole—overseeing every aspect of a worship event, from the moment people walk in to when they leave ... planning out what aspects of worship will be present, what order they will be in, and so on."
The response to his work has been enthusiastic, with senior leadership encouraging him to curate more services. "I believe that worship often over emphasizes the music aspect. I'm trying to help cultivate a renewal of visual arts that are happening in church, showing that worship is diverse, and there are many ways that can be expressed," he says. Although the idea of a worship curator is new to most people, Miller believes it is a quickly developing ministry that will become more common in the church. "I think art as a part of worship is very relevant to emerging generations as we become more visually oriented. It is a language that believers and unbelievers speak, and that makes it important for the church to have a voice in the visual arts."
Still working as a professional artist and serving his church as a worship curator, Miller desires to one day go into full-time ministry. He says it's not only about expressing himself through art; it's a way to live out his highest calling—honoring God as an artist and a Christian.
To learn more about Ja Miller and his ministry as a worship curator, visit his blog at http://curatingworship.tumblr.com.