Written by Connie Larkman
A United Church of Christ pastor in Chicago working on a liturgy of rock oriented worship music around themes of justice, peace and extravagant welcome is getting a lot of support for his project from ministerial colleagues around the denomination. The Rev. Rob Leveridge, pastor of First United Church in Oak Park, Ill., is offering free downloads for the use of three songs he has already recorded, and is well on his way to raising the additional funds he needs to finish professionally recording the additional 10 tracks.
"I've always enjoyed praise music, especially the exultation of it, and the way it captures a deep love for God," said Leveridge, a member of the UCC's 2030 Clergy network. "But as a pastor in a very progressive church, I looked for praise music that talks more in-depth about the activity of God, moving people toward justice, peace and radical welcome. I found a small group of songwriters making this kind of music, and realized God was calling me to contribute as well –– I'm writing songs to be as fun, catchy, energetic and open-hearted as possible."
"Rob's utterly delightful and singable melodies enhance the growing movement of musical works, including the ‘Sing' Praise Songbook for progressive, welcoming, inclusive and justice minded congregations," said the Rev. David Schoen, team leader for the UCC's Congregational vitality ministry.
This summer, Leveridge is planning to release a CD and songbook of worship songs as a resource to faith communities, titled "Dancing On The Mountain." The title comes from the 65th chapter of the book of Isaiah, which describes a divine future on God's holy mountain, where communities thrive in peace and mutual enrichment. But his project depends on the successful conclusion of his very creative fundraising campaign via kickstarter.com.
Leveridge, part of a growing number of musicians and worship leaders creating praise songs and liturgical rock music that speaks to the heart of faith with inclusive language, social relevance and theological depth said when that he conceived of the project he realized that the music would have a greater impact if he could get his work professionally recorded with the assistance of a high-caliber record producer. So he initially raised enough money to record three songs at Soundcake studios in Chicago, and set a $14,000 goal to record the rest of the album. With just a few days left in his fundraising campaign, it looks like Leveridge will be back in the studio soon.
"We are excited to support the project, because Rob's music will energize and enhance any worship of God through word, deed and song," said the Rev. Steve Angel, of Eden UCC in Chicago, one of more than 200 backers who've pledged funds to the project. "The church needs fresh words to sing, and Rob's words to God are sung from the heart!"
A sample of Rob Leveridge's lyrics:
For every act of goodwill defying
All that hate intends
For every kindness and understanding
Changing foes to friends
For every choosing of peaceful measures
Bringing wars to end,
Let the voice of praise be heard this day!
–– from the song, "The Voice of Praise," off the upcoming CD, "Dancing On The Mountain"
The Rev. Luke Lindon of Sylvania United Church of Christ in Sylvania, Ohio is another enthusiastic supporter. "Our church is excited to support Rob's project because we feel that modern praise music often neglects the themes of justice, inclusion, and liberation," Linden said. "We are excited to support music that shares the same theological outlook as our community!"
Learn more about the project or to download three songs from Rob's new album for free, as well as get lyrics and notation, at www.robleveridge.com.
Rob says that pledges that take him beyond his $14,000 goal will be invested in the production of CDs and songbooks for distribution to churches. He hopes to have the material ready for circulation later this summer.
"I've been thrilled by the support I've received –– hundreds of people from across the country have made pledges and helped to spread the word about the project," Leveridge said. "It's a shared ministry –– I'm the one who's penned the lyrics, but the calling and strength have come from God, and the resources and encouragement have come from a great cloud of witnesses! I can't tell you how grateful I am."