Below you will find a thoughtful blogpost by graduating biology student Janessa Gritter. She has posted some questions at the end of the post that were initially going to be used at one of our Discipleship and Resistance gathers, engage with these, or anything else that she has written, in the comments! Janessa has been a gift to our ministry team over the past two years. She is thoughtful, hardworking, and willing to proactively step into leadership roles. She is also an incredibly gifted worship leader. We are going to miss you, Janessa! To give you a little background as to who Janessa is and her time at King’s I asked her a few questions:
Congratulations on graduating! What are your plans for next year?
I will be starting as the Intern Worship Pastor at New Life CRC in Abbotsford. I am very excited to begin a new adventure and work with the wonderful people there.
Did you take a class at King’s outside your major that you would recommend to other students?
During this last year, I’ve been a part of the justice semester with about ten other people. Together we’ve taken theology, history, and social science courses. We’ve listened to so many wonderful speakers and tackled so many difficult topics. It’s really changed the way I view the world and understand social justice.
Was there a faculty or staff person who was particularly impactful during your time at King”s?
Aww man, I only have to pick one person? There was so many people at King’s that were so impactful on me.
Firstly, Dr. Darcy Visscher has had a big impact on my degree in biology at the King’s university. I’ve taken quite a few courses with him. Besides answering my many many many questions about biology with lots of patience, he’s been a wonderful professor. He’s challenged me to think about many different topics critically and helped me to continue to love biology, despite the heavy workload.
Secondly, Melanie Salte. I’ve worked with Melanie for two years as a worship assistant. We’ve laughed together, worshipped together, cried together, and grown together. We’ve had so many great talks and she’s walked with me through some hard decisions I’ve had to make. I’ll definitely miss her!
Do you have a favourite Scripture passage or one that has been particularly helpful lately?
Our graduating verse! Which I feel is a wonderful verse as I leave King’s this year and during the time we are living in. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” – Joshua 1:9
Is there anything else you want us to know about your time at King’s?
I’ve been so blessed coming to King’s. I’ve met so many wonderful people and learned so many impactful things. This is such a beautiful community: loving, caring, and insightful. The lessons, friendships, and moments I’ve made here will impact me for many years to come.
Community in Quarantine Post
During this semester, I did a theology 499 based on the topic of worship and justice. I thought this topic appropriate as I’ve served as a worship assistant at King’s for two years and participated in the justice fellowship. I wanted to connect worship and justice together: two things that I am very passionate about. Before this course, I didn’t think worship and justice were connected. Worship was about praising and singing to our God and justice was about restoring relationships, speaking for those who are silenced, and showing radical love. I think most people would think the same way I did. Worship is in one category with one purpose and justice is in another. However, diving deeper into this topic showed me how important it is that worship and justice should be connected. This topic was an interesting experience and challenged the idea of what worship really is to me.
Often when we try isolate worship, we too often fall victim to ‘problems’ in worship that shouldn’t be the focus of what worship really is. On a Sunday morning, we focus on whether the music of a worship service is too loud, how ‘singable’ the lyrics are, or how many new songs are played in the worship set. When we focus on this, we tend to miss the real purpose of worship. We become spiritually complacent in the rhythm of worship and forget the injustices that are occurring in the world.
The real focus of worship is expressing who God is in worship and embodying God’s character in lives that do justice and seek righteousness for those who are neglected. The book I read this semester was called The Dangerous Act of Worship. The author describes that when we focus on the technicalities of worship, we fall asleep to what matters most. We can wake up only when we remember God’s purpose in the world and live lives that seek justice. Worship should change us. When we sing about knowing Jesus or loving like Jesus it means that we should love our neighbour and stand in the path of those who are neglected. When we sing about our God but don’t love our neighbour our worship to God becomes a lie (see 1 John 4:20-21). Authentic worship, worship that remembers God’s purpose in the world, should push us to act. Worship should remember justice and justice should remember worship. If we don’t acknowledge justice in worship, it becomes meaningless. Isaiah 58:3-9 reflects this idea with the imagery of fasting. The people fast, which is a form of worship, but are confused why God has not noticed. God replies that authentic worship helps to ‘loose the chains of injustice’. When this form of worship is done, worship that is recognizes injustice, God will answer the call.
One of the things that I’ve been reflecting on is to think about how comfortable you are with doing the worship you engage with now. When we become comfortable with the worship we do, same songs, same ideas, we tend to fall asleep. I’ve been wrestling with the word ‘uncomfortableness’ in worship. I think ‘uncomfortableness’ looks different for each person, but it is important to jolt us out of the rhythm of worship to think about what worship should really be. Being uncomfortable in worship, I would argue, reminds you of why you worship and puts you in a place to reflect on what worship is really for.
As we are in self-isolation during these weeks it’s hard to think about worship. Spending the days indoors and especially not getting to go to church is difficult. Perhaps we instead turn on a worship playlist or listen to a worship leader sing on a Facebook Live post. I encourage you to reflect on this idea I’ve written about and to think about the worship you’re engaging with over these weeks.
Here’s some questions to think about over the next couple of days:
What is the point of worship? Who is it for?
Should worship and justice be connected?
Have you, like the author mentions, fallen asleep in worship? What would it mean for you to wake up?
What does it mean to be uncomfortable in worship for you?