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Sam Hailes talked about leading worship, and making the most of current technologies with popular UK based worship leader Vicky Beeching.
When did you first start to lead worship?
I first led worship when I was about 13. I was really nervous as I was one of the shyest kids in the youth group! But I’d been strumming away on my cheap Argos-bought acoustic guitar in the safety of my bedroom, and knew God was asking me to be brave and start to sing and lead publicly.
It’s amazing that God has developed my confidence over the years, and now I feel totally comfortable up there even with crowds of thousands. That to me is a sign of his grace, and that he’s called me to do it, as within my natural skills and personality it wouldn’t have been something I would feel comfortable with! So if you’re reading this and are a shy person – God can help you break through that barrier, like he did with me.
What would you say to a Christian who doesn’t feel like singing songs at church?
Singing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I hate dancing for example, so I put myself in the shoes of the non-singer by imagining that we all had to dance for 30 minutes every week in church…yikes!
It’s a mystery to me why singing is what God wants but I believe it’s to do with the totality of our attention, our physical body and our emotions that engage when we sing – it involves all of us. Also, I believe it’s about the unity it creates across gender, age and race, when everyone joins in one song.
Why do you blog and would you recommend others do it too?
Blogging gives me an outlet to express things that can’t be compacted down into a song lyric. I love being able to write freely about God, theology, or the other areas that I’m passionate about.
A genuine community has grown around my blog. A couple of songwriters met on my site, and travelled across the States to write songs together! I interact with people from all across the globe and address important issues. Then we all debate them and share our views through the comments. It reminds me of being back at Oxford University, sitting in a coffee shop debating lots of theological questions with my fellow students!
For me, it’s about interacting with the very real environment and world of the cybersphere. Lots of teens, 20s and 30s have left the established Church, but are daily on the ‘net, checking Facebook and Twitter countless times a day. I want to be meeting them where they’re at and trying to engage them in things that will interest them.
How do you think the internet and technology has effected and will effect worship in the local church?
I think we are literally just in the infancy of where technology will take us as a society. Some of it will be exciting and useful, other aspects will require us to exercise much caution. Worship has benefitted from technology, in the use of projection software, video backgrounds and programmable digital sound desks.
Now you can use a tablet, like the iPad, to transpose all your chord charts and put that on a music stand instead of sheets of paper. You can plug in a Mac and record your worship set to Garage Band, and turn it into a CD. You can also use backing tracks to play along to in worship that are fully interactive via a footswitch.
I think the return to more ‘folk’ based music in worship - like the band Gungor - shows a desire to get away from too much technology. Smaller, more organic styles of church meetings are starting to spring up too – doing away with lights, screens and cameras, and embracing a more basic and ‘raw’ feel.
I think we’ll see more of this as we get more and more saturated with technology and need to return to the ‘raw’ for it to feel more authentic. I also think technology will continue to help us and open more doors – but I’m a lover of tech and gadgets, so I guess I would say that!
Tell us about your role working with Spring Harvest.
I sit on the core planning team, we work year-round developing the ‘theme’ for the event. It’s a process of deep research, theology and asking the Holy Spirit what he wants to say to the church.
Last year I helped write and oversee a new seminar stream called The Worship Zone, which we’ll be doing at every site, every week in 2012. It’s training for worship leaders, in both theology and practical skills. They are really energetic and fun sessions.
I grew up going to Spring Harvest, so it feels great to be helping to lead it now, and to give back to an event that has given so much to me. Our 2012 event is exploring the fascinating theme of ‘Church Actually’ – what IS the church? What should it be?
Stuart Townend said recently in an interview that he hates doing photo shoots! What’s your opinion on marketing? Is it just self promotion?
I hated them at first – I don’t know many people that enjoy having their photo taken! Especially us self deprecating & reserved Brits!
But I began to see that its part of the mechanism that gets your songs to people’s eyes and ears. So I see photoshoots, or interviews, or anything plugging my CDs, as the way I honour God – he’s given me the songs, so I can’t just make a CD and leave it at that. My responsibility is to tell people about the music, so they can get it.
People often equate photoshoots or marketing with arrogance or self-promotion, but I believe it’s actually about humility – being humble enough to endure the awkwardness of having cameras in your face, and giant pictures of you blown up on adverts. And answering questions about your deepest thoughts and personal life, in scores of interviews. It's about humbling myself and getting past my shyness and awkwardness. It’s as much part of my worship, as singing the songs themselves.
I hear you've been experiencing some health problems, is this something you can share more about?
Yes, I got more and more tired from touring. I’d been on the road non-stop for about 7 years, zooming back and forth between the States, Canada, Europe and the UK, with very little time off. I’d usually be in one or two different churches or conferences per week, catching a flight every other day. Jet lag was almost permanent and I was sleeping badly because of it.
When the exhaustion and tiredness reached a really severe point, I saw several different doctors and had blood tests. They all said the same thing –it was an auto-immune condition, where my body was saying ‘stop!’. They all prescribed the same drug treatment for it – chemotherapy – which was a huge shock to me as it seemed such a serious drug.
So I’ve been based in the UK, on the chemo for the past year, and actually just finished my final round. So now I’m being analysed regularly to see how I’m recovering, and how my blood levels and health are doing.
I’ve been through a darker valley than I’d ever imagined, yet I’ve come out feeling God has taught me so much. I’ve learned a lot through it all! I know those lessons will come out in my singing, writing and speaking. And I plan to live a very different kind of life from here on –one with plenty of balance, rest, Sabbath and wisdom. I’ve had to learn the art of ‘saying no’ too!
Stopping relentless touring has also enabled me to plug in more deeply in my leadership role with Spring Harvest. It’s also enabled me to keep up my three different blogs. vickybeeching.com, cyber-soul.com and womeninworshipnetwork.com.
I believe God has allowed me to go through the past year of ‘the valley of the shadows’ to form me and teach me, ready for the years ahead. He’s promised me that the best is yet to come, so I’m excited about all that’s in store! Watch this space for new songs, a book and more blogs!
You can follow Vicky on Twitter, find her on Facebook and download the chord sheets and music to all of her songs on SongSelect.