Music and Worship Arts Report 2015

As I begin writing this final report for 2015 I am remind of the truth of my words last April as I was looking back on the first quarter of 2015.  I am writing this at home in the midst of a giant snow storm!  Hopefully the big dump of snow will save us from the procession of small storms we had last year.

The first quarter of each year is spent recovering from the Advent and Christmas season, getting ready for Lent and Easter and dodging snow storms!!  This year was no different.   An early Easter made for a short Epiphany season.  The winter was cold, but the snow fall was mostly relegated to Thursday so while the children missed a fair amount of school we did not miss our regular Wednesday evening rehearsals.  This meant that Easter could arrive without a large amount of musical regret!

All of our choirs continued on their regular schedule.   Helen Davidson and Judy Fiske lead the Preschool Choir.  The Older Children’s Choir is led by Judy Fiske and Graham Grinnell and the Sanctuary Choir is led by Judy Fiske, Ron Simmons and Ryan Corbitt.  All of the rehearsals are held on Wednesday evenings.  The Older Children’s Choir and the Sanctuary Choir led worship together on two Sundays, one in Epiphany and Palm Sunday.  The Preschool Choir led in worship three Sundays including Palm Sunday and Easter.  The Sanctuary Choir led in worship almost every Sunday during this quarter.  In addition they led the Good Friday Service by singing “Return to Me” by Taylor Davis.  This music is based on the Stations of the Cross.  Ryan Corbitt(piano) and Ulysess Kirksey (cello) provided the accompaniment.   The Karen, Lisu, Kachin and Chin choirs and ensembles led us in worship throughout the season.

Eight children and youth participated in Virginia Baptist All-state Choir this year.  Waysnah Htoo, Monica Iang, Christina Sung, Brynne Severns, Kekoa, Kanoa, Kaeo and Dylan Burgess auditioned and were accepted in the 2015 All-state Choir.   There was an all day rehearsal in January and a Friday and Saturday rehearsal in February followed by a performance on the Saturday.  The children all learned a great deal and were inspired to sing with this group again next year.   Chaperones were Judy Fiske and John Burgess.

The Epiphany season was decorated with its usual assortment of fabrics and lights.  Lent brought with it a large crown of thorns that was hung in the center of the sanctuary.    Large pieces of cheesecloth dyed in six different colors led into the crown of thorns blackened and dirty and led away from the crown of thorns clean by the grace of God.  There was a white piece of cloth that traveled the length of the installation to symbolize the fact that Jesus is always walking alongside us.  David Powers constructed the crown of thorns.

During the Epiphany season we had the privilege of sharing music composed by one of our members, Susan Braden.  We are looking forward to singing more of her compositions and arrangements.

April, May and June are an important time for the worship arts people in our congregation.  The journey from Lent to Easter to Pentecost is always a creative time for our people who work in worship arts.  The Lenten crown of thorns was turned into a crown of victory over death, the cords of color used in the Lenten installation became connecting cords between an open door and the world outside of the church building.   When Pentecost arrived we made about 100 origami doves of all sizes and hung them in the center of the sanctuary surrounded by the batik fabric that we made in 2008.   It was a fun use of a former project.

The children’s music program is a central part of the Tabernacle music ministry.  Helen Davidson and Judy Fiske led the preschool children.   They finished their season in May.  The winter and spring season for the school age children was led by Judy Fiske and Graham Grinnell in conjunction with the Godly Play program. They also finished their season in May.  Both groups enjoy share their music with the congregation as they lead in worship.

In June four youth, Waysnah Htoo, Monica Iang, Paul Lian and Kekoa Burgess attended Animate Worship Camp at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.  The youth will be participating in a worship study being conducted by Samford and will also attend this camp next year.  This is a wonderful program that has sparked a great interest in worship arts in our youth group.

Our Sanctuary Choir continued to provide appropriate music for the weekly worship services.  This spring we included the children in several of the anthems we have sung.  This summer the choir participated in an “All-age Choir” that was open to anyone who could read on a second grade level.  There was an adult handbell choir that met during the Sunday School hour in July.  We also enjoyed the music of the Karen and Lisu choirs in worship.

The months of July, August and September were filled with camp, planning and building.  July 13th-17th 20 of us attended Music and Worship Arts Camp sponsored by the Virginia Baptist Mission Board at Eagle Eyrie, Va.   There were 18 campers from grades 4-9 and three chaperones.  We had a great time and learned a lot about music and worship.  Special thanks are due to Laura Severns and John Burgess who chaperoned with me and helped with the cooking.  The children and youth are already looking forward to next year.

The All-Age Choir led in worship several times in July and August.  On July 19th we enjoyed an evening of entertainment as we presented a “Taberet” where various musicians shared their talents for the evening.


I began August by leading a mission trip to Metro Baptist Church in New York City.   We partnered with Bryon Lepere to lead Clue Camp for a week.  Several of our youth helped with this camp also.  They were wonderful leaders.  Returning home placed me firmly in planning and building mode.

The planning involved worship, Christmas concerts, children’s choir and youth worship arts team.  I am happy to report that September found all of those plans being carried out.  I am grateful especially for the amazing leadership of Terry Witt, Jessica Corbitt and Graham Grinnell with the Older Children’s Choir, Helen Davidson, Heather Rose with the Preschool Choir and Ron Simmons with the Youth Worship Arts Team.  I am always thankful for the many talented musicians here at Tabernacle who always successfully work to make a plan unfold beautifully.

The building portion of August involved building a tree in the sanctuary.  Despite several doubts that went through all of our minds, we did it!  Special thanks are due to Lugene Fernald for all of her design and production help, to Jay Hartman and ByaWan for their help with the frame and engineering of the tree—to say nothing of their totally fearless ladder work.  Many hands painted and constructed leaves that appeared each week on the tree. The “tree of life”  was a central part of our worship for the fall season.  The planning and building grew into something that enhanced our worship experience as we had dreamed it would.

The choirs spent the fall season working on the Advent and Christmas portion of our planning and leading in worship.  The Older Children’s Choir began spending half of their rehearsal time learning to play handbells.  They shared their bell music and a choral anthem as a part of worship on October 25th.   The Older Children’s Choir contributed several anthems to the Youth and Children’s Christmas Pageant on Dec. 13th, played bells for worship and played bells and sang for the Christmas in the Fan Concert on Dec. 20th.  They had a really busy fall.  This is an amazing group of 3rd-5th graders.    The Sanctuary Choir continued to discover how many anthems can be found that are related to the Old Testament texts that are central to our worship in the fall portion of the Narrative Lectionary.  We were delighted to get to Advent and Christmas!  The Sanctuary Choir continued to welcome new members this fall.  We presented a concert at Bruton Parish on Dec. 19th and then shared most of that music in the worship service on Dec. 20th and in the Christmas in the Fan Concert on that same day.  This is an amazing group of singers.  We have a great time making music and leading in worship together.

The Youth Worship Arts Team began meeting in October under the leadership of Judy Fiske, Ron Simmons and Marty Watkin.  The group met each Sunday afternoon and enjoyed a lunch prepared by parents or volunteers from the congregation.   They led the music in worship for the first time on Nov. 1.   This team then wrote the Christmas Pageant that they presented on Dec. 13.   They also sang several anthems as a part of this worship service.  This is also an amazingly diverse and talented group of youth.  We are looking forward to the next year of working with them.

The Meadow Street Band continued to rehearse and play both at Tabernacle and for other venues.   Their performances this year include the St. Mary’s Woods Valentines Banquet and their 20th Anniversary celebration, a Fan Zone for the Tacky Light Run and the International Bike Race, Ashland Train Day, St. Stephen’s Farmer’s Market, the Carytown Watermelon Festival and various coffee houses and restaurants in Richmond and other areas in Virginia.   Look for opportunities to support these musicians when they play in the Richmond area.

Tabernacle is filled with wonderfully talented people who willingly share their amazing musical talents both in worship and in concert settings at Tabernacle.  Our music staff is very talented and they are surrounded by an equally talented group of volunteers.  Tabernacle is a great place to make and enjoy music.

Our Worship Arts Team is equally talented and enthusiastic.  This group officially began work in the fall, but many of the members have been collaborators on earlier worship arts projects and had their roles made “team official” in the fall. Their work combines with the music, scripture presentations, praying and preaching to make each worship service at Tabernacle a deliberate effort to make people more aware of the presence of God in their lives.  In July an online publication of Duke Divinity School, Faith and Leadership, featured and article about worship at Tabernacle that included interviews with several of the team members and the staff.

2015 was a busy and productive year.  We are looking forward to vibrant music and creative, engaging worship again in 2016.

Dr. Judy Fiske

Minister of Music/ Worship/Organist

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