GOD'S COVENANT LOVE: celebrating 30 years of God's Faithfulness in Covenant Community [Go to Table of Contents]
Abiding in the New Song to the Lord
By Nancy L. Murphy

God works with us wherever we are.  That said, the community was a very special place to be back in the early ‘70’s.  We had a number of powerfully anointed ministries, and I was privileged to be in the music ministry from its beginning. So, my sharing will discuss how I was inspired in my service to God through music. 

Living in covenant Christian community for the past 30 some years has taught me something of God’s priorities, including to seek out the good, to act justly, to demonstrate loving-kindness, and to walk humbly with the Lord (ref. Micah 6:8, Jeremiah 22:3).  I’ve also come to appreciate that God has a plan for each of us, and when He speaks, He wants us to hear Him.  It is a matter of the heart for each person.

In the early days of living the Christian life together in Ann Arbor, this perspective wasn’t always as clear.  There has been quite the evolution to find THE best way in each area.  Considering living accommodations, for instance.  In 30 years, I have lived in a variety of configurations with others, including dormitory households, Christian living situations, residential households, non-residential households, geographic cluster groups, and non-geographic cluster groups; and some of these multiple times.  And, of course, my own “household” with my husband for these last 20 years.  And there have been various designations of “official community prayer gatherings”, including: district gatherings, geographic gatherings, community gatherings, sub-community gatherings, neighborhood prayer groups.  The degree that any of these enjoyed “success of purpose” was the degree that we all were cooperating with God’s action at the time.  His faithfulness alone is what has been key and which has sustained us through it all.  And I have found myself learning to trust and depend upon Him over and over again, as well as to support others in how He is acting in their lives, doing the same thing. (Hosea 6:6)

I began to attend the prayer group meetings in 1969 in the basement of St. Mary’s Newman Center in Ann Arbor when I was a University of Michigan music student.  So it was with some apparent logic that I became part of the community’s music group at its very beginning. Looking back, it is astonishing to remember this small group had such a vision for a music “ministry”. Of course, some of the concerns we had in the beginning seem almost “quaint” after 30 years.  We deliberated about whether the use of the guitar, an outgrowth of the 60’s folk style of music, to accompany Christian worship was appropriate, especially in the liturgical settings that took place before the prayer meetings for while in the very early days. 

As the music ministry developed, we had still other concerns: such as whether singing in the Spirit should be accompanied with chord progressions, not just a few strums of guitar.  (Really, we were just determined to hear the Lord and do His bidding. That’s all.)   And as we got larger, with more and more instruments and thus necessitating a music conductor, whether singing praise songs and worshiping God with our eyes open was appropriate or acceptable. In time, many of these types of things became non-issues, but we sure treated them with a “life and death” intensity.  I know God was smiling at our slowness in comprehending His priorities; so now I can too, even as I cringe a bit.

A lot was happening in those early days, and it was a “heady” time  The community music ministry was involved in leading music at charismatic conferences several times per year starting almost immediately.  We must have heard and responded to the Lord with God-centered hearts, for we witnessed Him working powerfully through these events.  The community in Ann Arbor became known almost as well by its music as by its leadership and teaching.  People from around the world came to identify the “charismatic movement” from its music.   “Alleluia #1”, “Hymn of Glory”, “Sing to the Lord”, and “Praise the Lord, O my Soul” (that one was written overnight and performed the next day at one of the conference sessions!) were popular then and are still sung today.  The list of “composers”, of brothers and sisters who put into song inspirations from their own personal worship, or from our spontaneous worship as a music ministry, would read like a veritable Who’s Who of local charismatic history.  Songs were published as part of the popular “Songs of Praise” series, albums were recorded and seminars taught.  Those of us involved at the time were truly blessed to be a part of an amazing set of circumstances: God was restoring something fundamental in His people - a sense of knowing, loving and worshiping Him that had become dim in many of our churches.

Now, after walking with Him for 30 years, I’ve experienced His radical enabling in my life and seen His grace in the lives of others around me in Christian community.  I’ve grown to understand that we have been a part of this less because of ourselves and more because of God: He is able to use anyone to achieve His purposes. We just need to keep our hearts open to his plan for our lives.

We were in the midst of a powerful work of God, something particularly new and remarkable.  In a sense, God’s glory reflected on us and made us special.  It was wonderful singing in Rome in 1975 and being part of the Kansas City Conference in 1977.  Some people think that was one of the most anointed conferences of them all.  But you know, it really didn’t matter that it was “we” of the “old days”.  If it hadn’t been us, God would have used others - He will not be thwarted in His mission and purpose that all would come to know Him as Lord, Master and Savior.  This vibrant and radical life that God continues to hold out to His children has to do with how He views each and every work that He does: It is always good (Genesis); and his work is always evidence that He exists, especially for those who have faith (Romans 1:19-20, Hebrews 11:6). 

Let us continue always to press on towards Him with our hearts open for whatever God may have.  We may be sharing in His glory on a stage in some important conference, or witnessing in the missionary fields.  But whatever it is that we are prompted to do, if we are following God’s plan for us, we are being faithful.  After 30 years of community life, I’ve grown and (I hope) matured a bit. I’ve taken to heart more and more the truth that, in the end, all I want is to hear the Lord saying to me, “Welcome home, good and faithful servant”.

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