A Look Behind the Leader: Marie Elzinga of Pathway Community Church, Byron Center

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in People

Marie-Elzinga-worshipleader-introMarie Elzinga, music coordinator at Pathway Church, doesn’t have to go far to report to the church pastor.

Steve Elzinga, Pathway’s lead pastor, is also her husband.

“We communicate about what he has planned for the following week and I help make sure we gets things done,” said Marie about her worship responsibilities.

Among those are selecting and preparing music – transposing chords and writing lead sheets for worship team members – planning the weekly rehearsal and making sure everyone is “on the same page.”

Pathway has a single Sunday morning worship, in generally a blended style.     

“We usually do one hymn per week – we modernize them for drums and guitars,” Marie noted. “Plus we do the (Chris) Tomlin and (Matt) Redman songs,” she said of popular worship anthems.

Their worship team varies from six to eight persons, with up to18 different members rotating in and out.

Marie-Elzinga-worshipleader“We have a core group that’s there almost every Sunday (they have only 1 electric guitarist), but we have two drummers and three bass players,” she said.

As a congregation Pathway went through a period of learning a new piece of scripture each month. Several church members wrote original melodies to add to the verses, making them easier to memorize. They have two CD’s of these original songs, which members (or visitors) may take home to help them recall the texts.     

Dete Tilma, a local singer-songwriter who spent many years singing with The Heralders Quartet, is a regular on the worship team. He contributes guitar, vocals and several other instruments.

Some current worship songs in regular rotation: “Lay Me Down” and “Sacred Invitation.”

Technically, Marie’s part-time position allows her just seven hours per week. All of that time is wrapped up in planning and executing worship.

“We’ll do a choir with as many people as possible – on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she said. “There’s no audition. It’s just whoever shows up at rehearsal, we’ll use you!”

A children’s worship time also features music, and occasionally they join the adult worship to share their songs.

                     THE PLATFORM AND THE PEW

Born and raised in the state of Washington, Marie had a sense of harmony at a very young age. She was picking out alto parts on piano in her early elementary years. She eventually accompanied various choirs and even took organ lessons.

“Traditional CRC (Christian Reformed Church) all the way,” she smiled.

At Calvin College she studied music and music education. That’s where she met her husband Steve. During Steve’s seminary training the couple lived for a year in The Philippines where she taught music and led a choir at a Bible college.

The couple accepted a 1987 call to a new church start in British Columbia, Marie again leading music. Their “seeker-style” services dropped all hymns and did exclusively contemporary songs.    

“We threw the hymns in the closet, and then when we moved back to the Midwest we realized our kids didn’t know any of them – there’s a huge legacy there that we shouldn’t neglect.”

Marie went through a personal growth period when her husband was working for a para-church organization. They attended various churches, but for the first time Marie was away from a leadership role in congregational music ministry. The question for her was….could she worship “from the pew rather than from the platform.”     

“If you’ve been up front for so many years, you can think that’s where you have to be,”
she offered. “I found out that I can worship there, although it was hard not to always be analyzing this or that. A time of worship is not a critique.”

The couple came to the Pathway church in 2003 and it was not too long before Marie became involved in the church’s music program.

“I’m not a perfectionist, but I believe we need to give quality,” she said of her musical role.

                           EXTRA MUSIC

This month Marie and the worship team have been working on a special project. They are performing at “Praise Fest” - an event on Fri. July 25 at the Byron Days Festival in Byron Center’s Bicentennial Park. The group is expected to take the stage at around 8 p.m.

"We’re getting ready with a song from Rend Collective, and probably the Crowder song, ‘I Am,’” Marie noted of modern worship songs.

She hinted that the group might do a cover of the current pop hit “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

“Sometimes you need a challenge, and sometimes it’s just fun,” Marie said.

The Facts:

Who: Marie Elzinga, married with four children

What: Music Coordinator

Where:  Pathway Church, 8350 Byron Center Ave. Byron Center; www.path2jesusway.org, (616) 878-7284

How: Coordinate and lead music in worship, including worship team and other ensembles

Philosophy on the role of the arts/music in worship: “Music is a heart-language that allows us to communicate at a deeper level than mere words. With this language we are given the opportunity to communally reflect on who God is and on what He's done for us. What a privilege!”

Editor’s note: If you have a suggestion of an area church music leader for a profile in this column, please send the information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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