But his primary role is as minster of worship at Church of the Servant, a Christian Reformed Church congregation on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.
“My position really was crafted to be a combination of my work here and at the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship,” said Scheer of his additional duties as a music associate at the Calvin College-based institute.
Scheer has been at Church of the Servant for eight years. His position there is ¾ time, and he spends a good part of it doing all things worship. He plans music and liturgy and directs various church ensembles, including orchestra, adult choir and a “Guitarchestra” - an orchestra made up of guitar players.
The church has committees for art, liturgical dance and music.
LITURGY LEADS THE WAY
The word “liturgy” in Greek actually means “work of the people.” It recognizes that participation in worship is not for a select few leaders, but should involve everyone gathered in the experience.
Liturgical churches often use unison responses (both verbal and musical), specific prayers, texts, confessions, thanksgivings, praises and other participatory acts of worship. They are often printed out for worshipers to better follow along and be ready for the responses.
“This church was conceived as a liturgical church,” he noted of Servant’s founding 40 years ago with its first pastor John Vriend.
“But it’s actually quite informal in many ways,” he said. For example, choir members do not wear robes. “It’s still liturgical, but the style has changed over time.”
Scheer is responsible for leadership in two Sunday morning services, which are nearly identical. He estimates combined attendance averages more than 800. A typical service can include adult or youth choirs, a traditional piano-based instrumental ensemble with recorder, violin and cello, etc; and occasionally the “Guitarchestra.”
The worship minister reports to senior pastor Jack Roeda and is part of a weekly meeting of the general church staff.
“For worship we have minimal rehearsal time compared to some churches,” Scheer said.
“Although we do some big picture planning face-to-face, for week to week we mostly plan on our own along with verifying everything by email.”
Scheer said there are nearly 800 songs in the church’s repertoire, including some global music. A Kenyan song, “Kwake Yesu nasimama (Here On Jesus Christ I Will Stand)” is regularly sung. Liturgical folk music (“Gather Us In”) as well as traditional and contemporary hymns are also in play.
“We don’t have a praise band,” he noted. “But I try to draw the best and most appropriate songs from every genre.” That includes the popular “Ten Thousand Reasons” by Matt Redman.
Of his own 600+ compositions, Scheer has16 of them in the new “Lift Up Your Hearts” hymnal published last year by the CRC-connected Faith Alive Christian Resources. Two of his better-known titles: “One Generation” and “People of the Lord.”
The church has several other talented musicians who also contribute to music ministry.
Church of the Servant does not use projection screens or power-point presentations in its regular worship services.
OTHER MUSICAL OUTLETS
Scheer’s work at the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship picks up considerably each January when the college hosts an annual worship symposium. At this year’s event Scheer taught a songwriting seminar, conducted a Vespers service using one of his original cantatas, and led a workshop curiously titled, “The Seven Deadly Sins of Choosing Music for Worship.”
He taught a Calvin course on contemporary worship during the school’s interim session. And Scheer is one of the prime movers behind the website www.hymnary.org, a comprehensive database of hymns and hymnals and which is affiliated with the institute.
By the way, he’s also written a book, “The Art of Worship” (Baker, 2007), and has recorded numerous collections of all types of music (see www.gregscheer.com).
Church of the Servant has several others leaders who are in a rotation for leading worship, allowing Scheer time for his other duties.
“The church has a tradition of volunteer leaders and that tradition still flourishes,” he said.
HIS MUSICAL PATH TO SERVANTS
Scheer grew up in a Pentecostal church in Rhode Island. He has both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music theory and composition, with the bass as his primary instrument.
He never thought he would do music ministry, figuring that was a cop-out for people who couldn’t make it in the “real” music world.
It was during graduate school in Pittsburgh that Scheer “fell in with” Presbyterians. “I’ve kind of been on the Reformed end of things ever since,” he said. “In Pittsburgh I was in a really good church and started to see a real, valid music ministry and slowly I found my life in it.”
This summer the minister of worship is on Sabbatical. He’ll be in Virginia writing a book as well as teaching at an urban youth songwriting internship project. “I’m looking forward to spending some time outside of my own culture; and seeing how that affects my theology of worship,” he said.
Just The Facts:
Who: Greg Scheer, 47, married with two sons
What: Minister of Worship
Where: Church of the Servant, 3835 Burton St. SE Grand Rapids, Mich. www.churchoftheservantcrc.org; 616-956-7611
How: Plan and lead music in worship, arrange and perform music, direct several church ensembles
Philosophy on the role of the arts/music in worship: The arts preach the gospel perhaps more at a heart or intuitive level. Music is not just singing….but is part of preaching the gospel and hearing the word and spirit.”