There’s always room to worship the Lord, no matter the current posture of our hearts.
Knowing this, student chapel band leaders Josiah Gonzales and Tristina Tucker, have grown to see chapel leadership as a way of honoring whatever season the student body finds themselves in.
“I think what I’ve learned from leading worship at Taylor is really how to lead in a way that serves our student body well,” Gonzales said. “A way that can honor them and honor what our campus is going through, what our campus is struggling with, what our campus is rejoicing in.”
Gonzales is a junior studying worship arts here at Taylor.
His involvement with the chapel band program began his freshman year — an opportunity not many leaders can say that they have experienced.
“I kind of was grafted into a band of upperclassmen,” Gonzales said. “My chapel band leaders…were really championing me and encouraging me to carry on what they had started. So they were really investing a lot into my leadership, which was really cool.”
Carry on he did.
Gonzales and Tucker, a sophomore Christian ministries major, met before Tucker’s freshman year. They decided this year that they would take over the band Gonzales had previously been a part of.
The chapel band audition process begins each year in October. Individuals can audition solo to be put on the sub list, if accepted. Entire bands assemble to audition in March, and six or seven bands are selected to lead each year.
While bands often form around bro-sis connections or mutual friendships, the opportunity is open for anyone with a heart for leading worship to try out.
Cliff Davis is the chapel band coordinator. He facilitates the audition process and works with the bands to help them understand things like flow of service, themes the bands should pay attention to and scheduling details.
Still, the bands have a lot of creative freedom.
“(Davis) gives us a vision and lets us carry out the vision,” Gonzales said.
Practices can look different from band to band. Once a band finds out the date that they’ll next be leading, they schedule a few times to meet in the weeks preceding.
Gonzales and Tucker’s band usually practice a few days before, the night before and at the soundcheck with media services the morning of chapel.
As for practice rituals, Tucker emphasized the importance of incorporating prayer throughout their time together.
“We usually start and end in prayer,” she said.
Next, the band will collaborate to figure out the right keys and tempos for their set. They work through any mistakes and discuss solutions to improve flow.
Gonzales and Tucker are grateful for a band that takes seriously the responsibility that comes with leading worship.
“I think we really just want to honor the Lord and love him, because he’s worthy of it, and it’s such a beautiful thing to be able to do that with people that you love,” Tucker said.
It is understood that in a student body the size of Taylor’s, not everyone comes from the same background — denominational or otherwise.
As someone with a charismatic upbringing, Tucker resonates with this and has found great purpose in learning to lead with empathy.
“Learning how to meet people where they’re at but also drawing them closer to the Lord and letting him draw people to himself has been challenging but a really rewarding process for me,” she said.
All in all, Gonzales and Tucker hope that their leadership nudges their peers to a place of greater intimacy with the Lord.
It is, after all, a love for him that unites us.
“My heart for leading worship is to lead people to encounter the Lord and to see Jesus and to find more reasons to worship Jesus,” Gonzales said.
In thinking about their vision for their band this year, Gonzales and Tucker have been encouraged by the writing of King Solomon, who clearly writes from a place of intimacy with the Lord.
They’ve drawn great inspiration from the phraseology in Song of Songs 1:4: “Draw me after you; let us run.”
“I just love the imagery that (verse) has, even within our band,” Tucker said. “Like we’re each individually meeting with him, faithfully, and then together we get to run with him.”
Gonzales has also been studying John 4, pondering what it looks like to worship in agreement with the Lord — “in spirit and in truth.”
While we must be faithful to draw close to him, he is faithful to delight in our sincere worship.
As chapel attendees, it is important that the student body, along with faculty and staff, engage with the Spirit in this way.
Tucker expanded on this idea.
“The Lord wants worshippers in spirit and in truth,” she said. “And it’s not truthful if you’re just mimicking the person beside you.”
Both Gonzales and Tucker encourage attendees to support chapel bands in their pursuit of the Lord while also embracing authenticity in their own worship.
They believe that focusing on the Lord brings freedom from the distraction of a selfish perspective.
“Sometimes, you know, you go into chapel and the band is doing songs that you don’t love or that you don’t know and that’s not your favorite thing,” Tucker said. “But trusting that they have spent time with the Lord…and just being willing to receive what the Lord is trying to offer in those moments is really important.”
Ultimately, combining faithful chapel attendance with hearts set on seeking intimacy with the Lord in every season will lead to greater delight in the joy that is corporate worship.