Christ the King is a “church for the city” seeking to serve God in worship, serve one another in love, and serve our city by bearing witness to the good news about Jesus Christ in both word and deed.
CTK Stories is exploring how these three elements are worked out on a daily basis. The first in the series was Serving Our City — A Look at the Fields Corner Business Lab. The second in the series looks at "serving God in worship" and how our worship leaders seek to create an atmosphere of worship on a weekly basis in each congregation. Lon Gipe leads worship at Grace South Shore and shares his testimony of faith, as well as his work in planning music at Grace.
Music has always been a part of my life. I was the toddler playing the drums on the pots and pans with the wooden spoons. Over the years I added more sophisticated instruments to my repertoire and played in bands and recorded albums (and studied a little) through college.
In 2010, I moved from my small town in Pennsylvania to the Boston area to start a new career. Music became the ticket to meeting new people as I started attending open mics in and around the city. Around the same time, I met MaryClaire, through a workplace softball league. It really was love at first sight, but there was clearly something different about MaryClaire from anyone else I’d ever met. As I got to know her more, I started to discover MaryClaire’s faith in God, which intrigued me. While growing up going to church most Sundays with wonderful parents who encouraged our faith, I never truly accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior as a child. MaryClaire and I hung out most Sunday afternoons until she would have to leave around 4pm for church. She would occasionally invite me to church but I didn’t initially accept the invite. Finally, on Easter Sunday 2012, I took her up on her invitation and was overcome with emotion. I knew right in that moment God was reaching out to me. I told MaryClaire that I would attend church with her every Sunday moving forward, an act that would change my life forever.
MaryClaire and I became members of Grace South Shore in late February of 2013 and married just a few weeks later in March. During both events we made vows to God and each other, in the presence of our friends, family, and fellow community members. We were learning firsthand what it was like to be a young married couple dying to self and serving God and our community. MaryClaire jumped into service through teaching, reading scripture, greeting, and serving on the hospitality team. The music team at Grace learned I was a musician and recruited me to jump onto the team playing drums, guitar, and singing.
Initially I had very little experience playing and singing hymns and praise songs. Praise God for well-placed mentors in my life on the music team who began introducing me to amazing songs with true words that I had never sung before. Through music and community, my faith was growing. Instead of singing songs about love and a man named Julio down by the school yard, I was singing words like:
“My hope is built on nothing else than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” and “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give. I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live” and “Counselor, Comforter, Keeper. Spirit we long to embrace. You offer hope when our hearts have, hopelessly lost our way.”
After about two years of serving on the music team, Pastor Troy approached me and asked me to serve as the Music Team Leader. The first question in my head was, “Isn’t there someone way more qualified for this?” Music is incredibly relational, and again I found unbelievable mentors in people on our team and music directors from other CTK congregations to help me acclimate to this role.
Song selection is my favorite part of being a worship director, as we try to blend traditional hymns, reworked hymns, and praise choruses together in a service. I try to put together hymns and praise songs each week that fit with the elements of worship. For example, a few weeks ago, the sermon was focused on Mark 12:13-34, the passage about Jesus answering the questions about paying taxes to Cesar, as well as the greatest commandment. We sang, “Come Now is the Time to Worship” as our opening hymn. The words “Willingly we choose to surrender our lives, willingly our knees will bow. With all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength, we gladly choose you now," reflected so well the sermon that followed. It is so fun to get to make those connections and lead the congregation through that process of worship.
One thing that I really love about Grace South Shore is that God continues to bless us with extremely talented musicians. Even when team members have moved on, someone else has arrived. Every time I fear or doubt, God provides! We are also cultivating teens and young adults that have been blessed with musical talents by mentoring them through music and faith.
On weeks I don’t play, I get to add to the greatest instrument we have in the church – the congregational voice! Ephesians 5 says “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” When we are singing these praises together and loving our brothers and sisters, we are glorifying God. In that moment I am deeply comforted that I am part of a community of people who love the Lord and are loved by him.
Another amazing opportunity I’ve had is to participate musically in the CTK All-Church gatherings. Through these events, I’ve been able to network with the other directors which enables us to share resources, and pray for each other. It’s also been an opportunity to play music and worship the living God with CTK members in and around Boston. Each congregation has a unique style of worship and it’s always so cool to see the assorted styles and hymn arrangements. Often, I leave the CTK All-Church gatherings with a new hymn that I want to introduce to our congregation.
It truly is amazing how God has used music in my life to bring me closer to his kingdom. Musically I’m still playing in that band that formed all those years ago and I hope that I can share the good news with my bandmates and those we interact with. I’m also playing solo on the South Shore in restaurants and I thank my wife for supporting my “Rockstar dreams,” which are getting harder as I now like to ACTUALLY be dreaming around 9pm in my bed.
God continues to take me out of my comfort zone. Through this process my faith continues to grow, and I’m humbled that God could love a sinner like me! I look forward to singing with you at a CTK service soon, worshipping this great God who seeks and loves us every day!
Lon works at South Shore Hospital as the Laboratory Operations Manager and is working towards his MBA. MaryClaire and he have been married for five years and enjoy skiing, hiking, biking, brewing beer, and visiting the local library together.