Salvationist Podcast

Craig Lewis, Territorial Secretary for Music and Gospel Arts

October 20, 2020 Season 2 Episode 3
Craig Lewis, Territorial Secretary for Music and Gospel Arts
Salvationist Podcast
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Salvationist Podcast
Craig Lewis, Territorial Secretary for Music and Gospel Arts
Oct 20, 2020 Season 2 Episode 3

Today, we are talking with Craig Lewis, territorial secretary for music and gospel arts, who will offer a perspective on worship. He touches on the decline of singing in worship, and offers strategies on how we can increase worship effectiveness.

Here is the link to the article mentioned in the episode,

Here is a link to the territorial music and gospel arts website,

Show Notes Transcript

Today, we are talking with Craig Lewis, territorial secretary for music and gospel arts, who will offer a perspective on worship. He touches on the decline of singing in worship, and offers strategies on how we can increase worship effectiveness.

Here is the link to the article mentioned in the episode,

Here is a link to the territorial music and gospel arts website,

Brandon Laird  0:00 
Hi, my name is Brandon Laird, and you're listening to the Salvationist podcast.

Welcome to another episode of Mission in a Pandemic, a six-episode podcast that will feature insights into how The Salvation Army is adapting as we reopen during the pandemic.

Today, we're going to talk with Craig Lewis, territorial secretary for music and gospel arts, who will offer a perspective on worship. He touches on the decline of singing in worship, and offers strategies on how we can increase worship effectiveness. Thanks for coming on the podcast today, Craig.

Craig Lewis  0:45 
Thank you, Brandon. It's great to be here to talk about something that I'm very passionate about with my team in still doing worship and ministry in these days.

Brandon Laird  0:53 
In July, you wrote an article titled: How can I keep from singing: Six other ways to worship without congregational music during COVID-19. How has the pandemic changed the way we worship in The Salvation Army?

Craig Lewis  1:06 
Well, the first thing it did is it meant that we couldn't meet in person. That was the biggest shock to the system, I think for many of us, as we began the season of isolation, we couldn't worship together. And then we were able, lots of churches around the world, including The Salvation Army, to move to do some online church services. But what we really miss was the act of singing together. And for me, in worship, singing is one of those moments, when we actually declare our faith. The rest of the services, there's lots of absorbing and sitting and meditating and contemplating. But when we sing, it's an actual physical activity. That's us affirming our faith. So I think one of the big things that's changed, even now, as we look at some models where people are meeting outdoors are starting to meet indoors, is singing isn't safe yet. So how do we do that? How do we actively worship and have those skills? So how do we still worship and have those moments of participation when we can't verbally sing like we used to. And so that's what prompted that article, just trying to come up with some different strategies to give people hope that we can still worship effectively, and come up with some ideas. None of them are really new. It's just reminding people of things that have worked in the past and trying one or two new things in the middle of the mix as well.

Brandon Laird  2:36  
For those of you who want to read the article that Craig wrote, we have a link in the podcast show notes. I attended a conference, I think in the early 2000s, with then General Larsson, and he was really big on The Salvation Army songbook being the sung theology of the Salvation Army. We saw services move online during the pandemic, how is it transforming the reach of The Salvation Army's ministry?

Craig Lewis  3:00  
Well, let me say that it hasn't transformed it yet. We're just at the beginning of this journey. Right now, we're still in that figuring out stage, but it's a start. And people are having to figure out what that looks like. Here's why I think the transforming reach hasn't fully gone as far as it could. We haven't figured out how to use it to reach the marginalized, how to reach some of our older congregations. In some sense, going online, is a fairly middle-class solution, if I can say that. And so for us to be a transforming ministry, even using technology, we need to figure out how to do that just a little broader. I also think that sometimes it's the old Field of Dreams, quote: If we build it, they will come. Sometimes we think that if we just go online, people will flood into our services. I think what's missing there is people still need that personal invitation, they still need to be sent that link, they still need to be shared that it's available. So I think we're starting that transforming journey. But we're just those first few steps. And there's nothing like a pandemic, to make you take those steps. But I think we're just sort of figuring out, oh, there's technology that can help us do that. But I do want to caution people, it can't all be about technology. So as we look these days about whether we can meet in person or how we meet in person, and what that looks like with technology. It's got to be everything. And it can't just be one or the other. And it's but it's a great time for us to think differently than we always had about getting people just to walk through our doors. In some sense, it's forcing us to get out of our church, even virtually right now, and figure out how we reach our community that doesn't walk through the doors or hasn't walked through the doors in some time.

Brandon Laird 4:59  
Those are all really intense, great points that you made there, as we currently are trying to understand online worship and trying things out. Do you believe online worship services will remain part of The Salvation Army corps ministries, even when people return to church?

Craig Lewis  5:13  
Yes, I will say, online stuff should already have been in place. Some of those trends were happening for a decade or more. So it should have been in place already. The good news is it's never too late. But I will say again, we do need a hybrid model. So yes, you will need to make sure that however you do your in-person church, there is an online technology connection, because some people won't want to come back until there's a vaccine or this thing has run its course, which could be years from now; others have just come into the feeling of, oh, I can worship in five different church services on a Sunday morning or whenever without leaving my place. So it does need to be a hybrid. And I think, again, those corps that had embraced some of the online stuff early are in a great position. But there's lots of resources out there. And one of the things in the music and gospel arts team we've tried to do is helped those corps who just look at all the technology options available to them -- it can be really overwhelming. So we're trying to help them steer into one or two or three things that can get them started without a lot of technical expertise. And without a huge spend on technology.

Brandon Laird  6:29  
I'm sure many of those who are listening to the podcast already know about, which is a Salvation Army music and gospel arts website. They have some really good resources on there already that Craig is talking about, to help corps in those transition times. And I'm sure Craig will talk a bit more about that later on. But I wanted to give a quick shout out to their website. Also, what suggestions do you have for course operating in a digital space?

Craig Lewis  6:58  
I think the biggest suggestion I have is to do church differently. The great thing about technology is we can now watch and see how long someone stays engaged with the service. We can see how they're coming to the church services: is it through Facebook, is it through YouTube, is it through a link someone sent up? But the bottom line is we need to do church differently. In the past, we could go to our churches, our corps, and we could sit in the pews. And we could be there for 60 to 90 minutes and all sorts of things would happen -- some good, some bad. I would say now in the digital space, we need to do church differently. In some sense, that's cutting out the fluff, getting right to the point, figuring out what the order of service needs to be. For people engaged in the past, I think the order of service for many of our corps would have looked exactly the same from decade to decade, and not much change. I would really challenge people planning church services that are going to be digital, think differently. Whether we like it or not people on their tablets, their phones, their laptops, their computers, streaming, attention spans can be shorter than ever. And so sometimes we need to figure out for our church service, what's the main thing and figure out how to capitalize on keeping that main thing, what gets across. So when we talk about doing church, there might be elements that happen physically live before you actually turn the livestream on things, some of the housekeeping stuff, someone sitting at home doesn't need to know which way you need to come in, how you greet the usher, and in which door you're supposed to leave. Some of that stuff might not need to be in our online service. So we need to do church differently. 

The biggest thing we need to do is experiment, the best thing that the pandemic has done for us is eliminate some traditional assumptions that we've done, because we've always done it that way. Now, it's a clean slate. And so we have the option to build these things with the end purpose in mind. And if the end purpose is to meet a digital audience, which may be larger in number than what you have in person, then you need to craft things differently. So it can no longer be let's just film our service, put it out and people will come. No, we need to think about if the majority of our congregation is now digital, then our service needs to reflect that the majority of our congregation are watching and engaging digitally. And that means changing how we do things. So I would say to each corps or anyone operating in this space, try different things. There's great analytics, Google analytics, YouTube analytics, all of those things, which will tell you when people are engaging when they're checking out when they're just shutting down how long they're watching for. You need to be really looking at some of those things, and figure out how to do church differently. But don't be afraid to try. That's the best part. This is like the perfect season for experimentation in what works and what connects with people. And as we look at reaching different demographics, if we want to reach younger people, for example, they are watching videos on Tik Tok and things like that, very short, very crisp, very action-oriented, very lively. How do we translate the message of the gospel into those formats? That's a challenge to consider. And that's one that the church as a whole will have to deal with. But if that's the generations we're trying to get engaged in our church services, you can't put up 90 minute service and expect them to watch and be engaged and really get the message. So it's a great opportunity for us to do a reset. Traditional assumptions no longer apply, because that world is gone. So now, how do we engage differently? So that's the big thing, do church differently. There's no single silver bullet answer for every church. But you have to try different things. And so that is my message for people. Don't be afraid to change. Again, this is a momentous opportunity, take advantage of it and do church differently.

Brandon Laird  11:16  
And we've been seeing that here at and seeing what other corps and other ministries are doing across the territory. And we have seen a variety, and we're starting to highlight different corps, we've had up on the website. So far, we have more coming. And you'll see that each one has a different flavour and a different expression, because they are reaching out into their context where they're at -- there is variety. It's just really good to see that experimentation in that trying out. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. You plan it, you plan for it to work, but sometimes it's going to be a new territory, you're going to see what happens. Absolutely. 

Craig Lewis  11:53  
And I think that's actually one of the most exciting things about this is that content has changed. So it's no longer top down in our churches, there's amazing creativity at the grassroots level, at the corps level, at individual for us -- musicians', worship artists' level. So there's amazing creativity that's being harnessed. There's amazing collaboration that can happen because we no longer have to physically be in the same building. And so we can use this creativity, this collaboration, and find what works best and and that's what's excited me the most. I'm a trombone player. I've been on some music-video-collaboration things with people from all over the world. We never could have done it before. But this pandemic forced us to work together and bring different styles of music, different expressions of worship. And none of it was driven by Salvation Army hierarchy. It was driven by individual people with a passion for ministry, and a passion for finding new ways to share the message. So that's another great thing for those who are listening. This is a moment to be creative, and the grassroots creativity of our congregations, our people in our congregations. This is their moment to shine. And I'm excited about that.

Brandon Laird  13:12  
I've seen many of those videos shared online where you actually have one person who might play all the different parts. And then it's like them playing in a full band or full ensemble. And then you actually have different people playing parts from all over the world. And they're being connected in one sort of piece, both in band and singing. So I've seen quite a few of those videos. And they're pretty, like you said, pretty creative.

Craig Lewis  13:35  
I must admit, I did one or two of those myself, including one for Canada Day. But the reason I did it was I'm espousing using this technology. So I figured if I'm going to be sort of a mouthpiece yelling out off the mountaintops, hey, we need to be using this technology, and it's not so hard to do, then I had to figure out how to do it. And I can honestly say that we all went to YouTube University, you look up how to do something on YouTube, and you follow it step by step and you pause it and do the next step and then go again. There's so many ways to learn. The technology, it seems overwhelming at the get go, but once you start just taking your time and figuring it out anybody can do it -- anybody young, old. And I know sometimes that's a concern for some of our congregations, or even some of our pastors who may be of an older generation, they think that it might be beyond them. It is so easy today because lots of the technology is built for the user to do the stuff themselves. And again, the music and gospel arts team for those who want that one on one bit of training, we're happy to help provide some of those tutorials just to walk people through to give them comfort and ease with the technology.

Brandon Laird  14:51  
There's some really good resources on your website, both for singing and for all different types of gospel arts ministry. Now we get to talk about safety. You know, everyone's worried about safety and concerned about safety, which is important. So what safety measures have been put in place for those corps that have gone back into in-person worship services?

Craig Lewis  15:15  
I think there's a couple of basics that apply to whether you're making music in church or whether you're in the grocery store. Let me tell you what the couple of basics are: distance. Just keep your space away from people and wear a mask if you're indoors near other people. I think those are the basics for all music to start, distance and masks. For example, no matter who you're making music with, you want to spread out. Now let me just talk specifically about I'll call it three streams: brass, vocal and worship teams. Brass seems to be fairly safe at the moment in the fact that all of the air you're blowing into an instrument, which catches the aerosols and particles comes out as condensation. So if brass players, they should be limited in their space, apart from each other, at least six feet. We've set a limit of 10 people only because if they're six feet apart, and you have 10 brass players, you've taken up a lot of space. And we also want to make sure that we can keep a distance. So 10 brass players maximum for space, that also makes sure there's not a lot of stuff being blown around. Some people are a little concerned about the condensation that comes up the instrument -- we call it the spit valve. And very easy fix for that is you can get pet pads -- like for when you're potty training a pet -- little pads you can put on the floor, and musicians can empty their spit valve into it. And they each grab their own one as they leave put it in a safe garbage can, disinfect their hands. That for brass seems to be okay. Woodwinds are a lot more risk, for example, the flute. If you're playing it, you're blowing out across and you're not actually blowing into the instrument itself. So woodwinds are a little more risky. 

Vocal is what is really dangerous according to science, because you're just expelling particles and aerosols into the air. So that, sadly, is why we can't have congregational singing. It's why we can't have choirs, because some of the actual evidence from things like the Center for Disease Control in the US are from a few choirs that became super spreaders. And part of that is when you're singing, you're just expelling more from your lungs out into the air. And so we have to limit that and so no choirs no congregational singing. And I know that's hard. We've also said only one singer so we do know that part of church is singing as music, and even our worship teams and that we want one singer. The reason we say one singer is because that singer needs to be 12 feet away from anyone else because that is a projection of aerosols and particles. So ideally, especially indoors, we want that singer masked. I know it's not ideal. But we want that and some people say, well, what if the two singers are in the same bubble? The issue is not about the singers, the issue is the rest of the musicians, the AV people filming it the congregation, we don't want to be expelling more particles and aerosols into the air than we have to. Especially since in our buildings or even outdoors. We don't know the air flow currents for the outdoors and when we don't know or have great science about how far that will travel in our buildings, what's the airflow, the HVAC systems. So the best thing to do is limit to one singer. Now I know I do get asked questions: But what if this singer and that singer are husband and wife can? And we're just trying to say, yes, there could be arguments for some exemptions. But then how long does the list of exemptions or reasons grow to be? 

The bottom line is singing isn't safe at the moment. So we should limit it to one. And that one still allows us to hear that. Because I can tell you, if more than one person in our live worship services is singing, everyone will sing. And I fell victim to this myself. My corps has had couple drive-in services where we would gather in the parking lot empty space. And we had a small brass group play. And I found myself singing once and I didn't realize at the time until someone told me after when I was on a rest. The rest of the small ensemble was spread out outdoors was playing. I was singing along the words to what they were playing. I didn't even know it. It was just habit that I was singing. And so part of the reason why keeping to one singer, aside from spreading the risk, is we just can't encourage people to sing because it's not safe. And so that's singing. I know that's the hard one, but one singer, preferably masked at least 12 feet away from others. 

Worship teams, again, similar to brass bands. As long as they're physically distanced, there's no reason the person playing guitar can't have a mask on. Same with a pianist, that kind of thing, the drummer, so we're encouraging musicians who aren't playing to be masked. And that way, they're just doing a physical activity, they're six feet apart, they're limiting their risk. We also say no sharing of instruments, and that goes to piano as well. If a one pianist gets up, and normally, one pianist plays for this and another plays for that, we only want to stick with one. And once that person leaves the piano, they need to wipe it down with wipes, just like we wipe down microphones and that kind of thing. So the bottom line to keep safe these days, just a general rule of thumb for society, keep your distance, do not be more than six feet close, wear a mask when possible at all times indoors, and then just limit the singer to one who's really far away from people and mask. If we do those basics, based on the science we've reviewed, that we will keep our congregations and our musicians safe. And that is really the goal of Salvation Army leadership, I think, is to keep our congregation people safe. So some activities, yeah, we have to pull back and keep a tight rein on them. But we just want to keep people safe, while still allowing them to meet in person to worship.

Brandon Laird  21:35  
You've given us some great things to think about today, Craig. It's interesting to hear about how The Salvation Army can continue to practice their worship singing in this pandemic, but with these regulations. Speaking about the regulations, and the things that we need to consider, are there resources or is there information about copyright we need to be concerned about?

Craig Lewis  21:55  
Yes, there's lots of resources again, on the music and gospel arts page, which is currently at, and is middle of migrating to the main webpage. You can find us there under the departments. There's lots of resources, but let me tell you about a couple of key ones for us. We have one called Building Church from Home that's really to teach you how to be able to assemble a worship service, from your home, from your backyard, from your car, wherever. And it allows you to put in different pieces. So if your Corps Sergeant Major reads the announcements at home, and sends them to you, you can build a church service. So we do that.

We also have a thing called Live Stream Lab. Because we know, eventually, we're going to open our doors. And we're going to do this hybrid of in-person and live stream. And so we've got this live stream lab that helps you learn how to do, that there's a platform we believe is good to use. It's used for the territorial services. And it can be used across locations. So even if some of you are in-person, and someone wants to contribute, who's not in-person, the live stream tools allow you to do that. And we have all of that there. 

We also have on our resource page lots of music videos. Now a music video is something you need to be careful of, for copyright reasons. So we really try and make sure that the music videos we provide on that resource page you can share. And that means you can share it because either the song is public domain or it's owned by The Salvation Army, or the artists or Salvation Army have made that available. We really need to be careful. Many people believe that they have a streaming license from CCLI -- that they can just share any video. That is incorrect. You really need to be careful, you can't just show any YouTube video, you can't just show any clip from a movie, you can't just pick a song sung by a worship artist and put that out there. That is their work. That is their intellectual property. And if you want to use that you need to pay a licensing fee for that. So we're encouraging people to do some more work on their CCLI stuff and the copyright licensing. And if they have any questions about that, because it is a complicated area feel free again to call me at the music department and we will answer specific questions. In the past, the church sort of got away with a lot of this stuff because not many people were online and that kind of thing. Well, now that everybody is online, there's more attention on the copyright laws and the practices than there has ever been. So I just want to caution you, you need to make sure you have permission to share videos and songs. The safe thing to do is use the songs that are public domain, owned by The Salvation Army for Salvation Army services, and the artist has made it available for Salvation Army use.

Brandon Laird  24:48  
Thanks for taking the time to connect with us today. Today's podcast guests was Craig Lewis, the Canada and Bermuda Territory's secretary for music and gospel arts.

Thanks for listening to the Salvationist Mission in a Pandemic podcast. For new episodes, be sure to visit For more Army news, visit And if you would like to get news delivered directly to your email inbox, sign up for weekly newsletter at

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