Music Network Event: Invitation to Debate

UCCF Team 01 Dec 17

On 31 October, the UCCF Music Network celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a multi-sensory artistic outreach event in London.

Hosted in conjunction with Christian Heritage London in the historic church of St Mary Woolnoth, the event featured artwork from Arts Network students and the world premiere of Invitation to Debate, the first ever musical setting of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, composed for the occasion by the Music Network Coordinator Tom Chevis, and performed by Music Network students. Before the musical performance, Tom gave an evangelistic gospel talk drawing on the text of several of Luther’s Theses, and afterwards there was beer-tasting, in honour of Luther’s predilection for home-brew!

Emily, Violinist at the Royal College of Music

When Tom first asked me to play his composition I sensed this project would explore the relevance of the Reformation at a deeper level. It excited me to play with other Christian musicians across London. As a musician, I love working with others to create something beautiful and meaningful for an audience and it was especially great to be doing this with friends who share my faith, and who share with me the knowledge that we are honouring God with our music by mirroring his creativity and beauty, and are doing it in service to others.

While listening to Tom speak on the gospel of grace before we went up to play, it occurred to me that a pre-concert talk to music with sacred content is a great way to minister to creative types. As music students we are surrounded by people who have an appreciation for art and are open to exploring the deeper meaning of a piece. This is a very unique opportunity to share the gospel, and I think we should make use of that more. The music itself was written for an unusual set of instruments, which was exciting and innovative. I rarely get the chance to perform alongside a harpist, clarinettist and singer in a small ensemble and I thought it sounded fantastic! The audience loved it and we received a lot of encouraging feedback.

Jono, CU leader at Trinity College of Music

What really struck me about this event was what an opportunity it was for a music student. It had all the necessary ingredients to appeal to a young musician: a premiere of new music, good company, and free and exotic (well, German and Belgian) beer!

But, more significantly, the evangelistic aspect to the evening was very natural. This was due to a couple of factors. Firstly, it is not abnormal or weird for a composer to explain about his new composition before it is performed for the first time. So this created a very natural opportunity for Tom to get up and speak. Secondly, the piece was a setting of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses; it would have been strange for Tom not to talk about the rediscovery of the gospel when explaining this piece of music. It really felt like the easiest and least awkward invitation for my friends to come and hear about Jesus.

I came to the event with a non-Christian mate. The music and speaking all ran to plan and my friend seemed to enjoy himself. The last part of the event was allocated to drinking, enjoying the artwork, and chatting. We grabbed a beer and spent the rest of the evening in conversation. We got onto the topic of the Reformation, and slowly the conversation drifted to his experience of Christianity as a child and what he thinks about it all now.

I had the chance to respond to some of his issues with the Christian faith and, by God’s provision, to explain parts of the Christian message to him. There was no apparent change in his mindset, but through your prayers perhaps God will bring him to know Jesus as his Saviour and Lord. I am sure that would be a real joy to us all, so please do pray for me to have more opportunities with him and that the Holy Spirit would give him ears to hear and respond to the gospel!

Tom said:

‘It was a wonderful evening. To see creative students using their gifts to glorify the Lord and to see non-Christian friends coming along and engaging with the Christian message: that’s what the Music Network is all about. Please pray for further growth in Christian music students, and for salvation for non-Christian music students!'