Highland Church of Christ had its first Sunday morning instrumental service on Aug. 17.
The service introduced the church’s new format, with a second service at 11 a.m. on Sundays after an a cappella service at 8:30 a.m.
The elders announced a year ago that they would begin making preparations to implement instruments on Sunday mornings.
Dr. John Willis, a Highland elder for the past 38 years, said at the time of the announcement, the church was not equipped to use instruments in a Sunday service. However, improvements to the auditorium have made that possible. After renovating the auditorium over the summer, Highland held the inaugural service in its newly remodeled space.
Brandon Scott Thomas, Highland’s worship minister, said it was an exciting Sunday for the church.
“This Sunday is one we have been thinking and praying about for several years,” Thomas said.
Thomas said church leaders and elders have put in many hours with him thinking about Highland’s approach to instrumental worship.
“Over the years, we have dealt with many issues,” Willis said. “What we always do is spending time in the word, praying, talking openly and involving everyone in the church.”
Thomas and his team have spent the last year crafting a service that will invite people to engage in worship while not feeling like they are watching a performance.
“It can be a show or it can be a sincere expression of worship to God,” Willis said. “And I think it’s worshipping God.”
Thomas said one of the goals was making sure the service was “authentically Highland.”
“We don’t want to model it after anyone else,” Thomas said. “That’s where the challenge is – making sure it fits us, our DNA, who we are.”
Thomas also noted an important factor in creating Highland’s own instrumental style was honoring the Church of Christ tradition of strong vocals.
“As we went into it, what really fits our Church of Christ heritage is to make sure the voices are still prominent,” Thomas said. “Planning times where the instruments drop out and it’s voices only, that is important.”
The use of instruments also provides new opportunities for people to serve and give back to the church body.
“One of the cool things about this is that up on that stage, eight people were using their gifts that have not been able to be used on a Sunday morning,” Thomas said. “All those people are Highland people. It’s pretty neat to think that this opens up a whole new avenue for people who are very gifted by God to give back to the church.”
Thomas and Willis described the response from Sunday’s service as incredible.
“I would imagine there is some negative feedback but I haven’t heard any,” Thomas said. “I picked up my phone after church and had 57 text messages from people of how excited they were. We are praying that it continues to connect with people and that God will bless us as we continue to move forward.”