A day in the life of an apprentice

I recently learned from my boss that I got my place on the Music Apprenticeship Scheme
on the strength of being able to tune a guitar successfully. What he didn’t know of course,
was that was about as far as my guitar skills extended. Thankfully however over the
course of the apprenticeship my chord repertoire expanded, and not only do I now know
nearly 5 chords, but I have even almost learned how to play F# minor as a barre (i.e. the
hard way!).

In fact I learned a wealth of invaluable lessons. Such as how to alphabetise songs that
start with ‘Oh’ and ‘O’; how to produce banshee-like feedback with minimal effort; and that
if you drop a bass guitar on your toe it hurts. A lot.

Moving vaguely into the realm of more useful information however (as this is supposed to
be an accurate description of what it is like to be a Music Apprentice!)… It is an immense
joy to look back and reflect on 2 years as an Apprentice in a church in London, and there is far too much to mention in so little space.

The actual form of the apprenticeship that I did divided into rough thirds of training,
practical/admin work, and ministry. The upshot of this was a huge amount of variety, and
little scope for boredom (with the exception of copyright admin, although probably that
owed more to my ingenious plan of leaving the year’s worth of admin to the weekend
before it was due to be handed in).

Within the week, every day was different. Morning chair moving in the church building with
the other apprentices (use your imagination and its like being in a weird furniture-themed
gym) could be followed by a 121 (that is, reading the Bible one to one with a student from
the church, understanding and applying it together week by week). This in turn might lead
to some time behind a computer, thinking about songs and hymns for the coming Sunday,
before heading off to a lunchtime prayer meeting where you have the joy of praying for the
student you met up with only a few hours before.

After lunch there might be some time to sit down and work for a few hours over a coffee
(maybe preparing a Bible study or talk or just general ministry-related reading), before then
nipping back into the church to water the organ (which sounds much weirder than it is),
change guitar strings, file away music, or work on a different arrangement of the songs or
hymns for that Sunday.

An average of 4 weeknights would be filled with various meetings, whether a prayer
supper, weekly Bible-study group, evangelistic event at church, or local student Christian
Union meeting that I was helping out at.

I should say that it wasn’t all smooth sailing. I did once give myself a black eye trying to
take my guitar off at the end of a service, a feat that I’m not sure I could repeat if I tried.
Organising musicians for rehearsals is a curious activity too. Words like ‘herding, cats,
blindfolded’ pop into mind. In fact just getting myself to things on time was an almost
herculean task.

Also, early on I tried to recapture the spirit of ‘90s Christian musicianship by bringing in a
rainbow strap for my guitar. It was confiscated on sight and I never saw it again.

But what I lost in the way of technicolour guitar straps I gained enormously in other ways.
If you want to explore the possibility of full-time Christian music ministry, there really is no
better way.

The service planning process is a lot of fun, and the opportunity to sit with the church
leaders and see how the word of God directs the life of the church is priceless. The
Cornhill Training Course is outstanding, with a great mix of teaching, thinking and practical training in understanding and communicating the Bible in a variety of settings. The music-
specific training was great too, termly training days, yearly conferences, and plenty of scope for developing and experimenting musically.

Even more, it was such a joy to be involved in helping God’s people encourage one
another and praise him week by week. At the front you find yourself in the rare position of
seeing people and being able to look them in the eye as they bellow out great words

Above all we have a great God to serve, and a great Gospel to proclaim. Music ministry is
an area of church life that is crying out for people to be trained to prayerfully handle God’s
word as they plan and lead music in churches. The Music Apprenticeships are a fantastic
way to be a part of that.

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