What began as an artistic idea in the mind of Jeremy Benjamin, freelance worship artist, wrapped up last week with a small service of thanksgiving, September 10 in the Burlington office of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. For the past 18 months, Benjamin and his family toured Canada, raising over half-a-million dollars for missions (including a portion of matching funds from a governmental program) and recording over 20,000 voices singing one song.
The song is “I Am Not My Own,” composed from the Lord’s Day One of the Heidelberg catechism. Benjamin describes these words as beautiful truth; words of comfort, belonging, and relief, which are woven into the personal stories of many in the CRC.
It began small. On Dec. 11, 2017, Benjamin hosted his first ‘I Am Not My Own’ concert in Willowdale CRC, Toronto. Forty people were present as Benjamin explained his project. He would spend four months visiting faith communities, teaching this song and recording voices.
A few months in, the response was big and the tour grew to match it. With Canadian CRC churches and World Renew on board, in May 2018 Benjamin, his wife, Lara, and their two children began a 14-month-long tour of over 155 events across Canada.
On June 15-16, Benjamin was at Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ont. Marja Fledderus said, “It was beautiful to see so many congregations participating and to see their smiling faces. It felt like a new connection.”
It was a unique privilege to interact with Canada’s CRC churches, Benjamin said. Despite the geographical distance and worship differences,he and his wife said they saw a deep desire for unity everywhere they went. Many of the host churches were rural, some feeling disconnected. Consistently, the feedback was that this concert, and the celebration of singing the catechism together, gave these churches a deep sense of being part of the CRC. Benjamin noticed that “even in the smallest of rural communities, the CRC church was very intimately involved in the community in very grassroots ways.” This involvement encouraged and motivated Benjamin. “There is this real understanding of putting our faith into action when it comes to kingdom work in our cities.”
From each concert, 45% of profits went to a local mission chosen by the church. Another 45% went to World Renew programs in Nigeria, with matching donations by the Canadian FoodGrain Bank. The remaining 10% covered tour costs.
Meadowlands Fellowship chose Indwell, which provides safe and affordable housing for people with various needs.
Benjamin senses that the ‘I Am Not My Own’ tour is part of something bigger. He sees a future in worship renewal in the CRC, and specifically in Canada. While he’s unsure what this will look like, Benjamin said he’s excited to be part of it. He and his family will be on the road again this fall for a 40-day celebration tour, marking the release of the CD with contributing churches.
About the Author
Maia VanderMeer is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. She lives in Mission, B.C.