Vania Levans on Missions Fest, Worship, and Life
Vania Levans is the Neighbourhood Co-Pastor at Artisan Church’s downtown Parish in Vancouver, BC. She was the Worship Coordinator at Regent College for four years, and taught the course Leading Worship in 2015, in which students who attended the class led worship for Regent’s chapels. We spoke with Vania about her theology of worship and her part in facilitating Regent’s involvement in Missions Fest 2016, a weekend festival highlighting global mission opportunities and featuring world-class speakers.
At last year's Missions Fest, you led all the plenary worship sessions. What was that experience like, and what do you plan to do this year?
Yes, last year was a good experience: really lovely. I was particularly blessed to be involved in an activity that brought together all the different denominations and churches across Vancouver. I experienced God’s grace and was uplifted.
The leadership at Missions Fest appreciated the quality of worship but wondered how we could have more of a diversity of worship leaders. They had heard about my class and invited me to consider the possibility of supervising and coaching Regent students who would lead worship for the sessions as they’d been doing for chapels at Regent.
While Regent didn’t run the class this year, Regent and Missions Fest decided to partner together. This year at Missions Fest, six worship leaders will each lead a team. The teams are made up entirely of people with Regent connections: mostly current Regent students and alumni, along with a few people who have taken a class or two. The beautiful thing about this is that our worship leaders and musicians are coming from different denominations, churches across the city of Vancouver, and countries.
I’ve been meeting and praying with these worship leaders over the past few months and am really excited about how they’ll serve the body of Christ through this ministry during Missions Fest. These are thoughtful, caring, creative people who are passionate about God and skilled in their work.
So how do you teach worship? What features do you implement?
I’m passionate about thoughtful worship that is glorifying to God. As a result, I coach and teach other worship leaders, as my schedule permits.
Last year, I taught the Leading Worship class at Regent College with Ross Hastings. What's unusual about this worship class is that it welcomes both musicians and non-musicians. There are many people in church who are not musicians but can help with planning and facilitation of worship. In many evangelical churches, there is a tendency to default to a model where one person designs and executes the whole thing. But, if we’re serious about the reality of the body of Christ and each person having a function and a role, then there is room for more of the body of Christ to be involved in facilitating and planning worship. It’s not always easy and it often takes more time to plan worship this way, but the fruit is really beautiful and amazing. In our class, we tried to equip our students to bring the whole body of Christ into the process of planning and doing worship.
Can you give us some examples?
At Regent, at least three of my students facilitated and planned a worship service without playing or singing a single note. Yes, they recruited and worked with musicians and lead vocalists, as well as other participants, but they were responsible for the chapel, and the chapels they put together were beautiful and rich.
Last Advent, I asked a couple of teachers and an actor to help me plan our worship services. The services ended up being deeply meaningful for the congregation as well as for those three people who had a chance to participate in a way they hadn’t before. Another way more people have been involved was when I met with a small group, and together we wrote a prayer that was used as a congregational prayer during Sunday service.
In our class, we spent a lot of time trying to get the students to think about how they as worship leaders might work more collaboratively with a congregation. We invited them to consider the fact that God might be speaking to many people in the congregation, and then asked them to think about what that means: how do we bring those people into the process of shaping worship in our churches?
We also brought in a lot of speakers to our class to give our students a glimpse into the many ways this plays out. For example, we talked about inclusivity by bringing in a speaker who works with a church that ministers to people with all sorts of disabilities. We discussed educational theory and the different kinds of learners in our churches: auditory, kinaesthetic, visual. Often, churches tend to address just one kind of learner, but that just isn’t enough. So we asked our students to think about what it means to incorporate different forms of learning into a worship service.
How does your theology shape your practice of worship?
Though I attended one church while growing up in Ottawa, I was exposed to many denominations which nurtured a love for the whole body of Christ in me. During class, we’re not seeking to get our students to conform to the particular worship style or liturgy of a particular tradition but rather, we want them to learn enough so that they can go back to their tradition and help their church worship better in that context, whether that’s Anglican, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Baptist, etc.
I really believe that worship encompasses all of life. Our theology of worship matters. If we truly believe that God is Trinitarian, we need to be thinking about how that influences worship. If we really believe that God is the initiator, and that we worship only with his help, then that also matters. And needs to be reflected in our liturgy and the way we live our lives.