If you’ve only heard a Haven band play during a Wednesday morning daily Chapel service, you’re not getting the whole story.
If you’ve ever attended CUW’s daily Chapel service on a Wednesday morning, chances are you’ve heard a Haven band play. But to truly appreciate this ministry, Sunday night in the Terrace Room is where you really want to be. This is when the student-led ensembles really open up, allowing praise and genuine emotion to flow freely. It’s not just an event; it’s an experience.
“Welcome to Haven. Welcome home” is the traditional opening for these regular get-togethers. “It may sound cheesy, but I like to think that’s what Haven is,” says Olivia Estep (’23), one of two Haven co-coordinators. “That’s the main feeling I get, the biggest takeaway for me. It doesn’t matter if you’re LCMS, or if you’re non-denominational, or whatever.
“If you love the Lord and you want to spend some time with other people who love the Lord, it’s like a home. It’s a safe place for you.”
A joyful noise to the Lord
It starts with a time of music and praise, but preparations begin well before 7:00. The band and sound crew get there early to set up. Another team—a.k.a. “Chair Force One”—sets up the seating. Campus Pastor Steve Smith and Associate Campus Pastor Doug Bender are typically on hand, but it’s the students who do the heavy lifting—literally and figuratively.
“We are very blessed to work with our student leaders and volunteers who help lead the Haven ministry,” says Pastor Doug. “It’s an incredible joy to see these students using their gifts to help call others into such meaningful moments of prayer and praise.”
“I place music next to theology and give it the highest praise. And we see how David and all saints put their pious thoughts into verse, rhyme, and songs, because music reigns in times of peace.”Martin Luther
Both Olivia and her fellow Haven co-coordinator, Lyle McBurney (’23), are musicians. Olivia, a music education major, primarily plays piano, guitar, and trumpet. Lyle, a psychology major with an eye toward becoming a Christian counselor, is a percussionist. Both play in various CUW music ensembles, as well as in their home churches’ worship bands when they’re not at school. Lyle also plays drums in one of the Haven bands, while Olivia fills in as needed.
This is the first year for both of them as Haven co-coordinators, but they’re getting the hang of things quickly.
“I’d say at the beginning of the year we leaned more on Pastor Doug, but now that we’ve done it for a while, we’re getting more sure of ourselves,” says Lyle McBurney (’23), Haven co-coordinator. “We contact the speakers, we coordinate the bandleaders, we work together on theme and designs and everything.”
The theme for this year is “Sweetly Broken,” which Lyle explains is about how God uses imperfect people to accomplish His will. “Throughout this year we are really emphasizing, for us as college students, to not be too hard on ourselves about our shortcomings, or the things we don’t know,” he says,” but to trust in God and in His strength to use our brokenness for good.”
Music and praise are key, but that’s not all there is to it. The hour-long Sunday evening Haven gathering also includes a guest speaker, as well as some prayer and reflection time. The night of my visit, the speaker was Darcy Paape, Director of Women’s Leadership Institute and part of the Campus Ministry staff. She spoke about “Life Lessons from Peter,” and how he, like us, was “Chosen, Humbled, and Forgiven.”
Most services also involve a time of prayer and reflection, with a designated team responding to pre-written requests for prayer.
But the music is an essential element. Each semester there are typically four Haven bands, and they take turns playing in Chapel (typically on Wednesdays) and for the Sunday evening Haven services. How they get together can vary; they can be a carryover from the previous year, an all-new ensemble, or some combination of new and old. But every school year offers a fresh opportunity to take part.
An audition process is involved in the forming the four bands, but the leaders always try to involve as many students as possible. That includes not just musicians, but also an all-important tech crew, as well.
“We have a really talented sound crew that we’re extremely blessed to have,” Lyle explains. “They’re very servant-hearted.” “A lot of times, especially this year, it’s like we don’t even have to ask them to do things,” Olivia adds. “They already know what to do and just do it.”
Safety and refuge
Both Olivia and Lyle are musicians. Olivia, a music education major, primarily plays piano, guitar, and trumpet. Lyle, a psychology major with an eye toward becoming a Christian counselor, is a percussionist. Both play in various CUW musical ensembles, as well as in their home churches’ worship bands when they’re not at school. Lyle plays drums in one of the Haven bands, while Olivia fills in as needed.
The night I visited the service was competing with a Sunday night Packers game, and Lyle told me it could affect attendance. If what I witnessed was a small crowd, it makes me wonder how they accommodate the large ones, as nearly every chair in the Terrace Room was filled. Typically, Lyle told me, attendance is anywhere from 100 to 175, though they’ve had as many as 215 this semester.
As much as the event resembles some church services, it’s not designed to be a replacement for Sunday church. Students are still encouraged to attend either the on-campus Sunday morning service at 10:00 a.m. in the Chapel, or to find a “church home away from home” in the surrounding community.
Olivia says she regularly attends a church off-campus on Sunday mornings, but it was the Haven experience that first helped her feel really at home at Concordia.
“At home I attend a non-denominational, contemporary church,” she explains. “So for me, freshman year coming to Concordia, I was a little nervous. Like, ‘Oh, I know it’s a Lutheran school, but I’m not Lutheran, I wonder what the environment, or the culture, are going to be like.’ I really remember going to my first Haven freshman year and thinking, ‘This is my place. This is where I belong.’”
All in all, Lyle says, the Haven experience is a great way to prepare for the week to come.
“Just before a hectic week starts, it’s a chance to spend an hour in the Word and find a little bit of peace and calm before the storm hits.”
A place of peace and calm amidst the storm. A place to belong, to feel safe and at home. That’s the very definition of “haven.” A place to restore your mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the church and the world.
The Haven ministry represents just a small fraction of the opportunities offered by Campus Ministry at CUW. To get involved or learn more about, click on the link below.