In the New Testament book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul talks about how we—the Church—are "being built together for a dwelling place of God..." This is a large part of the vision behind The City Harmonic, probably because it's also a large part of where they've come from. Read more about this unique and creative band and what drives their music, from frontman Elias Dummer.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from an interview found in Worship Musician! Magazine's May/June 2012 issue. Follow the link at the end of this article to read the full interview. –Aimee Herd, BCN.
Aimee Herd: Elias, you're not afraid to journey out of the box with your music, I find it refreshing. I'm going to ask you about your album, but first; maybe you could give a little background on the band. I'd love to hear how The City Harmonic came about.
Elias Dummer: We're from Hamilton, Ontario, which is just about an hour south of Toronto. One of the things about Hamilton is, it's been traditionally seen as a steel town. But over the years, industry—like it has in many places—has changed, and shrunk. It's seen its fair share of challenges; the poverty rate as high as 25 percent. So the Church has sort of had to respond. The thing to come out of that is a movement of churches that has come to be known as "TrueCity." It's a partnership of local churches; they go under the slogan of: "Churches together for the good of the city." It crosses denominational lines, traditional lines... it's just Christian churches getting together to share resources, and do whatever they can do to make a difference in the city.
That's sort of been the story from which we've come; the City Harmonic; came from; three of us were part of a college-age program that was affiliated with TrueCity. We would get college students together to worship and sing and then they'd go out and worship by serving at one of the non-profits around the city; a soup kitchen or clothing banks and the like. So, when we first made The City Harmonic about two years ago, all four of us at the time were all part of different churches that were part of different denominations. It may sound strange for a worship band, but it didn't really seem all that odd to us.
AH: No, it actually sounds wonderful!
ED: I guess the biggest difference is that we're not part of a "worship team" that came out of a particular local church worship expression. We're more a group of friends and brothers who grew up out of a more collective worship experience. So, maybe not every song [of ours] will work for every church setting, but that's probably for the best anyway!
AH: You know, that whole vibe of unity that (I now see) comes from the Hamilton local churches coming together with TrueCity, can really be sensed in this recording. It's kind of an underlying theme throughout the album...
ED: Well, one of the most profound moments for me, so far in our ministry, was before we got heavy into touring... we were asked to take a part in the TrueCity conference—which is not huge, it's like 150-200 people. But, it represents about two dozen different churches and denominations from around our city coming together to pool resources and to figure out how to do ministry better.
So, what happened was during one of the keynotes, they asked us to come up to the front and most of the conference gathered up in the front and prayed for us, to commission us in the ministry. I found out later that it was something like 24 different churches from over a dozen denominations—leaders, lay-leaders, pastors—just from around our city all praying to bless us as we headed out on the road. It was really profound.
AH: Wow, that must have been a very powerful moment.
ED: It really was. It blew me away.
AH: Have you seen that kind of unity in other places? It just seems like there's not enough of that happening yet.
ED: Oh yeah, I certainly hear stories here and there as we travel. And we love to tell our story obviously, because we find it encouraging. I do think there is some kind of a move like that happening... but, that maybe two things are going on at once. On one hand, there is a well-intentioned group of people standing up for what they feel is hard truth regarding traditional and Christian orthodoxy—maybe at the expense of others. I think to look at the Church as a multi-faceted thing, we have to learn how to respectfully disagree. That's been some of the challenges at TrueCity, and there are certainly some messy elements to it. But, to abandon the debate [is worse]; even Peter and Paul disagreed, but it's a good thing they didn't just stop there.
As a band, we really started out a little like Delirious did [with an element of performance to leading worship]. That has actually begun some lively discussions with people at times. I think sometimes we make leading worship "super spiritual" and the rest of life "less spiritual." One of my favorite quotes is an old Celtic saying, "Milking the cow is holy." Worship and worship leading—in my mind—is more of a reflection of the sum of who we are; our character and who we are on a day-to-day basis, than it is about whether I'm being led "by the Spirit" in the moment. We absolutely believe in being led by the Spirit, it's just that we want to make sure we're living a worshipful life.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said to love God and to love your neighbor. In order for us to love God, we must love our neighbor. Yet, as worship leaders, we're so often encouraged to keep our eyes closed and have our own sort of moment "on the mountain" on stage—and then encourage everyone in the room to do the same. But, it seems like maybe we've lost a great opportunity to look each other eye to eye and "be the Church" together. So, we go up there, and yeah, we perform, worshipfully, and it's okay because people are able to engage with that emotionally. The dichotomy isn't between worship and performance really, it's between performing selfishly and performing self-LESS-ly.
To read the rest of this interview, CLICK HERE.