HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Jan. 30, 2006

Band proclaims faith, leads worship

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cokato has a new means of outreach, a contemporary Christian music band. The band, “Proclaim,” will debut Sunday, Feb. 5, at the 11 a.m. service.

Band members are not performers, they lead the worship, said Toni Thorson, the band’s director. Band members call themselves a worship team.

“It’s really a means for outreach for our church,” she said.

Thorson and band members are hoping people who usually wouldn’t go to a Lutheran church will be attracted to a more contemporary style of music. Also, the band’s new sound will please many who are already members of the congregation, she said.

Proclaim started rehearsing in November.

“We’re just discovering our strengths,” Thorson said. “I think everyone has a passion for making worship meaningful.”

Band members are Marc Keith, drums; Connie Isaacson, flute; Beth Remme, keyboard and rhythm instruments; Linnea Holm, piano; Jeff Ertl, music technician; and vocalists, Eric Johnson, Jon Ring, Kathy Murphy and Marilyn Peterson.

Thorson’s favorite number, a song the band will be rehearsing soon, is “Shout to the Lord,” she said.

“It’s a grand song. It’s very worshipful,” said Thorson, who also directs the church’s Chancel Choir.

The number is slower than usually what Proclaim does, but “it’s very dynamic,” she said.

The most challenging number so far has been “For the Lord is Good.” “It’s a little more intricate vocally,” said Thorson, who not only directs, but plays guitar, piano, saxophone, and violin.

Isaacson said her favorite number is “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” “The congregation enjoys singing the song and that’s what our worship team is all about – participation,” Isaacson said.

Remme, Murphy and Johnson all listed “Breath” as their favorite.

“Great message and it feels like you are worshiping Him,” Johnson said.

“The message of hope it offers to me personally and the calmness it brings,” are why Murphy enjoys singing the number.

“Breath” also feature’s Isaacson’s flute. “I actually like them all for different reasons,” she said.

Keith agreed. “I don’t have a favorite. I enjoy the variety. It is great to have the congregation sing along. This is all about getting people into church who maybe normally wouldn’t go, and bringing everyone closer to God through worship,” he said.

“This isn’t about the worship team. It’s about bringing people to know Christ as their savior, and if music helps us do that, then we are doing what we set out to do,” Keith said.

“Normally, I like anything that’s really upbeat. But this is a slower song,” Holm said of her choice, “Open the Eyes of my Heart.”

“I guess it’s the words that appeal to me most. It’s really hard to pick a favorite. The melody and beat are what I usually pick up on first, and the words are always meaningful,” Holm said.

The words are important to Ertl also. His favorite is “Come. Now is the Time to Worship.”

“It is a wonderful song to welcome people in worship. The words are great to bring everybody together to worship God,” Ertl said.

Both Peterson and Ring like to sing “Here I am to Worship.”

“It sums up the purpose of our group. We are here to worship the Lord,” Peterson said.

Ring agreed the song summarizes Proclaim’s mission. “We are simply here to worship our Lord, not perform to others,” he said.

“Offering two distinct styles of worship at ELC, traditional and contemporary, is important for the mission of our church,” The Rev. Steve Thorson wrote in the church newsletter. “We are better able to minister and reach out to a wider variety of people who come from many different backgrounds, whether churched or unchurched. Our goal at ELC in worship is to draw people into a deeper relationship with God. As we meet together on Sunday mornings we hear the Word of God, encourage each other in our faith, and praise and worship the God of the universe. We have a great treasure to share with our friends and neighbors,” he said.

Toni Thorson studied music when she attended Augsburg College, but she majored in religion. Proclaim is a natural combination for her.

She grew up in the Milwaukee area.

“I never lived here, but I have roots here,” Thorson said.

Her father, the Rev. Dick Dahlin, was born in Cokato, and baptized and confirmed at Evangelical Lutheran Church, the same church that called her husband to be pastor this fall. Elroy Dahlin, who still lives in Cokato, is her father’s cousin, she said.


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