In 2015, Valerie Bridgeman collaborated with Jorge Lockward to lead MTSO’s Schooler Institute on Preaching. In planning for the current academic year, Bridgeman, now MTSO’s dean and vice president for academic affairs, invited Lockward to return to campus on a regular basis. He is working with a newly formed student-led worship team that coordinates the school’s weekly chapel services.
Lockward, who serves as minister of worship arts at the Church of the Village, a United Methodist congregation in New York City, is former director of Global Praise for the United Methodist Church and former chair of the Worship and Liturgy Committee of the World Methodist Council. He exudes passion for worship as he describes the work he shares with MTSO’s new worship team.
“Chapel is about the life of the seminary itself,” Lockward said. “It’s a place where the paradigm is set about where it is that we meet God. And that’s no small thing in the life of this place.”
Bridgeman said she saw Lockward as a fitting mentor and colleague to the worship team: “I wanted to try student leadership over worship, but I also knew they would need quality support and guidance. I could think of no one better than Jorge Lockward, who has taught and led worship worldwide and in several ecumenical settings. Jorge and I were part of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries for about four years. I saw how he took lay leaders and made them competent worship developers and leaders.”
At a summer retreat, Lockward met with a small group of faculty, staff and students to craft a vision for chapel services that reflects MTSO’s commitment to justice and inclusiveness.
“We were committed to worship that was relevant to the lives of the community,” he said, “one that allowed for a wide range of spiritualties.”
Lockward comes to campus once a month to meet with the worship team, overseeing workshops for students in areas including song leading and writing prayers and liturgy. For the remainder of the month, he and the 10-member team meet through weekly videoconferences.
“One of the things that’s giving me hope is that the group is starting to mature to the level that we don’t all have to be in the same place to plan a service,” Lockward said. “We have a very set plan for each time that we meet or videoconference. Our first task is always theological. We call that an intention-setting conversation. Then we begin creating a journey for the service.”
Bridgeman is grateful for Lockward’s arrival on campus. “I knew he would bring a variety of worship experiences and a depth of spirituality to this work,” she said. “And I knew students would be empowered and enabled to lead and pass on what they learn. Students are already sharing their learning and equipping other students so that we can keep this up. I don’t know how long we will go in this direction, but so far, students, staff, visitors and administrators have been excited to come to worship and to pray together.”
Methodist Theological School in Ohio provides theological education and leadership in pursuit of a just, sustainable and generative world. In addition to the Master of Divinity degree, the school offers master’s degrees in counseling, social justice, theological studies and practical theology, along with a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Danny Russell, communications director