On 21 October 2023, around 20 music students from across the country gathered together to learn about what God says in the Bible about 'distinctiveness', and how we can apply that to ourselves in our own musical contexts. We spent the day rooted in 1 Peter, unpacking the book, challenging and encouraging one another, and enjoying spending time seeing old friends and making new friends.
Despite several things not seeming to go to plan (like storms and subsequent train cancellations stopping people coming), we continued to look to our God who is always faithful and in control, who had so many things He wanted to teach us throughout the day.
Preparing to learn
Before we even got to Birmingham, many of us read 1 Peter on the way with the people we travelled with in preparation for the day's teaching. I travelled with some guys from London and we decided to read it out in turns on the train. Reading it out loud such that people could hear really highlighted the difference between the way we are called to live and the way the world lives - this is something we continued to explore once we arrived and throughout the day.
Once we arrived, chatted to people, and all got our teas and coffees (or hot chocolates!), we sat down on tables with people of the same discipline, for example, conservatoire students, university students, pop music students, composers. This was so helpful in being able to reflect after each session specifically with people who are doing the same thing as us, and then the breaks and lunchtime was a chance to mix and chat to everyone to see how things applied more widely to music students.
We spent time looking specifically at why we are called to be distinctive - because the gospel calls us to! We have been given a new birth, great mercy, hope, and an inheritance that will never spoil perish or fade (1 Peter 1:3-5), so of course our response should be rejoicing in this truth. Knowing this helps us to love Jesus even more for coming to die for us. We are therefore called to ‘be holy’ (1 Peter 1:16). This is something that I find truly amazing, that this is our calling, to be like Jesus, to set our hopes on grace. I was really encouraged not to feel complacent about this having been reminded of the true holiness of God. Our distinctive living must stem from a love and a remembering of the gospel in all I do - it is when we love Jesus with our whole heart and long to live godly and holy lives that we become distinctive.
After this, we looked more practically about how we can live our lives in light of this, and what we are called to in 1 Peter. We were taken through our distinctive identity, witness, suffering, submission, work, way of life, self-control, others-centredness, humility, peace and woes. It was really challenging thinking about the way we see our music and the way we see the Lord. It particularly stood out to me that a lot of the way we live is caused by a fear of people / a fear of the world, and that instead we should fear God. It is He who has given us everything, and our worth lies in Him, not in our musical ability.
Music as a gift
Another thing that really struck me is the idea of music being a gift, a tool to worship God, not ourselves (1 Peter 4:10). I think this is such a challenge to delight in our music making even when it’s hard work. I was also really interested in thinking about non-believers saying 'music is a gift' when gifts come from someone - so who do they think they come from? We have such a good God who gives us so many things, like music, so let's praise and worship Him with our music. Instead of being proud, let’s give God all the glory and be constantly giving thanks to Him for our lives and all the things in our lives. You cannot be proud of something that isn’t yours, and everything we have has been given to us by God, so we must not let our successes inflate our egos, but instead separate our work from our worth.
It was also so helpful to have an extended time at the end of the day for discussion in our groups, as well as for a Q&A, to really deeply understand and wrestle with these issues.
Fellowship and blessing
We finished our time together by all going to a local Greek restaurant to eat together. It is always such a blessing to share a meal together, to continue chatting about what we had learnt throughout the day, and to go deeper in our fellowship with one another. There is something so special about coming together as music students who want to live for Jesus being able to share our struggles with each other and to be able to encourage and pray for people that you wouldn’t know if it weren’t for these Music Network Autumn Gatherings!
This day was such a blessing to me. I have recently started my masters at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and it has been easy to feel alone, not just moving to a new place, but where it has felt so obvious that I am a Christian. Looking more deeply into being distinctive has been so encouraging, that I am made to live out for Jesus, and I’m not the only one! The gospel mission is going out through each and every one of us, and we have an amazing Saviour who calls us to be holy!