'Music With a Message' kicks off Sunday in SH

South Haven musician Joe Foster is one of the guest singers scheduled to perform as part of First United Methodist Church’s new worship series, “Music With a Message.” The series begins Sunday.

SOUTH HAVEN — Pastors don’t often let go of the pulpit for too long Sunday mornings, but one South Haven minister intends to as part of a new summer worship program focused on music.

“Music With a Message” begins at 11 a.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church, 429 Michigan Ave., and will continue for five consecutive Sundays.

The services will feature a variety of South Haven area singer-songwriters and musicians, who plan to lead the program, while Rev. Ron Van Lente steps aside.

“We’ll start the service with a call to worship, a hymn and offering, and then turn over the service to the musicians,” Van Lente said.

Van Lente, who is a singer and musician himself, came up with the idea for Music With a Message as a way to make summer services a bit less formal, and to perhaps draw in the many visitors South Haven attracts during the summer.

“I think Protestants want to go to church when they come here, but it’s hard to go into a church and not know what you’re going to find. They certainly don’t want to hear a preacher yell at them,” Van Lente said laughing.

Music With a Message, however, isn’t just geared toward visitors, but to the congregation, too.

“I’ve always felt music is one of the best ways to communicate about religion,” Van Lente said. “This is a church that is known for its music, choir, pipe organ ... it seemed like a natural fit.”

The first Music With a Message service will be led by Dan Pierce, a retired music teacher from Chicago. He will perform original and cover songs about struggles people endure while trying to live a Christian life.

The remaining schedule is:

• July 21: Tracey Davis, a singer, actor, director and producer for Our Town Players community theater troupe, will lead a service featuring music from “Phantom of the Opera.” The music, she says, ties in with the service’s theme of loss and redemption.

• July 28: Andy Baker, a singer-songwriter from Gobles, plans to perform a variety of religious-themed music. By day, he is a veterinarian. But in his spare time he enjoys writing music. Several years ago he was a finalist in the Kerrville New Folk Competition for Emerging Songwriters in Texas.

• Aug. 4: Pamela Chappell, a singer-songwriter from South Haven, will sing a variety of religious-themed music. She performs regularly during services throughout Southwest Michigan.

• Aug. 11: In Harmony will lead a service based on the theme, “What If God Was One of Us?” The duo consists of David Veenstra and Van Lente, who perform music regularly in the South Haven area.

• Aug. 18: Joe Foster & Friends plans to focus its service theme on “Walking Your Talk.” The group of local musicians and singers includes Foster, Van Lente and Mary Zarnecki.