Bethany Church Engages their Community With Music

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ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Bethany Music Center (BMC) is a thriving music school and community outreach ministry at Bethany Church in Ellicott City. The graphic below illustrates the ecosystem of Bethany Church and BMC. Within the circle of BMC operates music camps, private lessons, audition prep courses and professional recording services. Within the circle of Bethany Church’s Music Ministry operates an adult choir, worship teams, young adult band, and ministry music support. Two independent circles intersect to incorporate children’s music classes, a middle school band, and a high school band. The link between the two circles is Sherrie McKay, Minister of Worship and Arts, and the team she has developed. McKay has also been instrumental in Bethany Church’s transition from monocultural worship to multi-ethnic worship within Ellicott City’s diverse community.

Almost ten years ago, Pastor Kip Smith challenged the church to find opportunities to engage the community. McKay shared, “Bethany Music Center was a result of praying and reflecting. Bethany Church has a robust music ministry. I had hired an accompanist, a Peabody Institute student, to help with the church with the music program. I also had audio engineering students from Peabody helping. We had a nice Peabody connection, and I thought, ‘Why don’t I leverage some of this wonderful Peabody staff helping at the church to start private music lessons in voice, piano, and drums? I have a background in cello.’ And from there, BMC was born and now serves more than 140 students taking private lessons or music classes.”

As the private lessons grew, the ministry needed to find a way to hold private lessons when the church building was being used for church ministry; thus, a partnership with Bethel Baptist Church, Ellicott City, was established. “It is exciting to see Bethel also benefit from people from the community coming onto their property and engaging with them,” stated McKay. She detailed another blessing the private lessons allow, “As a mid-size church, I have limited resources to pay the Peabody students and graduates for the church worship side of their time; however, the private lessons have provided a vehicle for them to earn income and afford a small financial blessing to the church.”

Student Band – singer and piano – Piano/Teacher Mercy Dion, Vocalist Ranitha Kota. (Photo by Michelle Mackall)

Yet, the private lessons were only the start of the vision for BMC. Wednesday evenings at Bethany Church, the doors open for Aroma Café dinner, followed by general music education classes, where students can engage in free, weekly children’s music classes. Immediately following the classes, families can choose to have their children stay for Awana or youth ministry. BMC piggybacked on the Wednesday evening church programs, which have become a segue for inviting families into church ministry programs. McKay elaborated on one such story, “We have a Hindu student who participates in lessons and classes at BMC. At last year’s Good Friday Service, the students were invited to sing. This student of a different religion was on stage singing about the blood of Jesus Christ. His parents shared, ‘We do not believe in your religion, but our son loves it here.’ Recently, we invited our new drum teacher to play for a Sunday worship service. He brought his girlfriend, who had never stepped foot in the doors of a church, and shared afterward, ‘I loved it.’” McKay further elaborated, “My role is to share Jesus with the students, teachers, and families God brings to us. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:8 remind me how God is working, ‘I am convinced and confident of

Gabe Petkaitis teaches students in the audio studio.(Courtesy of Bethany Church)

this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in your will perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Amplified Bible).

On any given day in the music program, we get to see God at work and how He is speaking to people where they are in their seasons of life.”

With a growing professional audio and music teaching staff, the program has created ways to teach skills to people for leading worship at their home church, student ministry, or future church. Violinists may learn how to play off a chord chart in a worship band, vocalists may learn to use an in-ear monitor system, tech support folks learn to run a digital board or a livestream service, and musicians explore using click tracks. “Thus, we are able to impact the Kingdom of God in a much broader sense beyond the walls of Bethany,” said McKay.

One may ask what is next. McKay would love to see Bethany Church expand to use their resources, knowledge, and talents to help churches with their music programs through collaboration and connection.

For more information on Bethany Music Center, visit Home – Bethany Music Center.

Michelle Mackall is a freelance writer, and Mid-Maryland Baptist Association Administrative Assistant and Women’s Ministry Leader.