Neighbors in Faith
Praise on High
Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church has a new contemporary worship service and it's creating quite a stir. Local talent leads the team, with three Lake Highlands High School students on board; Ryan Koch on drums, Kyle Koch on guitar, and Dorothy Appiah-Ntifor sings vocals. Peyton Strouth leads worship and directs and sings perched behind the keyboard, with Maureen Ramsay rounding out the vocals. Chris Jacobie, a freshman at the University of Texas and a founding ember of the band, often returns on weekends to play bass guitar with the group. The Koch family, with Dad Jim at the sound board and Mom Cinda as manager, and Youth Director Meg Richardson running the media, provide the back up support for the praise band.
"I just love doing it. I love the people that I play with, and it's so fun to be a part of something new that reaches out to others, even people that I have never met before. And to top it off, who could say no to free donuts," says Kyle Koch, a talented guitarist and the youngest member of the band. His brother Ryan finds the energy to get up every Sunday morning because "I like playing the music - its fun. I was happy to have the opportunity to do it. Kyle and I have always worked on music stuff at home, so playing here was just taking it one step further. And our team really collaborates, so it's nice to know we have input on how and what we play for the service." Ryan is a senior at LHHS and will be hard to replace when that day comes for his departure to college.
The Praise on High Contemporary Worship was a dream started by the Youth Director Meg Richardson and Cinda Koch, a parent of two talented musicians. The dream was hatched over an August meeting at a local coffee house and was tentatively presented to the Rev. Bob E. Shelton, whose retirement was drawing near. Rev. Shelton embraced the idea, scoffing at any thoughts that he might not be up to adding an extra service to an already busy week, and encouraged the team to go forward with their plan. There were many hurdles including musical instrument, rehearsal time and space and a leader. Peyton Strouth, the current Choir Director was pegged as being the perfect Praise and Worship leader, if only he would commit. After his interview, it didn't take long for Peyton to enthusiastically agree. And then the construction process bogged it down. It seemed like monsoon season. The October start date moved to Christmas, Christmas became Easter and finally, the new service began.
On Easter Sunday 2005, Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church opened it's newly remodeled sanctuary and new Education Wing. The Easter service in the remodeled Sanctuary was beautiful, but a new voice was rising from the Youth Activities Hall. "He is exalted on high." It was the voice and music of the new Praise on High Contemporary Worship Service, its daring debut on Easter Sunday to a packed house.
"It has allowed our family, as a group, to become more active in the church. We've enjoyed working on something together - each of us in different roles. We'll have some lifetime memories to take away," replied Jim when asked what this experience has meant to his family.
"It has been a really special time for our family - one we really didn't expect to have, and yet one that we absolutely treasure. Its been fun to see our boys work together so closely on something that they are so committed to, and even more rewarding for all of us, as a family, to be working on it together as a team" said Cinda.
Attendance at the 9:00 Service draws from every age group, and varies in size on any given Sunday, but when the Praise team members take their places, the music begins, and the votive candles flicker, the room is transformed to a sacred place and worship begins. The Praise band plays all types of music, including pieces by Chris Tomlin, Matt Redmond, Michael W. Smith and others. As the church settles into its new home, a search for a new Pastor is beginning, and the fledgling Praise on High Contemporary Worship Service continues to take flight, its joyful sound echoing throughout the halls of Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church.