Updated: Feb 14, 2022
How did you get connected to Hope Church?
John is a researcher at heart so before we both moved to Platteville, Wisconsin to attend UW-Platteville, he spent a LOT of time learning about the churches in the area. We tried out a couple of churches in town and then decided to make the trek across the river to check out Hope Church. This was in September 2014, right around the time we got engaged. Our first impression was that the worship arts ministry was incredible-we still aren't sure who was leading, but we walked in during Oceans by Hillsong (of course we walked in mid-song: if you know us, you know we're not the most punctual). Serving at the church we chose was a priority for us, and as musicians, we were excited to see that the worship arts ministry seemed to be well-established and supported. After hearing Pastor Matt preach, we decided to give Hope a try again the next weekend and it quickly became our first "grown-up" home church. We reached out to Michelle to learn about the worship ministry and started serving sometime that winter and got married at the end of May 2015.
Tell me a little bit about how you became a couple?
John and I grew up in Oregon, Wisconsin. He had attended an Evangelical Free Church there with his family and I started attending that church's youth group and then Sunday morning services after a friend's persistent invitations, and eventually, I became a believer while in middle school. We had many mutual friends in the youth group but were not officially introduced until my 15th birthday when we went to a worship concert in a group together. Over the next months, we spent more time together in groups of friends and at church events and by December 2010 we were attached at the hips but just friends! John graduated from high school in June 2012 and we spent less time together while John adjusted to college life and I made the most of my senior year of high school. By the week of my final exams, we'd decided that our decision to be best friends forever, even if our future spouses didn't like it, would be a lot easier to keep up if we just decided to date each other finally instead. Strangely, no one was surprised by this decision except us! Michelle asked us to share a picture from our first time performing as a duo (when John somehow convinced our choir teacher that I should sing for his choir final instead of him) but all I can find is a video and it's definitely not our best performance! I'm including a picture of us from my prom and the first time we met. :)
When did your journey as Christ followers and artists intersect?
John: Growing up I was always interested in music in some capacity and the instrument I stuck with as a kid was the drums. I turned just about everything and anything into a drum growing up and initially found my creative music outlet in competitive summer marching band and winter drumline. When I started high school I decided to try out on drums for the church I grew up in. While I was still young in my faith and very immature as a Christian this gave me a space to grow and mature as both a musician and more importantly a Christ-follower. During my junior year of high school, I was bored during spring break and I decided to buy a cheap guitar on Craigslist (is that still a thing?) and started teaching myself how to play guitar. This quickly turned into another interest of mine and I started playing guitar some Sundays as well as starting a worship team for our youth group. Early in my college career, I attended a technical college in Madison, where I was involved in the Cru ministry through UW-Madison. This was probably the place that my faith and music came together in the best way, through the Cru worship band. This opportunity affirmed my commitment to serving the body of Christ as a musician and also brought some of my closest Christian friends and mentors into my life. Since we usually operated with a skeleton crew, I also learned about the technical side of live music. Claire: I've been singing just about as long as I've been able to talk, and I developed a strong commitment to serving my community through my family's values and my involvement in my local 4-H club. When I found out I could serve God and His church by singing, joining the worship team at church was a simple decision! I joined the team my freshman or sophomore year of high school.
What does it mean to you to serve and be able to serve together?
We both feel a pull to serve our community, especially our local church. Being involved in any ministry strengthens your ties and relationships within that church community and serving has also connected us with many of our closest friends at Hope Church. Along with the worship team, we served together as high school youth leaders because of how pivotal youth ministry was in our personal faith journeys and the roles our youth leaders played in our lives. Claire: Serving together is a ton of fun and a really beautiful thing to be able to do. I'm naturally pretty shy and reserved; serving alongside John and under his leadership gives me more confidence to try new things and even just to stand up on stage in front of our Hope community. It is also really amazing to see God use our less obvious gifts in this capacity. John has a gift of artistic vision: he sees how songs connect to one another and to sermon topics in a way that I usually miss. The beauty of serving together doesn't make it always easy though. At times, I struggle not to carry personal disagreements with one another into practice and that can make it difficult to focus on the task at hand. John: I have always enjoyed worshiping God through music, but I've admittedly always been frustrated that I haven't been able to sing (well anyways). It has been cool to see how God put Claire and me together and gave us the ability to serve the church through our joint musical abilities. Claire has a way of balancing out my crazy ideas and helps me remember why we do what we do. Seeing her lead people towards God through worship is something I am extremely thankful for and try not to take for granted. I am thankful that God gave us gifts that allow us to serve the church together, and for the way, it has stretched and grown our relationship.
What about worship music draws you the most?
Claire: I've shared this a few times, but my favorite thing about worship music is knowing that I'm adding my voice to believers around the world and, sometimes, spanning the length of history, all praising the same God for His character and what He's done. Thinking about that "chain" of believers gives me goosebumps every time, whether I'm singing alone or leading a congregation.
John: Similarly to Claire, I have always appreciated the shared lyrics across groups of believers, this is especially true for me with hymns. Growing up I never really connected with hymns but as I got older and considered the fact that my grandparents and great grandparents sang those same lyrics the music began to hold a special place in my heart. I also believe that melodies and lyrics have a way of sticking with you and reminding you of core biblical truths in a simple and digestible format.
Is there someone else in the church you'd like to know more about? Nominate them!