The Plural Guild is a gathering of artists interested in doing worship in ways that speak honestly to the lives we live today.
Why do we exist?
We have come together to create music, poems, prayer, visual art and liturgy that embrace questions and doubts, as well as faith. To make work that can be used in worship gatherings that is welcoming to all. That has eyes wide open to the pain of the world. That speaks of a God who came to this earth in Jesus to show us the way to love and live fully alive lives. Work that invites participation versus perpetuates performance.
What can you expect to find here?
Here you'll find original music, prayers, confessions, communion liturgies, stories, written to coincide with the Christian liturgical calendar. As well as ideas and suggestions on acts that you can do in your own worship gatherings to help people engage and experience, rather than being a passive observer.
On our blog and on our Facebook page we also occasionally highlight and recommend other works of art that we think you might find inspiring and useful in your gatherings. Or in your individual times of meditation and reflection.
How can you be involved?
We would love to hear from you. And we would love to help you make worship more meaningful and true, inclusive and diverse, wherever and however we can.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, thoughts, suggestions. And join us on Facebook.
And finally, if you'd like to become more involved creatively, at times, through our Facebook page, we will put out a "creative brief," and invite you to share your own original songs, poems, visual art, and other liturgical pieces around a particular theme. We are always looking for new voices to join us, who share our vision.
Started by the husband and wife team of Gary Rand and Lenora Rand, The Plural Guild grew out of our shared lifelong passion for making meaningful rituals and worship experiences and for creating prayers, poems and visual art that honestly reflect faith and doubt, hopes and laments and our calling to do justice and love mercy.
I have been leading worship and the arts at LaSalle Street Church in Chicago for the last ten years, as well as directing worship, mentoring and teaching at McCormick Seminary, while composing music in a wide range of styles, from folk/pop songs to contemporary classical music. One of the key things I have tried to teach and model is that worship is something we do...not something we view. Giving people ways to actively participate, whether that's through singing, speaking words out loud, moving their bodies, writing on sticky notes, making art for the worship space...has always been a goal of mine, and something I've tried to bring to whatever worship experience I have helped create, whether at LaSalle Street Church, McCormick Seminary, or at the retreats and conferences I've been involved with.
I started making music at a young age, literally as a baby, as a member of my family's country-western group. After high school, I helped form and toured in one of the seminal Christian rock bands of the 70s, The Crimson Bridge, earned a B.Mus degree in composition from Wheaton College, then began a solo singer/songwriter career, writing and performing songs that reflected the truth of my life, my faith (and questions) and my growing concerns about peace and justice issues.
Co-written with my wife Lenora, I had two CCM albums in the 80s, until I lost my record deal, largely because of speaking out on issues like peacemaking and God's concern for the poor. (My record label felt I just needed to stick to "singing about Jesus." Especially if I wanted to get played on Christian radio. What I said to them was, "I thought I was singing about Jesus." ) However, I continued to tour extensively, performing on college campuses and churches for a number of years.
About this time Lenora and I started a magazine, called Motif, to discuss new ways of thinking about what it might mean to be an artist who is also a Christian, and soon after that, a group called Chicago Artists (Chart), which was basically a live and in person version of the same discussion, while providing opportunities for artists to collaborate and create together. During this period, I also earned my Masters in Theological Studies, focused on worship and the arts, from Chicago's Garrett Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate in Music Composition from Northwestern University.
My deep passion has been on exploring and opening doors for multicultural worship as well as creating space for a plurality of voices, styles and ways to people to enter into worship. That has led me to study with John Bell at Iona in Scotland, spend time with the Taize community in France, learn African drumming, immerse myself in Gospel music under the tutelage of Gospel Legend Elsa Harris, and it's been the reason I've focused so much of my time and attention over the past 30 years on bringing together diverse groups of musicians, writers and artists, to discover how to create honest and provocative expressions of our spiritual longings.
I have been working in the marketing and communication field for over 20 years, and I'm an award-winning creative director at one of the world's largest ad agencies, coming up with advertising campaigns that major in human insight, warmth and purpose.
While I've been working at this very full-time job, I have also been co-writing songs with my husband Gary (and more recently, with my 21-year-old daughter Hannah Rand), as well as creating prayers, readings and liturgies for worship.
A certified life coach, I have spent a good amount of time teaching and mentoring young people in their spiritual growth and development, through a confirmation program I designed and wrote curriculum for. I've led "faith and writing" retreats for women and a number of writing groups. For 3 years I was a regular speaker in Recovery Worship services hosted by LaSalle Street Church, and I've been guest speaker (I hesitate to say "preacher") at LaSalle and other churches through the years. I've also developed and led coming of age celebrations for girls (sparked in part by having two daughters), which you can read all about here.
My essays and reflections have been published by The Christian Century, Red Letter Christians, and The Burnside Writers Collective, as well as by numerous parenting blogs. A regular on the Chicago Tribune's blogging platform, Chicago Now, my blog there is called Spiritual Suckitude, where I write about trying to figure out what it means to be a more holy or at least more holy-ish person, and a more whole person...in the middle of a regular life. A life which does not include long stints in monasteries in Nepal or walking labyrinths in the south of France, or discovering spiritual vortexes, unless I happen to run across one while on family vacations. My e-book, based on two years of blogging honestly, is called Just As I Am, and available for download here.