Morristown-based Liquid Church is not afraid of grand gestures.
And now, for Christmas, it’s reaching out to the entire world for a global carol-sing. People are being asked to use their webcams to record themselves singing Silent Night, and post the videos to YouTube. From there, members of Liquid Church’s rock band will edit the videos into a virtual choir. The results will be unveiled on Christmas Eve at services in Morristown, New Brunswick and Nutley.
“Hopefully, they’ll be able to drown out the alley cats who sing like me,” joked Liquid Church pastor and founder Tim Lucas.
He quickly corrected himself. The more, the merrier. That’s the point of this exercise–and of Liquid Church, he said.
“We think people of every tribe, nation and tongue should be able to participate,” said Pastor Tim, 40.
The virtual caroling was inspired by composer Ed Whitacre, who spoke at the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference about his popular experiment leading a 2,000-voice virtual choir.
Liquid Church began in 1999 with a dozen people “drinking bad coffee” in the basement of a 150-year-old Baptist church in Basking Ridge, Pastor Tim said. Since setting up shop on Speedwell Avenue in Morristown in 2007, it has grown to 2,000 members at three locations.
There were many singles at first; now the congregation skews towards couples in their 30s and 40s with young families, the pastor said. They support causes like building wells in drought-plagued Third World countries (it is Liquid Church, after all) and rebuilding flooded local missions.
Followers include soldiers in Iraq and citizens in Australia and Ireland, who watch services live via the internet and download videos and podcasts, according to Pastor Tim, who lives in Madison with his wife Colleen and their children, Chase, 9, and Del, 7. One of the first Silent Night renditions has come from Estonia.
Although he attended an evangelical school, Wheaton College in Illinois, Pastor Tim said he never aspired to the ministry. He studied journalism and English, and taught advanced placement English for eight years at Summit High School.
“I never saw a relevant model of ministry that brought the Bible and the New York Times together,” he said. That changed when he heard Tim Keller preach at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. Pastor Tim figured that his teaching gig was good preparation. “If I can teach 17-year-olds Shakespeare, I can teach adults the Bible.”
Liquid Church’s rock and roll services are held in the Hyatt Morristown. Last week, the congregation baptized its 500th member, a Wall Street guy. In a hot tub. Pastor Tim has been known to impersonate Elvis Presley and Darth Vader at public events. Grand gestures can look like grandstanding to traditionalists, he knows.
“We’re not trying to convert the choir,” he said. “We’re trying to reach people who don’t go to church at all. These are people who are burned out on organized religion. We’re disorganized religion. People may have given up on the institution of church, but they haven’t given up on God. We’re the perfect church for imperfect people. Come as you are. Everybody gets to play. That’s the message of Jesus.”
Alley cats, warm up your webcams.