Reverend Gavin Tyte’s calling is to bridge the gap between contemporary culture and church culture (Photograph provided)
My passion has been and continues to be to find ways to connect people to Jesus. By trade, I am a music technologist – sound engineer, designer and producer – but I also have skills in writing, web design, graphic design and video. My first degree was in computer engineering and technology is the canvas on which I paint. It seems only natural to me to use my multimedia skills to communicate the good news of Jesus.
Along with my skills in music technology, I am also a human beatboxer or vocal percussionist. In fact, my beatbox was so successful that I developed a website dedicated to the art form that had over 60,000 registered members and 100,000 unique visitors per month and I was a judge at world championships of beatbox on more than one occasion.
If there’s any evidence that God has a sense of humor, it’s that I was called, by God, to the Anglican Church. I felt most at home in the music culture and beatboxing in hip-hop clubs, hanging out with musicians and artists and finding my identity in a completely different world than the church that I frequented. When God called me to be an Anglican priest, my first response was, “Are you kidding me? Me ? Really ?
I grew up with one foot in contemporary culture and one foot in Church culture, and I must admit that as the gap widened, it was a bit like having one foot on the shore and one foot on a boat that was slowly moving away from the shore. It was like I was losing my balance. Either I had to jump on the shore – back into contemporary culture – or I had to jump on the boat – fully into the culture of the church. The alternative would be to fall into the water!
The gap between church culture and contemporary culture has widened, in part because church culture has remained much the same, while contemporary culture change has accelerated. The disconnect between church and everyday life is wider than it has ever been.
Now I love both the church and I love contemporary culture. My vocation in the Anglican Church was and is to be a bridge between the two – to keep one foot on the shore, one foot on the boat, and bring the two together.
When I was installed as an Anglican priest, I made a statement of assent and therein promised to “proclaim the gospel anew to every generation.” In other words, the gospel is the same, the good news about Jesus Christ is the same, but the method is up for grabs. The wonderful thing about the gospel is that it can and has been applied in any context and to any historical culture, which means it can be applied to ours as well.
Part of the problem is that many of us Christians have inherited a pattern of church, or a way of being or expressing church, that is unchanging and firmly rooted in the past.
Let me give you an example. I was working with young people – young people who were, like me, rooted in the musical culture – they were beatboxers, DJs, dancers, rappers and artists, and they found their identity in this culture. So when they turned to Christ and found a new identity in Him, the wider church expected them to go with their local church and engage with the church culture.
They felt like a fish out of water. They had learned to know Jesus and to give their lives to him, but the way of dressing was different, the music was different and the language was different. We expected them to jump from the shore to the boat, and I can tell you that for the most part it didn’t work and doesn’t work. Either they jumped to shore or they fell in the water (then swam to shore).
We Christians must recognize that some of us are acculturated into a church culture that has become inseparable from our expression of Christianity, where we look at Christianity through the prism of our church culture.
The burden I felt for these young people broke my heart and so, in obedience to my Lord, I always tried to bring the shore and the boat together.
I don’t want to give up the wonderful strength of being part of an established church tradition. It is built on a solid foundation. I love our inherited sacred spaces, the prayers that have been passed down from generation to generation, the feeling of being part of something continuous and eternal, and the connection I have, through the Spirit, with my brothers and sisters. in Christ. And yet, I love contemporary music, art and design, current means of expression, the internet, connectivity, the language and food of our time.
All of us who are Christians have one foot in contemporary culture and Church culture, but to cope with the widening gap between the two, we sometimes find ourselves jumping between the two. We jump from the boat to the shore, spend some time there, then return to the boat. We go to church. We listen to “Christian” radio. We are reading a “Christian” book. Then we hop and “go” to a party or dinner with friends, watch Netflix, and read that summer novel. We live in two separate worlds.
God does not call us to live separate lives. The Kingdom of God transcends our world and we are called to be there. Jesus uses metaphors for us such as light, salt and yeast – all things that permeate and change their environment.
My calling is to bridge the gap between contemporary culture and Church culture, and I do this by bringing contemporary culture into the Church and bringing Church culture into contemporary culture – bringing the boat closer from the shore – and I can tell you that it is not. easy.
There are currents pulling on the boat. There are people in the boat with oars, rowing hard, desperately trying to keep the boat off shore, and there are people on the shore with long poles trying their best to steer the boat away!
Over the past 20 years, I have worked closely with the Bible Society and other Christian organizations on several projects aimed at bridging the gap by making the Bible accessible and in a format suitable for contemporary society. Here in Bermuda, the first thing I did in St. Mark’s was put in a huge PA system and incorporate not only modern worship songs, but also use music technology to add contemporary rhythms and sounds to our modern and traditional worship.
Reduce the gap.
We have great visuals – using designed graphics, the web, and have created high quality video content for YouTube and social media.
Reduce the gap.
We have made our Anglican liturgy accessible to children and those with learning difficulties so that they do not feel left out.
Close the gap
We have openly stated that our church is fully inclusive and welcoming.
Reduce the gap.
We write articles for the newspaper to inspire, challenge, generate discussion or bring people back to God.
Reduce the gap.
We use our skills to engage with children and young people both in our church and in our schools and youth groups.
Reduce the gap.
This is a very exciting time for St. Mark’s Church. We are a church family with a God-ordained mission to preach the gospel again to this generation – and that is exactly what we are doing.
• This was adapted from an address Reverend Gavin Tyte gave to the Bermuda Bible Society at their Annual General Meeting. Mr Tyte is the pastor of St Mark’s Anglican Church. Visit stmarks.bm