An Interview with Kim McMechan

Nov 12, 2002 03:00 AM EST


Kim McMechan is a worship leader at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She has been featured on recent Vineyard Music Canada recordings such as All I Need and The Mystery. Kim writes out of her home and also teaches creative journal workshops in various contexts such as schools, youth conferences and worship gatherings. She and her husband will welcome their first child into the world this spring of 2002.

VINEYARDMUSIC.COM: What is God doing in your heart, and life, these days?

KIM: I'm just finishing up a part-time job I've had making cappuccinos at a small cafe in downtown Winnipeg. My husband and I are getting ready to have a baby in the spring, and so life has been incredibly 'practical' recently. I have taken a short time off from worship leading in my home church at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard and have found it very refreshing; a time to re-focus and gain new vision. I have been aggressively pursuing many areas of writing, and I especially love songwriting from the place where you know "it may never be heard." I think it's a different and equally valid place to write for an audience of believers that you desire to serve with words and music, but this type of "hidden" writing is incredibly releasing for me right now. I feel like I am finding my own song more than ever before.

VINEYARDMUSIC.COM: What is currently your favorite worship song, that says what you most want to say to God? Why?

KIM: Lily of the Valley (by David Ruis) is definitely my very favorite worship song right now, and has been for some time. For starters, I just think that the melody is so beautiful, and beautiful melodies unlock vulnerability inside of me. The words to the song though, are so fragile and pure. When I heard the song for the first time I thought, "This is what I would have written if I'd had a moment of simplicity."

I find being overcomplicated is something I battle with, so the simplicity of this song really undoes me. It says just enough and just not enough, so I am left aching afterwards. It's all about the simple attributes of God, and the tension in the song that never allows you to completely come unglued makes it very potent.

When David asked me to sing this song on The Mystery, I felt very honored. At the time, I was going through a place where I felt very desperate to know Jesus more than ever before, maybe even for the first time, as it often seems. When I sang the song on the recording, the statements of the song were almost questions, and searched for something more than I knew for sure. It became a prayer of intercession to really know who God is, more personally and experientially than before. The song is still that cry for me.

VINEYARDMUSIC.COM: What is your favorite worship (or other) song that you have written? Why?

KIM: My favorite worship song that I have written is a song called Sometimes. I wrote it from start to finish in about half an hour one day a few years ago in a moment of complete honesty. For the first little while, I could hardly breathe when I sang it for people, it was so personal and sacred to me. I submitted it for a recording project once and I was asked to do a few small re-writes on it to help it to make a little more sense, but I couldn't change it. I felt that for that particular song, it would have been wrong for me. It felt like God was wanting it just for Himself. I decided to keep it and that I didn't care if anyone ever heard it. That song remains extremely sacred to me to this day.

VINEYARDMUSIC.COM: What scripture verse is most deeply impacting you these days, and why?

KIM: The story about Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4) has been haunting me for some time. One day during a worship session in Anaheim, Jesus' statement in this passage just shook me... "If you knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water." I just stopped and thought, 'What really is this living water?' because I wonder if we really "get it" sometimes. What is this gift of God Jesus was speaking about, really? I must know how good it is. I must know what the big deal is, because I am sure I have not tasted it by the cupful. Even the drips I've had are enough to ruin me. So how good is it, really? "If you only knew..." Those words are ringing in my head because I know deep down that I don't know. So this story is stirring a thirst inside of me.

VINEYARDMUSIC.COM: A lot of creative and artistic types struggle with their local church involvement. Could you address them with a word of perspective or encouragement?

KIM: I know a lot of artists who struggle with not having a place to express themselves in their local church. I have seen many become bitter and air their frustrations verbally whenever they can, and then I have seen others who desire to have their art forms accessed by the church, but continue to create no matter what. I believe that we can make a way for greater expressions of art through prayer and courage, but I honestly believe that if the door is not open, we have to trust that it is God who has not opened it, and not blame it on others.

I have a rule that I live by: There's always one thing you can do. If your pastor won't let you do fire-breathing on Sunday mornings, there's somewhere else you can do it! If your songs are too wild for a church meeting, there's somewhere else that needs them, like the cafe downtown. I believe so strongly that if we are faithful to what is in our hearts, it will find its own way in God's timing. We have to be faithful to whatever God puts in our hands. That is all we can do. I know many people (including myself sometimes) who spend so much time wishing they had more opportunities to express their hearts, that they miss the little places they do have. When we do this, we are taking our gold pieces and burying them in the ground because we are afraid. We are afraid of the process of art which, most of the time, doesn't look like much. I think that's why it's easy to blame others; because then we don't have to do anything about it. It's safer that way.

VINEYARDMUSIC.COM: What ways do you express you heart's cry to God, other than musical worship or spoken prayer?

KIM: Silence is a constant river of expression for me. In fact, when I need life or need refilling, I don't turn to music. Some people are very surprised by this since I seem to surround myself with music more often than not. But things done in silence give me the most life. Journaling is one of these things. I do a lot of stream-of-consciousness writing, and a lot of poetry and song lyrics never make it into melodies. In my experience, writing has the ability to access things that are left hidden in other art forms and in spoken prayer. I also discovered collage a few years back. I think I just felt like playing, you know, cutting and pasting. I'm not very good at drawing, so I thought cutting out photos and pictures might be good for me. I had so much fun doing it and meanwhile I discovered how powerful images can be. So I pick a topic, say a worry or a frustration, or a revelation I've had, and I begin madly tearing out images that seem to relate to it, even if I can't explain why. I fling it up to Heaven like a prayer and when I'm done, and I feel very healed.

VINEYARDMUSIC.COM: Do you think a worship leader's job should be to focus on worshiping God themselves when they are before a congregation, or more on leading the people into a worship experience?

KIM: This is a question I have long struggled with and have had many engaging debates with people about. I used to get told a lot that when I led worship, I would go too far into my own little world and lose everybody. So I spent time trying to stay focused on the congregation, making sure they were with me, bringing in an upbeat song if they were nodding off, that sort of thing. When I started to do this, I felt like I lost something very precious and others noticed too. I think that for me at the time, it was not what the Lord was asking of me. Then I came into a season where I felt like I could finally do it. I began to love the act of serving the body, of being a guide into the presence of God through a well-chosen song list or a well-timed scripture verse, even if they weren't ground-shaking for me. I found it less draining and more effective to lead worship in this way, without demanding of myself that I be emotionally attached to every minute.

Around that time, I began at some point to fear that I lacked integrity if I was not full-out worshiping during my whole set. It was a season in our church where the services were really dry and difficult and I was looking for something to blame. So I said to myself, "How dare you think you can come into the presence of God half-heartedly," and started to insist that it be all or nothing. I would either worship from the bottom of my heart or quit leading. I think I unnecessarily exhausted myself through that. And one morning I felt God say in a way, "Chill out. Just because you don't personalize every sentence of every song for 45 minutes out of the week, doesn't mean you don't love me. Give yourself a break."

I'm realizing more and more that God is into simple "life" things too. We tend to say, "this over here is spiritual, and this is not." But I am becoming more and more aware of how His delight is in us in everything we do. So I suppose that we must all be aware of our own journey in this. I think we all have different tasks in different seasons and we can't necessarily put blanket statements on ourselves. I have found the phrase " eye on Heaven; one eye on the people..." helpful at times.

I suppose my encouragement for anyone trying to own their own style of leading would ultimately be to be faithful to what is in your own heart. The church would be so dull if everyone were cookie-cutter versions of the "perfect" worship leader. Give yourself permission to be imperfect.

VINEYARDMUSIC.COM: What are the latest projects you have been, or will be involved in?

KIM: I have recently been involved in Vineyard Music Canada's All I Need, which was recorded in B.C. last year with a number of worship leaders from across Canada, and Vineyard Music Canada's The Mystery, which is a collaboration of 2 other worship leaders and myself, and musicians from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

These two projects were vastly different from each other. All I Need was recorded live, and each of us just did one or two songs the whole evening. Because a lot of us just met for the first time that week during rehearsals, it felt very different than your average worship service. But it became an incredible time of supporting each other and cheering for one another when the arrangements began to unfold and come together. The recording of The Mystery was done in a studio with only a few people coming in and out, praying, journaling, and worshiping. But we had some incredible moments of sensing the presence of God in there. The band and the worship leaders became very vulnerable with each other. We all sang and played on each others' songs and they all became our own. It was a very intense week of recording. I love that album. Doing it was so powerful and personal, it was like giving birth. A lot of the songs on it are very precious to me

By Pauline J.
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