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Rehearsing virtually, The Nettletons are poised for their Triennium debut


Pastor, worship leaders, executive presbyter blend their talents from across the miles

by Mari Graham Evans | Presbyterian News Service

Four of the five Nettletons rehearse in person. From left are Jerry Chapman, Carla Dos Santos-Webb, Rich Richards and Steve Lindsley. Not pictured is Nettletons’ member Aisha Brooks-Lytle. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Headlining the Presbyterian Youth Triennium’s music ministry is The Nettletons — PYT’s house worship band formed especially for this vibrant five-day youth-centered event. And while it’s not unusual to have a worship band at a church event, putting a band together for an event that occurs every three years can be a challenge.

“At PYT we build the event from scratch — thinking about this specific group of young people in this specific moment in time and history. And the band is a part of that moment, uncovering the songs and refrains that surface to the top of the Triennium body,” says Gina Yeager-Buckley, Mission Associate for Formation (PYT and Youth Ministries) for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “Going with that, we encourage our bands and music leaders to not use phrases like ‘I’m sure you all know this one!’  Because at Triennium — with such a wide, broad and diverse collection of churches, regions, countries — chances are there ARE people who do not know ‘that song.’”

The term “Nettleton” refers to the hymn tune of the hymn and theme for the 2019 Triennium, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Leading the Nettletons is the Rev. Steve Lindsley, a pastor in Charlotte, N.C., and Jerry Chapman, a worship leader for two Methodist churches in Winston-Salem, N.C. Other members are the Rev. Aisha Brooks-Lytle, the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of  Greater Atlanta;  Carla Dos Santos-Webb, a worship leader for a church in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Rich Richards, a director of music at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, N.C.

When Aisha Brooks-Lytle isn’t singing with The Nettletons, she’s Presbytery of Greater Atlanta’s executive presbyter. (Contributed photo)

Getting all these different people together to form the Nettletons required an unconventional process.

“After Jerry and I finished [the Montreat Youth Conference] in 2017, someone mentioned that we ought to do Triennium,” Lindsley said. “So, I reached out to Gina. Gina came around to us after a while and said, ‘We’d like for you to lead music.’”

Four out of the five worship services at Triennium take place in Purdue University’s expansive and historic Elliot Hall of Music. Having played as a duo at previous conferences, this new larger venue required Lindsley and Chapman to deviate from their usual two-person approach.

“We didn’t really have a ready band,” says Lindsley. “We weren’t really a band. We’re a duo, so it was kind of neat … the Nettletons have never been a band until this Triennium. So, Jerry and I [asked ourselves], ‘Who do we want to be in this band?’ We kind of got to assemble this ideal band out of nothing … The interesting thing is that none of us live in the same city. So that has been different as far as how we have been able to practice. We’ve met in person a couple of times, but we’ve done a lot of work virtually. It’s a very different way of doing the band for sure.”

“I’ve played music in just about every possible setting, but this will certainly be the largest worship experience I’ve ever led,” Chapman wrote in an email. “I imagine that hearing several thousand folks singing praises will be a spectacular thing. Also, the folks in the band all excel in their own special way, and it will be interesting to hear how it all comes together.”

The theme of this year’s event is “Here’s My Heart,” found in the final line of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Attendees will find this theme not only woven through the activities they participate in but in the very heart of the music the Nettletons will perform and lead.

“To me, [Here’s My Heart] means dedicating everything to Jesus, from our very core,” said Chapman. “Not an easy thing to do. Our hope is that the songs will point the way towards that sort of dedication.”

“We’re intentionally choosing music that has substance to it” said Lindsley. “There are a lot of praise songs out there that are theologically and Biblically kind of thin. We as musicians and as a band are drawn to the songs that are more robust — songs that are not only about singing praise, but about living praise.

“And I think that’s where the ‘heart’ comes into it. We want to present and lead songs that people can take with them after this is over. Not just the songs that they can take back home, but songs that they can use to inform them and motivate them to be better disciples.”

For Yeager-Buckley, it’s this exact sort of thoughtfulness that makes her so excited about the Nettletons.

“What other group of musician/ministry leaders would take the time to research the actual hymn tune of the conference theme and base their name on that tune?” she asked. “I get excited about The Nettletons because I think that they reflect what we’re focused on for this Triennium: passion. And seeing your passion as a gift from God to be shared. To be given. To say to the world, ‘Here’s my heart / my song, my poem, my voice, my thinking, my ability to care, etc.’ That your passion is most often God saying to you, ‘Here you are — here is what I’ve given you, gifted you with, now you put it back out there!’ I think the Triennium participants will see this blend of passion, prayer, leadership and pure joy when they see and hear the band.”

Make sure to follow PYT on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to be up to date on all of the Triennium excitement. The official event hashtag is #PYT2019.

Presbyterian Youth Triennium is a gathering for high school age youth from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church that occurs every three years. The 2019 event is July 16-20, 2019 at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The theme for the 2019 event is “Here’s My Heart.” The Presbyterian Youth Triennium is supported by your gifts to the Pentecost Offering.


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