ELM Blog: Music Ministry to a New Beat

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By Tom Gehring

The lockdown-era of the ongoing Covid pandemic had many of us exploring new hobbies and interests. For some, they nurtured sourdough starters and brought forth bountiful loaves. Others dove deep into the rabbit hole of brewing specialty coffee at home. Others still (most of us, if I remember) learned a lot about the world of exotic cats and the rather colorful characters who exist in that realm. For myself, it was an opportunity to do something I had been thinking about starting for decades: I started learning how to DJ.

Music has always been a major part of my life, and sharing music with others has been an integral part of how I enjoy the art. In elementary school, I always volunteered to provide music when we had a class party, and, as the child of a pastor, I attended more than my fair share of wedding receptions and was always enthralled by how the DJs could get an entire room of people out of their chairs, away from their food, and onto a dancefloor. And then, as a student at Luther Seminary, I had the chance to attend a house party planned and hosted by conveners of Decolonize Lutheranism. In between offerings of spoken word poetry, ongoing queer theology studies, and imbibing good food and drink, we danced to music provided by a DJ. It was one of the more authentic experiences I had of beloved community while a seminarian.

In January of 2021, I began my journey as a DJ, learning how to mix, how to match beats, how to blend between tracks, and transition across moods. I didn’t want the focus on me and my command of the tracks, rather I wanted to create a shared experience among the people who heard what I played. I was and still am fascinated and motivated by the concept of a group of people joining together and not just encountering the music I played, but co-creating a moment in time where we share in the same energies and emotions driven by the music.

I eventually created a persona for myself: DJ Happy Accidents (yes, in reference to the famous painter!) and started performing on the streaming platform Twitch. For just over 2.5 years now I have regularly played music on the internet and been intentional to keep the focus on the experience. For those who tune in, we not only enjoy the music and vibes together, but we share what we’re experiencing in life. Watching the people show up in Twitch Chat and support one another through hardships, while celebrating each other’s joys has been thrilling to see. When close colleagues first told me that in some ways, Twitch Chat was my mission field and my DJing was a ministry, I was resistant to the idea. I am of the opinion that we don’t need to ruin any more art forms by making Christian versions of them, and I have taken care to not bill myself as a Christian DJ.

However, in forming and creating this community online, as well as having opportunities to perform in-person, I do consider this hobby as a ministry. When we’re all caught up in the vibe of the music, I’ve found that people are willing and eager to show up as their authentic selves. The dance floor, or the chat window on Twitch, is a safe space for people to bring their full selves and engage in a co-creative process. We connect over the music, yes, but we also connect over the expression of emotion. And, for me at least, that is exactly why I continue to do this hobby.

If you’re interested in checking out my recorded mixes, want to tune in live on twitch, or shoot me an email, just follow this linktree: https://linktr.ee/djhappyaccidents

Tom Gehring (He/They) is a pastor currently working as a chaplain in Metro Chicago providing spiritual care for individuals living with, or at risk for HIV. In their free time Tom loves to DJ, spend time outside, play lots of games (both video and board), read excessively thick fantasy novels, and work out with his lovely gym community. Tom has been serving as a member of ELM’s board of directors since October of ’23 and is honored to be a part of this ministry.

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