Jeremy Benjamin (Zeyl) and his family began their cross-country tour at Charlottetown Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in P.E.I. on June 3 and will end in B.C. in September. They’ll be visiting Emmanuel CRC in Calgary by the time you read this in late August. Jeremy, his wife Lara and their two children are on a unique road trip – bringing the Heidelberg Catechism in song to Christian communities across Canada.
At each stop of the tour Jeremy leads worship, joining local praise teams and teaching congregations to sing “I Am Not My Own,” a song he wrote as part of the Heidelberg Project. Each time, Jeremy records the communal singing, which will eventually lead to the development of a single video performance of the song that includes thousands of voices from coast to coast. The tour has a few goals. Jeremy is being sponsored in part by the Canadian arm of the Christian Reformed Church, which hired him to promote the upcoming Canadian CRC National Gathering in Edmonton, Alberta.
|Leading children’s worship in Ottawa|
The tour is also a fundraiser for local mission projects along the way and for the aid and development work of another sponsor, World Renew, with a particular emphasis on the Canadian National Foodgrains Bank. Finally, it’s an opportunity to introduce and advance Jeremy’s own music worship initiatives. The tour is serving “to remind us that our stories are all a part of God’s story,” Paul Vanderkooy of Milford, Nova Scotia, says, “and that we are united with brothers and sisters across the country and throughout the world because of God’s calling in our lives.”
Three years ago Jeremy Benjamin developed the Heidelberg Project, releasing a CD containing songs intended for corporate worship and congregational singing based on the Heidelberg Catechism, a well-known Christian confession. Jeremy’s contemporization of the foundational first question and answer of the Catechism (“What is my only comfort in life and in death?”) resulted in “I Am Not My Own,” a song that has garnered significant attention and popularity for its simplicity, singability and authentic faith testimony. The unexpected popularity of this song resulted in a number of opportunities for Jeremy’s gifts and testimony.
Funds raised for World Renew will go to people in Nigeria struggling with famine. For every dollar World Renew raises, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank will contribute four dollars. Jeremy hopes the tour will raise at least $500,000.
As a singer-songwriter, Jeremy has already used his gifts in a number of different contexts. In addition to serving as a church worship ministry leader, he’s a former member of the folk trio Isobelle Gunn and the Body and Soul Collective. It’s a challenging time for artists in the music industry, as many music consumers spend more supporting their coffee habit than on songs that can take months and years to develop. Jeremy wants to use his own gifts in the popular music industry while also changing the church’s perception of worship music.
“All of our lives are worship,” he says, “and the gifts God gives to us are to be used for Kingdom purposes. Our lives are both worship and mission.”
This became clear at the tour’s stop in Montreal, where Jeremy played a concert at the Seafarers Centre. “It was good for us to see the participation of seafarers who normally don’t visit our centre,” Michelle DePooter, Seafarers Chaplain, says. “After everyone sang ‘I am Not My Own,’ a Chinese seafarer was wondering what the song meant and one of the Southern Baptist students was able to sit with him and tell him about Jesus. Without the song and music, the conversation might not have happened in the same way.”
All of these stories are part of what Jeremy knows is God’s story. God is weaving all the narratives together in a beautiful and remarkable way. Tour participants can see God blessing, nourishing, inspiring and challenging each community. The gospel is being proclaimed in local churches but also in the national context. “Out here on the east coast,” Vanderkooy says, “we sometimes feel a bit isolated from the rest of the denomination. Yet with Jeremy dropping by we were reminded of the heritage we share with believers across the country and the very basic truth we profess in the Heidelberg Catechism – that I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.”
A Church Near You?
Find tour updates at iamnotmyown.org.
The Next Chapter
The Canadian National Gathering of the CRC, which takes place every three years, will be held at King’s University May 24-26, 2019.