Sing your faith. Refresh your spirit.

a choral and spiritual retreat in the heartland

First-Plymouth Church, Lincoln, Nebraska | July 19-21, 2019

Inscribed above the main entrance to First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, are the words, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” We invite you to come to join us here in the heartland for a weekend choral and spiritual retreat—a gathering intended to offer inspiration for those who love to sing their faith and healing for those who long to refresh their spirit through singing and worship. Tom Trenney will shepherd the retreat choir as our pastoral leader in rehearsal and in Sunday worship. Ariel Merivil will share his spiritual gifts as a true minister of music. Rev. Barbara Crafton’s deep and meaningful reflections will comfort and challenge us. Dr. Michael Hawn will open our eyes to a broader vision of our faith experience, opening us to new vistas of joy. We look forward to welcoming you to the sanctuary of our church and to the heart of our ministry where you can truly sing your faith and refresh your spirit.

Retreat location: First-Plymouth Church, 2000 D Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68502

Retreat dates: Friday evening, July 19, through Sunday noon, July 21, 2019

Retreat fee: $75.00 (includes two meals and choral music)
**Partial and full scholarships will be made available to anyone who expresses a need.

First-Plymouth Church is easily accessible, within minutes, from Lincoln Airport (LNK)

These hotels are conveniently located just minutes from both the Lincoln airport and from First-Plymouth Church.

Graduate Hotel
141 N 9th St, Lincoln, NE 68508
(402) 475-4011

Cornhusker Hotel by Marriott
333 S 13th St, Lincoln, NE 68508
(402) 474-7474

Hilton Garden Inn (Haymarket)
801 R St, Lincoln, NE 68508
(402) 475-9000

For more information, please contact or call 402.476.7565, ext. 222 

Retreat Leaders


Rev. Barbara Crafton
Barbara Cawthorne Crafton is an Episcopal priest, author and spiritual director who has served in a variety of New York parish and institutional settings in nearly 40 years of ordained ministry. Crafton is one of General Seminary's spiritual directors, and is Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Theology. She is also the Spiritual Teacher at Marble Collegiate Church.

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Michael Hawn
Michael Hawn, is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. He is a well-known clinician throughout the United States in the areas of children's choirs, congregational song, and worship. Hawn is also a student of global music and cross-cultural worship, having traveled to over forty countries.

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Ariel Merivil
Ariel Merivil is Associate Minister of Music at First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, a position he began in 2017 following a decade of service to Atlanta First United Methodist Church where he served as Director of Music, Worship, and Administration. A passionate and gifted musician, Ariel enjoys leading congregations in diverse and meaningful expressions of music in worship that allow others to powerfully experience the divine presence of God.

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Tom Trenney
Tom Trenney serves as Minister of Music to First-Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he shepherds three adult choirs, accompanies the congregation on the Lied organ, and preaches sermons. With Tom’s guidance, First-Plymouth’s choirs have performed at regional and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association. In fall 2018, Tom is Visiting Conductor of the acclaimed Wartburg (College) Choir, and, in spring 2019, he will be Visiting Conductor of the Doane (University) Choir.

Tentative Retreat Schedule


Friday, July 19

Please wear comfortable clothes.

5:45-6:15 p.m.   Registration and Meet-and-Greet Reception

6:15-6:30 p.m.   Seating of the Choir

6:30-8:45 p.m.   Rehearsal with Tom Trenney

9:00-9:30 p.m.   Compline (sung by First-Plymouth’s Schola cantorum)


Saturday, July 20

Please wear comfortable clothes. Breakfast on your own.

8:00-8:50 a.m. “Early Risers” Breakout Session

  • Choir Yoga

  • Early Risers’ Bible Study with First-Plymouth Associate Pastor Patrick Messer: Why Worship? Hear how the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament answer that answers that question. What’s in it for God; what’s in it for us; what’s possible in the world with a people formed by worship?

  • Singing Beyond Ourselves with Michael Hawn: One of the most pressing issues in society and the church is engaging and appreciating those different from us. Perhaps we cannot more fully encounter the Other until we build bridges with those who view God and God’s work in the world from a different perspective. In this session, we will share songs from the world church to open our eyes and ears to the gifts of those beyond our experience.

  • Composing from the Inside Out with Tom Trenney: Though we can’t always hear directly from a composer about his or her music, for these few minutes we will look into the mind of a composer in hopes that seeing through a composer’s eyes may open our minds and hearts to more thoughtfully interpret any composer’s works.

9:00-9:20 a.m. Morning Prayer with Dr. Hawn and Rev. Crafton

9:30-10:45 a.m. Rehearsal with Tom Trenney

11:00-11:50 a.m. Breakout Session #1

  • Singing in an MP3 Culture with Michael Hawn: How do we engage people in the act of communal singing when they are primarily musical consumers via recorded music? How do we help them find their voice in worship when they are convinced that their instrument is not worthy to be heard? This session will explore aural/oral teaching techniques to pull singers into the congregational singing experience.

  • Vested and Ready to Sing with Barbara Crafton: No matter who you are, from choir director to choir mom, so much goes into bringing it all together for the moment when we offer our best to God in church. Whatever else one might say about it, preparing church music is not for sissies. Let’s talk. 

  • On Building a Healthy Congregation Rev. Dr. Jim Keck: First-Plymouth’s Senior Minister, Jim Keck, shares a pastoral perspective on becoming a faithful congregation and creating beloved community in our time. 

  • African Drum Circle

  • Then Sings My Soul with Ariel Merivil and friends: Join in an interactive and engaging round-table discussion on the challenges and possibilities of choral singing.

12:00-1:00 p.m. Lunch (included)

12:15-12:45 p.m. Carillon concert with Brent Shaw

1:00-1:50 p.m. Breakout Session #2

  • Singing Beyond Ourselves with Michael Hawn: see description above

  • Ego: Good or Bad with Barbara Crafton: It’s true that all good gifts come from God, but does that mean that it’s wrong to be proud of ourselves if we know we’ve done a good job? When it comes to our performance as church musicians of any kind, what’s the difference between positive self-regard and insufferable conceit? 

  • And May God Give Us Faith to Sing Always with Tom Trenney: So many workshops focus on the 'how to,' but this session will encourage us to reflect upon the 'why do.' Come to refresh your commitment to your vocation and to reaffirm the purpose of your ministry.

  • African Drum Circle

  • Then Sings My Soul with Ariel Merivil and friends: see description above

2:00-3:30 p.m. Rehearsal with TomTrenney

3:30-4:20 p.m. Refreshments & Hymn-Sing with Michael Hawn

4:30-5:20 p.m. (Optional) Breakout Session #3           

  • Choral Reading Session with Ariel Merivil- discover meaningful, compelling repertoire for your church choirs- large and small.

  • Vested and Ready to Sing with Barbara Crafton:  see description above

  • Carillon Tour with Brent Shaw- Explore Nebraska’s first and largest ‘Singing Tower.’

  • Open Console at the Lied Organ with Tom Trenney—Try your hands (and feet!) at the 110- rank Schoenstein Organ.

5:20-7:15 p.m. Free Time and Dinner on your own

7:15-8:30 p.m. Rehearsal with Tom Trenney

8:35-9:00 p.m. Keynote Message from Barbara Crafton


Sunday, July 21

Please wear long black pants or skirts and a solid bright color blue top (any shade).

8:00-9:00 a.m. Rehearsal

9:00-9:50 a.m. Festival Worship

9:50-10:20 a.m. Continental Breakfast (included)

10:30-11:25 a.m. Festival Worship

11:30 a.m. Farewell Reception


(Music will be provided onsite at registration)

  • Beautiful Savior- arr. F. Melius Christiansen (Augsburg)

  • For Everyone Born- arr. Tom Trenney (Morningstar)

  • I Will Make a Way- Tom Trenney (Morningstar)

  • O Love- Elaine Hagenberg (Beckenhorst Press)

  • Sing in Endless Morn of Light (from Blest Pair of Sirens)- C. Hubert H. Parry (CPDL)