Worship Well

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Worship Leader Profiles

Noel Richards

Introduction

I was brought up in Llantrisant near Cardiff and attended the local Pentecostal church. My family are all Christians and I am grateful for all that they put into my life.

Around the age of eight or nine years old, I became a Christian and I think God takes these decisions seriously, no matter how young you are. However, I can point to a time when I was 15 and I said, Lord I want to commit my life to you and this time, I really mean it! Til then, I had been a typical teenager, struggling to live by the values of the Kingdom while surrounded by friends at school who lived by other values.

Noel Richards

This decision coincided with the arrival of our new minister, John Glass, straight out of Bible college. He was in his early twenties and became a role model to me. He really took an active role in discipling me. Also, being a guitarist himself, he began to teach me how to play, sing and present myself publicly. Until then, the guitar I had been given a few years previously, was largely unused.

Being part of a Pentecostal church meant that the work of the Holy Spirit was a major focus. In those days, we used to hold waiting meetings. We gathered in the lower hall and said, Here we are Lord, we are waiting to be filled. My first personal encounter with the Holy Spirit was in one of these meetings when I was 16. The sign that we had been filled would be an ability to speak in tongues. This happened for me and many others who were with me at that time. I now felt I was a fully fledged Christian, having received the full package! Being saved, baptised in water and filled with the Holy Spirit.

I soon realised that being filled is not a once for all experience. We leak and need to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. This is what I have endeavoured to do throughout the years that have followed.

FIRST CONCERT

John Glass introduced me to the growing contemporary Christian music scene. This was 1971 and the early days of organisations that gave birth to Alpha magazine and Kingsway Music.

My first Christian concert was at the Colston Hall, Bristol, where Pete Meadows hosted an event called It's Buzz.One of the artists was a young Graham Kendrick. As I watched him perform, I thought to myself This is what I want to do. God planted a seed in my life at that point.

On the recent Dangerous People tour, I did a concert at that same venue. I went to the spot where I had sat and thought of all that had happened to me since that moment when I decided to serve God through my music. There have been many seemingly small opportunities that have come my way. Each one has taken me forward. As I look back, I can see the great distance covered.

The first of these opportunities, was singing at my home church and travelling with John and others when they went out to other churches. On one occasion, John introduced me to his friend who was running Youth for Christ in Bristol. This was how I got involved with schools evangelism and eventually into full time Christian work.

FIRST JOBS

On leaving school I had worked in a drawing office for three years, but found it incredibly boring! I then progressed to something more interesting, selling Beechams products to supermarkets. However, all my spare time was spent doing concerts. My day job was simply a way of paying the bills!

So when I was invited to work full time with Youth for Christ, I went for it. This was the opportunity I had been waiting for.

I spent a year on the road going from mission to mission, event to event, on a very steep learning curve. But overall it was a good time. I had to learn a lot and did a lot of growing up. I am grateful to the people who had input into my life at that stage. Clive Calver in particular was a great encourager.

The songs I was writing were mainly those that contained the Gospel message. I had no idea that I could write songs that the church would sing. As most of the songs we used in worship were by Wesley and his contemporaries I genuinely believed that you had to be dead to be a hymnwriter!

The first song I had published was Lord and Father, King for ever. I wrote it in 1979 and it was published four years later by Thankyou Music.

MEETING TRICIA

I met Tricia on my very first schools mission. This was at Plymouth in 1975, working with Phil Vogel, national director of Youth for Christ at that time. She was one of the senior girls at the first school we visited and was sent out to meet us. She stood outside the school with a friend who was not a Christian.

As I walked across the car park, she said something very strange to that friend: You see that guy there, I am going to marry him. She had never met me but obviously her prophetic gifting was in operation! Three years later we were married.

I went back to Plymouth several times over the next 12 months. Eventually, on Clive Calver's advice (he had become national director of YFC) it was there that I based myself, in a new youth church that was starting up. Tricia was also a part of this church and all of us had a desire for God to use us to affect the city.

My friendship with Tricia developed over the next two years and we married in 1978. 19 years later, we have two children, Sam who is 16 and Amy who is 11. Sam wants to be a professional musician and already works with myself and others.

MOVING TOGETHER

We lived in Plymouth until 1980. The church grew quickly but those of us in leadership were quite young, inexperienced and the pressures were demanding. There was one senior leader and eventually the workload was proving too great. Gerald Coates had come to the church several times and it was to him that we turned for advice. He suggested that the senior leader should take a sabbatical. Why don't you come to Cobham for a couple of years, Gerald said to him. The others can continue to lead the church in Plymouth and we can support and help them.

We liked the idea but we were a community and were committed to being together. If one goes, we all go, was our response.

Suddenly, Gerald had the senior leader, leadership team and congregation all expressing a desire to move to Cobham!

The result was that we closed the church and 50 of us moved to Cobham, 200 miles away in Surrey. We caused quite a stir in the locality, with the local newspaper running the headline: Church closes down and moves out! It was a radical move but 17 years later we clearly see that it was God's leading.

We became part of Cobham Christian Fellowship (now Pioneer People), led by Gerald. Imagine the shock of telling the fellowship that they were about to be invaded by 50 people from the other end of the country! CCF was around 200 people then, so it was quite a large number to absorb.

We also had to find accommodation and jobs. It was one thing to move location but where would we all live and work?

SACRIFICIAL HOSTS

Trish and I moved out of our rented flat in Plymouth, put all our possessions into a van and drove to Cobham. We were expecting Sam at the time so we were among the first to move. We look back now and wonder how we did it. The people of CCF were very sacrificial as they opened their homes to us. Trish and I were accommodated for three months by a couple who had a two bedroom house. They gave us one bedroom until such time as we found a place to rent.

We thought we would never be able to buy a property. I had been in full time Christian work since 1975 and we had no money saved for this. Cobham is also one of the most expensive places to live in the UK! However, God has been kind to us. I was offered a really good job and did this for two and a half years. It was God's provision. It enabled us to obtain a mortgage and buy a property. We came to Cobham with nothing but all these years later, we feel we have so much.

MORE SONGWRITING

I had led worship at the church in Plymouth, as well as being a musical evangelist. When we moved to Cobham, Gerald drew me into his ministry team and I began to get involved with the worship.

Mick Ray was the key worship leader at this time and wrote worship songs which have been used all over the world. He was a great encouragement to me and helped me develop my skills as a worship leader. It is great to remember all those who have influenced me over the years.

When the Cobham musicians were asked to record Songs of Fellowship volume 8 for Kingsway, they used my worship song Lord and father. That was 1983 and it was the first song of mine that was published. A couple of years later, I wrote You laid aside your majesty. It was not a deliberate action to sit down and write a worship song. It just happened one night when I was at home looking after Sam.

The song began to travel the country, much to my amazement. The turning point came in 1987, with All heaven declares. Trish and I wrote this together and it only took a couple of hours. We never thought it would become such an instant favourite with people.

Noel Richards in concert

Sometimes I set time aside to write, but that can be frustrating as you wait for the inspirational spark to come. Many of the songs happen suddenly and then I rush to get some space to put the idea down. You laid aside your majesty, By your side and To be in your presence all happened spontaneously. Songs with a more hymn-like feel, such as He has risen and Come Lord Jesus have taken longer to be crafted.

Trish is involved in all the songs; in some she has made a contribution with either the melody or lyrics. Sometimes we get inspired together; other times I come in with an idea and she acts as a sounding board. If an idea passes the Tricia test then I take it further.

I do not have any particular hobbies or interests outside of work, family and friends. I am in the privileged position of pursuing my ‘hobby’ (music) and getting paid for it!

Believe it or not, I do relax by going shopping! I've tried to stay fit by swimming and biking but havent done this for about six months! I tried flying kites last year. I understand you can get big ones that actually lift you off the ground. For holidays give me anywhere with sun and sea. I hate being cold. The only thing I would change about Cobham would be to move it to California!

In the last two years, there has been a sense of receiving something fresh from God. There have been times of being overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit in a way I had never experienced before. It has been wonderful.

From the interview "Proclaiming the glory of the risen Lord" Cover story - April 1997, Issue 251 of Renewal Magazine by Wallace Boulton


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