Behind the Scenes of the Storied A Capella Offerings of The Hills Church of Christ
Dallas is home to one of the richest religious music scenes in the country. Over the summer, we'll be attending services, both big and small, of many denominations, as well talking to musicians , directors and pastors.
The Hills Church of Christ's 8:30 a.m. service is now their only a cappella worship service -- there are also six instrumental services now. But before they added those, The Hills main camps in North Richland Hills was the largest of the nation's 13,000 a cappella-only Churches of Christ.
With the lyrics on the big screen over the stage, the church sings classic hymns like "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "Blessed Assurance." It's one of the few a capella services in the area. "We do the a capella services well," Lead Worship Minister Ryan Christian noted. "It's vibrant, so they still love coming to attend that."
The Hills only offered a cappella services until six years ago. They began offering instrumental services hoping to attract new members, to the disappointment and disapproval of some of the more traditional members of the Churches of Christ. But their risk seems to have paid off: the instrumental services are more popular, especially among new members, and attract a more diverse congregation. The 11 a.m. service at the North Richland Hills campus even has a Spanish translator.
The a cappella services are led by one of the church's three twelve-member praise teams, which rotate each week. During every third week, when one's group is scheduled to perform, the members meet for about two hours on Wednesday night and then on Sunday morning for about two and a half hours, including the service time.
The Hills has only four full time worship ministers: Christian and Epps are in charge of the North Richland Hills campus, and then the Southlake and West Fort Worth campuses both have their own music directors. While it isn't required, all of the a cappella vocalists and all but three of the instrumental team are members of the church.
The church's main campus has a two-story lobby that includes a coffee shop, a gift shop, a kid's playground and TVs with video of the service. The attire of the congregation seems to match the music of the service; the a cappella service is a little more formal, with a good deal of suits and ties, whereas the instrumental services include more jeans. The Hills attracts about 5,000 total weekly attendees to its various campuses and services, with more than a thousand attending the single a cappella service.