March is women’s history month! In honor of all the women who have faithfully lead us in worship, we are featuring an article on some of the history of women in worship over the past 50 years. Two female pioneers blazed a path in worship leading in the 1990’s: Rita Springer in the US and Darlene Zschech in Australia. In Part 2 of our series, we look at Rita’s journey in leading worship and training other women in worship.
BY SUSAN FONTAINE GODWIN: It thrills me to hear and be inspired by so many truly anointed female worship leaders today, like the Bethel Music team. However, like many areas of today’s women’s movement, we’re seeing progress but there is much more room for growth. Former Worship Leader managing editor and media consultant, Melissa Riddle-Chalos writes,
“Generally speaking, women are wired to be intuitive, creative, nurturing, and patient. We are also intelligent, practical, and more than capable of critical decision making. These abilities are infinitely valuable in church leadership. And yet, in most evangelical churches, women are relegated to roles that have no authoritative voice. There, women rock the babies, teach the children, feed the hungry, welcome the seeker, lead Bible studies for our sisters, and most all the ministries integral to church growth. We even do most of the praying — perhaps the most important work of the church— and yet, our gifts, callings and abilities are rarely, if ever, given a real seat at the table.”
God has given Rita Springer a seat at the table over the past 20 years. A gifted worship leader, Rita started writing music for the church as part of the Vineyard movement in the late 1980’s into the 90’s. Her love of music flowed out as an extension of her passionate relationship with God and what she describes as her musical “journal to God in private” which later became her public worship. “She worships as if she’s got nothing to lose,” says popular worship leader and songwriter Jared Anderson.
“I didn’t start leading on the main stage,” Rita explains in a CBN.com interview. “This position opened up for the kindergartners…The Lord said, ‘I want you to lead worship in here. This is the best congregation you’ll ever have.’ Leading worship for children for me just demolished the barriers.”
Rita has released ten studio albums, All I Have in 2000 with Floodgate Records, Created to Worship in 2001 with E1 Music, Effortless in 2002 with Word Records, Rise Up: Live Worship in 2004 with Floodgate Records, I Have to Believe in 2005 with Found Records, Worth It All in 2007 with Koch Records, Beautiful You in 2008 with E1 Music, In This Forever in 2011 with Integrity Music, The Playlist in 2012 with Integrity Music, and Battles in 2017 with Gateway Records.
Born out of that deep desire and to see women free through the tools of the Word, Worship and Prayer, she started her own women’s conference in 2000 called ‘Fragrant Oil’. In 2008 she began a worship school called DIVE (Deep – Innovative – Vertical – Expression). The School trains and encourages upcoming worship leaders all over the world with weeklong intensive one-on-one courses. Staying true to her calling, Rita continues to write new songs and leads worship at churches, conferences, and events around the country. Rita released her first book in 2013, “Finding Eve”. In July of that same year, Rita joined the staff of Gateway Church, located in Southlake, TX as an Artist in Residence.
One way she has kept her music fresh might be her close relationship and mentorship of young worship songwriters around the world—many of whom she calls upon for help with production and songwriting, according to an article by Daniel Hopkins of Gateway Church. “They call me Mama Bear,” she says. That diversity was represented on the platform during the recording of Battles. She had members of Bethel Music and Gateway Worship together to be her backing band that night. “I just wanted the stage to look like my family—like my kids,” she says. “To me, that’s why this album is so great.”
Rita says that mentoring is one of her greatest joys. “I love to encourage people. They say encouragement is just to throw courage on someone,” she says, “And mentoring is a one-on-one encounter where you give away what He has taught you.” She says she loves mentoring young female worship artists. Mentoring young artistic women, just having this one-on-one encounter where you give away what He’s taught you,” Rita says in an interview with Kris Vallotton.
“The common denominator in all of this revolves around that we’ve been fractured, and because we’ve all been fractured, there’s pain as a result of that, and for me, there’s a melody inside the pain, and the melody inside the pain is what’s beautiful to the Lord and that’s I think the truth of worship…I’m not talking corporate worship, I’m talking worship of the soul…of the heart….(Mark 14:3 – the woman with the alabaster jar).”
Many of Rita’s songs are written specifically about being authentic and honest before God about our brokenness and the beauty that comes out of offering it to God so He can set us free.
Former Worship Leader managing editor and media consultant, Melissa Riddle-Chalos writes: “If I’m totally honest, here in 2018, I don’t see any significant turn in the tide, suggesting the Church has moved beyond theological posturing to recognize, value and include the contributions of women in leadership.”
Certainly, recent polls suggest that Christians are increasingly comfortable with women in ministry. Millions more women attend churches than do men. More women — in charismatic and mainline churches, especially — have been ordained as pastors and priests than in decades past. More women are finding their place in worship leadership, which is heartening. There’s something symbolic about seeing a woman on stage, behind a microphone, her voice calling out in praise. Symbolically, it speaks volumes.
“We are impoverished without the balance of female leadership and the need for it will only grow stronger in the years ahead,” says John Chisum, Managing Partner of Nashville Christian Songwriters.
Who are some of your favorite female worship leaders? What unique aspects do you think women bring to worship? What would help equip and support women in worship leadership roles? Answer below in comments.
Susan Fontaine Godwin is CCS’s Founder/CVO, an educator and long-time member of the Christian arts community with more than 33 years of experience in the Christian media industry, church copyright administration and copyright management. Susan is an author and speaker and frequently writes for several Christian magazines and online publications. She serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Mobile.
About Christian Copyright Solutions: CCS’s quest is to help churches and Christian ministries “do music right.” CCS is an expert on church music copyrights and our primary focus is providing licensing and clear educational resources to churches, as well as representation, administration, and advocacy for copyright owners. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.