On Tuesday, November 12, 2013, Chris Antill died unexpectedly of congestive heart failure. Chris was the Director of Music and Worship at Fort Walton Beach First United Methodist Church in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and had effectively served in church music and worship ministries for over 20 years.
Just three months before his death, I (the Editor) received an encouraging email from Chris. He wrote,
We are launching a brand new service at my church this Sunday that is going to be Ancient-Future/convergent. I have applied everything I have learned from you in ‘purposefully crafting the liturgy.’ It is going to be a very liturgical feel for a UMC service (processional, robes, crucifer, acolytes, collect for the day, etc.), but with a mixture of traditional hymnody and modern music. I just wanted to let you know that someone was paying attention and now implementing what was gleaned.
Rev. Mike Sigler, Senior Pastor at the church, said, “In the short time that Chris served FUMC, he impacted the congregation with his musical gifts, his deep love for Christ and his passion for worship. Chris was instrumental in designing and implementing the New Traditions service using the ancient-future model. The church has continued the service and plans to keep it going under new leadership.”
Chris had been a doctoral student at IWS since June 2011 and was working on his doctoral thesis, “Introducing Congregational Psalm Singing in Corporate Worship at First United Methodist Church, Fort Walton Beach, FL.” His thesis supervisor, Dr. Chris Alford, reflected:
Chris was very enthusiastic about his thesis topic and always had a joyful attitude about implementing his work. He talked with passion about helping his congregation experience more of the depths of the Psalms and, especially, what they might learn from the psalms of lament. Chris was a precious fellow and fell upon new ideas or discoveries with great joy.”
At the January 2014 IWS faculty meeting, President Jim Hart and Academic Dean Eric Ohlmann presented a proposal to award Chris Antill a posthumous Doctor of Worship Studies degree. The proposal was recommended by the thesis faculty, Dr. Keith Ray and Dr. Vaughn CrowTipton, and Chris’ thesis supervisor, Dr. Chris Alford, in recognition of the quality and quantity of work he had completed toward his D.W.S. degree thesis. The proposal was unanimously approved. Chris’ wife, Pam, will receive the degree on his behalf at the June 2014 Commencement service.
A few months before his death, Chris wrote about his experience at IWS.
To say that I am a different person theologically, spiritually, and academically than I was two years ago would be an understatement. I was not prepared for what I would learn through IWS course work, the mentorship of my professors, or the reading and research which was required. I was also not prepared for the profound impact that my experience at IWS would have on my life, my theology, or my ministry. . . . IWS has changed everything about who I am, how I worship, how I plan worship, and how I teach worship. The emphasis of the school is on worship renewal, but through the course work I have realized that IWS is renewing worship leaders as well. I am so grateful that I am able to be a part of the IWS community.
Rest in peace, dear brother.