Phil Vanderveen (’96) is a worship pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church and has led in that position for 21 years. This is his dream job, as he’s always loved music and pastoral care. But learning how to do both of these things through worship leading took many years to figure out.
Vanderveen had his first solo at the age of 2, and sang throughout his childhood. He grew up in a Christian home and was introduced to Jesus at a young age, but when he was around 7 years old, he had an encounter with Christ that forever changed the way he saw music.
“I was singing in our little church in Calgary,” says Vanderveen, “and as a little kid I had this moment where it was almost like I saw God hovering over some people and ministering to them while I was singing. I felt like I could see that happening – we didn’t live in a really charismatic environment – but around that time I became aware of the spiritual world.”
That moment deeply affected Vanderveen, and as he grew older, his understanding of worship only grew deeper and more profound. He knew there was something intimate happening between God and His creation in these moments, but he didn’t quite understand it.
Vanderveen attended Trinity Western in order to study Christianity and Culture. But in his third year, he had an identity crisis. Everyone was expecting him to become a pastor, but he didn’t feel confident in that area. He was praying that God would release him to focus on his passion — music. He was already taking a music minor and was involved in choir and chapel ministry.
He was also travelling with Tim McCarthy (‘97), Steven Sutherland (‘97), and Che Cowan (‘95) in a singing group called Soul Devotion, who toured on behalf of the university and led worship at the churches they visited.
“We were in California, at this little church,” recalls Vanderveen, “and you could just tell that this was a church that had been embattled in and crushed by worship-style wars. Mid song, I had a burden for this church, and that very quickly expanded to churches in general. I felt grieved that one of the very avenues that the church is intended to encounter unity and inspiration is actually the very thing that was ripping them apart.”
This burden broke his heart in a new way, and it was here that he felt God gave him the call to be a agent of hope and encouragement through music. Because of this experience and the encouragement of professors and friends, Vanderveen decided to switch to a music major in his third year. And this turned out to be the best thing for him.
“While I resisted the idea of becoming a pastor,” says Vanderveen, “I found I was able to pastor through the tool of music. It felt unconventional to me, because I hadn’t exactly had that modeled to me. Worship pastoring was kind of a foreign concept. But I discovered how to fuse theology and the expression of praise and worship to God in a communal setting through Trinity Western.”
Today, Vanderveen still feels that call and uses every opportunity he can to share the gospel through his music. He will be back at Trinity Western for the 2017 Alumni Weekend, where he’ll be leading a time of worship.
“It’s a privilege to add to the continued song of the University and an honour to be back. Trinity Western shaped such a big part of who I am,” Vanderveen says, adding that because he met his wife here, this was also the place where his family’s story began.
“I think it’s important for Trinity Western to remain a worshiping community. It was always an arm of the church, for people to be built up and equipped to serve in the marketplaces with a renewed sense of God and an appreciation of Him.”
Vanderveen will be leading worship from 11am to noon on September 16th at the Hanson Garden Chapel.
Alumni Weekend is sponsored by: