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My Spiritual Journey

By:  larry.ellis@softwright.com

(The following information is a brief attempt to tell you about my spiritual journey. Its reporting is incomplete and I am one who remains in process, but I hope that if anything that I share brings encouragement to the readers, you will take the time to let me know. I would greatly appreciate it.)

Personal History

I was born in Duncan, Oklahoma in 1947 and lived there until I graduated from high school in 1965. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1970. Jill Senning and I were married in 1979. We have two grown, married children.

I had wonderful Christian parents who taught me what it meant to be a Christian and establish and nurture a personal relationship with God. I became a Christian at the age of five when to the full extent of my understanding I invited Jesus Christ into my heart. I faithfully attended Sunday School, worship and youth group activities throughout my years at home. At the age of five I had begun to pick out some of my Sunday School songs on the piano at home. My mother started me in private piano study at that age. I continued piano and organ private lessons for twelve years there until I left for college. I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree with a major in Electrical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma, Norman in 1970. While there I was active in the Baptist Student Union, especially in the area of music. I was a Southern Baptist until I moved to Colorado and joined Corona Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado, in 1970. I was a active leader in Corona Church for sixteen years, serving as an elder for nine of the last 12 years there. I organized and conducted the Baroque Choral Ensemble for many of those years. I left there to become the worship leader, director of music, and organist of Meadow Hills Church, Aurora CO. I served in that capacity for five years, during which I was ordained to the Gospel Ministry in 1988. I also served as the organist, choirmaster and director of music ministries at St. Gabriel the Archangel Episcopal Church in Denver for over six years. I have enjoyed the privilege of serving minister of worship and music in several churches in various denominations as my spiritual journey has led me. Having arrived in the Anglican fold via the Baptist and Presbyterian paths has been a wonderful and strengthening process.

My Interests and Personality

I am an entrepreneur. I owned and operated my own telecommunications consulting engineering business and was the CEO of a telecommunications engineering software company for over thirty years. I have a vast knowledge of the telecommunications and broadcasting industries. As a Registered Professional Engineer, I have designed many radio and television stations throughout the country. I constructed, owned and
for several years operated a commercial FM radio station. I have significant experience in many areas of electronic media. This includes advertising sales, public relations, news, programming production, web design and management and Internet marketing. I have produced several video teaching tapes on both engineering and management subjects. I have directed a number of talk and variety television shows, which aired on cable television. I enjoy working with and managing people. I am particularly good at group dynamics and discerning and building consensus when that is appropriate. I can also take a very directive and assertive role when that is called for. My Meyers-Briggs personality type is tested to be ESTJ. My life experience confirms this as an accurate model applied to me, although I believe that we should relate to each others as individuals rather than as some particular personality profile.

I designed and constructed a pipe organ for our home. I also constructed a concert Zuckerman French-double harpsichord. In addition to playing both of the above, I enjoy playing  my great-grandfather's Wheelock upright grand piano from the late 1800s. I have produced two Christian record albums. I have a commercial pilot’s license and greatly enjoy scuba diving. I am fluent in Spanish. For many years I was active in the Denver Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Because I believe that there is always more to learn about ministry in the kingdom of God, I have read countless books on theology and styles of worship and the ministry of music throughout my adult life. I have also taken a number of graduate courses in this arena. I have conducted choral clinics and attended a number of organ and composition master classes throughout the country and composed over ninety sacred choral works and congregational hymns. I have been to England numerous times and in December of 1997 I went there for 10 days, five of which were spent at Kings College Cambridge, worshiping and contemplating the greatness of God through the uniqueness of Cambridge. In both 2002 I spent two weeks in London composing music at the personal organ of Charles Wesley, now at the Wesley Chapel, City Road, London. In 2003 it was my privilege to spend time in Bristol at the "New Room" where John Wesley had his training times for new preachers and at the home where Charles Wesley lived for a number of years and composed many of his hymns. Each trip there draws me closer to my Christian roots than I have ever felt even after returning to my geographic and familial origins here in the USA. Although this is mystical for me, it is the nearest personal encounters with God that I can identify within my lifetime. Although I reject the rigid expression of a narrow fundamentalism theology from which I came, I also retain the essence of a very personal Christian faith that I believe was central of some of the great early Christians such as the ancient and contemporary martyrs, Luther, and Wesley. This also stands in contrast to many progressive innovative expressions of Christianity where Jesus' unique sacrifice for all of us is reimaged to mean something very different from what he taught and where the words of Scripture are redefined from generation to generation and culture to culture. I believe that God desires that each of us grow into the unique persons that he created us to be. This is contrasted against many who embrace that we are called to replicate some narrow authoritative collective expression of a small segment of the Christian community. My experience has confirmed that the Episcopal Church is a very healthy environment which can embrace the uniqueness of each individual.

My Early History thru College

I was fortunate enough to have Christian parents and grandparents who taught me to love God very early in life. We attended every church service that our church had on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday evenings. I faithfully attended church camp every summer and was active in all our youth group activities, while at the same time serving as the President of my high school science club. I read my bible daily and tried very hard to bring my life into conformity to what I saw that God expected of me. I have wonderful memories of my mom teaching me to recite the Lord's Prayer and John 3:16 even before attending the first grade. I began playing my Sunday School songs on the piano by the age of five and my parents saw that I began formal piano lessons at that age. I practiced a very sincere faith all through my high school years. Early on, I was encouraged to play special music on the Hammond organ at the Central Baptist Church in Itasca, Texas, where my grandparents lived. I also was the church pianist for many of my middle and high school years for a small Southern Baptist church in Duncan, Oklahoma.

In 1965 I left home and started college at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, majoring in Electrical Engineering. I was excited to move into a new level of cultural and spiritual growth in a new venue. Naturally, I continued in my Southern Baptist tradition. There I met new Christians and formed deep personal friendships with those who embrace many of the same spiritual values, which I had accepted as central to my life. During my college years, I began to learn to think critically and began to more deeply discover my spiritual bedrock. I continued a very conservative and essentially a fundamentalist style of faithfully applying the spiritual litmus tests on both me as well as others. Certainly there were those who were Christians outside our great Southern Baptist operations, but they could all learn quite a bit from us, because no one had quite the level of fidelity of Christian expression as we did. I knew very few persons of who were not both Caucasian or Southern Baptist. I had never questioned any issues of authority in the family and church, the Charismatic movement, role of women, Americanization of our faith, or any worship expression more removed from my current environment than a large college Methodist church which was considered slightly suspect by some of my long-term friends

I was a member of First Baptist Church in Norman, Oklahoma, during the last years that Dr. E. F. Hallock was the pastor. His teaching was truly a major positive influence on my beginning of a deepening spiritual experience. Preacher Hallock intentionally became a Christian as an adult when God moved in his heart, following his graduation from Union Seminary in New York. He then understood the difference between being a god-fearer and one who has a regular personal encounter and subsequent relationship with God. My freshman college Sunday School teacher, Al McCord, was also a very strong spiritual encouragement to me. Al was a geologist who loved his family, his work. and also made spending time with college neophytes a high priority. Decades later, I still remember all those stake dinners at his home with his family, his personal spiritual encouragement and his active participation in doing the work of serving those so much less fortunate than we. I was loved and influenced by campus pastors and inquisitive fellow students. I was taught that we are all called to evangelize others into our Christian faith. Living a model life of piety was expected, and I  dutifully delivered it to the best of my ability. Internally, I eventually found that something seemed to be missing in my Christian experience, but I had no idea what that something might be. During my junior year Preacher Hallock retired and I began visiting some other churches. The most obvious thing to me was differences in music and worship styles. I was quite strongly drawn to the less folksy churches that were less personality orchestrated than my Baptist experiences. I liked being a bit more formal, not announcing hymn and the opening of worship services with a procession. Corporate worship that was more majestic seemed more appropriate to me. Having intellectually stimulating bible teaching presented in a little less dogmatic style was also very attractive to me. During my last year in college I joined the chancel choir of McFarlin Methodist Church in Norman. The friendships there, along with the excellent leadership by Dr. John Yarrington as the minister of music, was a major highlight of my college Christian experiences. Some of my friends really could not imagine why I would not choose to attend a Southern Baptist church, but that did not deter me from this germinal transition stage.

Post College Processing

Upon graduation in 1970 I accepted an engineering  job in Denver, Colorado, and soon thereafter found my Christian home at the nearby Corona Presbyterian Church. For the next 16 years I enjoyed great friendships there. I labored there learning and teaching what I learned in virtually all areas of the Christian life. I discovered the good things from the Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts (such as reconciliation in relationships) along with a great number of teachings which I now strongly reject, especially  in the area of dogmatic uniformity and authority. In that arena I would include theology that teaches that the husband is the "boss" of the wife and much of what Bill Gothard taught about music. I flourished at the heart of the emerging discipling ministry that was popularized during the late 70s and early 80s. Unfortunately, I had come to understand this to mean reproducing in others what God is doing in my life, and in turn enabling others to pass it on to a third and fourth generation. I loved the large collective church experiences. I helped organize church-wide retreats, long-term singles ministries that centered on small group development and regular directive bible teaching, carefully interpreted and applied so that all the followers would line up as I believed they should in our patriarchal operation. From time to time, I went through a number of spiritually dry seasons, each time looking again outside my normal environment for a new sense of presence of the Lord. I always felt committed to our ministry there but researched several Charismatic as well as other mainline churches, whose philosophy of ministry was compatible with ours. I received a great deal of satisfaction in what we were doing as a church and enjoyed great self esteem in being central to our activities. Again, as in my earlier years, I had established a sense of "super pride" in my expression of the "true meaning of the church". It was great to be in a church that, though not unique, was a rarity in both Denver and certainly the Presbyterian Church. I could not imagine any circumstances that would ever cause me to leave Corona Church.

As I look back, I do not marginalize either my sincerity in following the Lord, my spirituality, or personal piety at this point in my life. I believe I lived out every spiritual truth that I had embraced up to that point. I certainly was considered approachable by those around me. I was looked up to by many. There, I led a wonderful choral experience for many years that was a major incorporating vehicle for the church and co-pastored a growing singles' ministry that touched hundreds of lives. I now believe that I see more about what God was doing in my life there, than I was able to at that time. While I was at Corona Presbyterian, I read a great many books about worship. Of major influence upon me were Worship is a Verb and Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail both by Robert E. Webber and Evangelical is Not Enough by Thomas Howard. I initiated with Bob Webber, when he taught a class on worship in Denver at St. John's Cathedral and thereafter continued to maintain contact with him exchanging many ideas and experiences about worship. Other writers such as John and Charles Wesley, and Henri Nouwen played a great role in my spiritual process. I discovered a passion to worship and to equip others for worship ministry that up to that time had not been clear to me.

My sense of call from the Lord

Early in 1986 I believed that the Lord was leading me to pursue a more active worship ministry in the church specifically employing my gifts in music with choral work and organ performance. Since there was no such position available at our church, I sought a position elsewhere. The Lord had much more in store for me than I could have ever imagined, as I moved away from Corona. Things did not emerge as I had anticipated. In June I was appointed the minister of worship, music, and organist at Meadow Hills Baptist Church, Aurora CO. Meadow Hills is a small North American Baptist congregation. I now believe that leaving Corona was a significant positive turning point in my spiritual development. The environment at Meadow Hills did not have the narrowness in theology or lifestyle that had always been a part of my life. It was not as comfortable as being where all those around me were more spiritually homogeneous. Rev. Roger Cauthon held up as high values the values of personal responsibility and individual personal spiritual development . If there was a collective mind set at Meadow Hills it embraced these things rather than everyone being and thinking alike about the Bible and spirituality. Clearly his style of leadership was that of discovery and encouragement rather than policing of the church and its leaders. While there, I designed all our worship services in conjunction with him. This included the selections of hymns, choruses, choral and organ literature, solo music, chanted psalmody, prayers, and responsive scripture readings. Other elements we employed in worship often included drama, audio-visual and readers’ theater. After five years there, I desired to seek a full-time position on a church staff in the worship/music ministry. That led to several wonderful, but often disappointing dead end church staff interviews. Eventually my next church position was a short-term tenure back at Corona Church as organist and director of music. My ministry there was focused on their traditional worship service. I also introduced some historic Holy Week services. I resigned there because I had come to believe that the actual needs in that position were substantially different from what was represented to me in the interview process, particularly in style of leadership and musical style expectations. My spiritual growth had taken me away from this very conservative environment, and I found it very incongruent with what I had come to believe about worship and especially how we were to live our lives without continually assessing everyone's spirituality quotient. I had also become a sacramentalist. I believed that worship was the people's expression of praise and adoration to God in response to his gracious ongoing initiatives with us. Individual participation had to be more than singing hymns. The application of "teaching them to observe" talked about in Matthew 28 was not to observe by looking at, rather to be an integral participant in what we are called to do - worship. It should involve physical posture, majestic pageantry, times of silence and corporate prayers together. It was talking to and listening to God. As the Apostle Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 14, a consequence of worship is that the church is built up. Authentic worship changes us more and more into the image of Christ.

After much consideration I acknowledged my strong leading of God to commit to the expression of worship which is embodied in the traditional Episcopal Church. We attended Ascension Episcopal Church in Denver for several years and in 1994 we joined St. Gabriel the Archangel Episcopal Church in Cherry Hills after being invited there by a good friend, Fr. Bruce Youngquist. After completing the Catechumenate program at St. Gabriel’s, I was confirmed by the Bishop. During most of my early time at St. Gabriel's, I sang in the choir and assisted the organist/choir director from time to time when asked.

In May 1998 I accepted an interim position of organist/choirmaster at St. Gabriel’s to again explore the worship/music ministry. I have always seen my call from God having never been removed, but that I was in a season where I was called to different professional energies and family priorities. I am very pleased that God had opened up the opportunity to return to the leadership of our worship ministry. In October 1998 I accepted the permanent position at St. Gabriel's. I sensed my call to encompass the following areas: planning of corporate worship experiences with the preaching pastor and celebrant, leading and equipping others to lead in our worship experiences. The scope of my ministry included directing the choir and playing the organ for public worship services. I also feel called to encourage development and create opportunity for others to use their gifts of music. I established an choral and organ scholar program for undergraduate musicians who had aspirations to become church musicians. My style of encouragement and teaching has a distinctively pastoral style.

In the fall of 2003 I was admitted to the masters degree program at the Institute for Worship Studies, Florida Campus, Orange Park FL. In late 2004 I resigned from my regular church position. This permitted me to devote much more time to my graduate education as well as my family and software business. I completed my MWS (Masters of Worship Studies) degree in June 2005 at which time I entered the Doctoral program for Worship Studies, and graduated in 2008. The founder and President of the school was Dr. Robert E. Webber. This school offers a unique program providing distance learning, yet requiring significant on significant campus classes each semester. My doctoral dissertation focused out living our baptismal covenant, which was essentially a design and implementation of a small-scaled Catechumenate program to help clarify the process of how we become and establish a solid foundation as Christian within the Christian community.  The extensive reading, writing, class discussions and interaction with others who share my passion for authentic Christian worship has made a tremendous impact on my theology and practice of worship leading. I have served as a guest lecturer in the area of worship at Colorado Christian University, Denver Seminary, as well as the  WYAM School of Worship in the UK. I have authored two books: Forgiveness: Unleashing a Transformational Process and The Secrets of a Successful Small Business: What the University Will Not Teach You. I am also a professor and thesis director at the Kaleo Institute at Brewer Christian College. I also mentor students as a thesis supervisor for doctoral students at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. I am one of the founding members of the Ancient-Future Faith Network.

As I entered the 21st century I found that some of my tried and true litmus tests for spirituality were flawed. I have experienced a number of unexpected personal challenges. My limited personal theology was insufficient to guide me through the traumas on my path. Simplistic rules of how to live my life did not bring about the needed resolution of pain, grief and sadness. My experiences and relationships through The Institute for Worship Studies has played a major part in this growth process for me. I am so glad to experience the love of God in ordinary and even surprising places and people. I am learning that the Lord can touch and guide us in ways that were far beyond the myopic boundary conditions of our past experiences. For these discoveries I am daily grateful!


January 2013 - Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park FL, 'Worship and Sacramental Spirituality, Dr. Gordon T. Smith

June 2012 - Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park FL, Worshiping With the Church Fathers, Dr. Christopher Hall
June 2011 - Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park FL,
A Sacramental Journey: Remembering Jesus Christ Risen from the Dead with Dr. Robert Stamps

June 2010 - Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park, FL, The Liturgy as the Epiphany of the Church, Dr. Simon Chan

June 2009 - Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park, FL, The Emergent Church, Phyllis Tickle

June 2008 - Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park FL - graduated the Doctor of Worship Studies program

Primary areas of study - Biblical Foundations and Historical Development of Christian Worship, Sunday Worship - Music and the Arts, The Christian Church Year, Sacred Actions and the Ministries of Worship.
June 2005 - Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park FL - graduated the Masters of Worship Studies program
January 2005 - History of Christian Worship, Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park FL
June 2004 - Church Worship and Contemporary Culture - Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park FL
January 2004 - Biblical Theology of Worship, Institute for Worship Studies, Orange Park FL (admitted to the Masters of Worship Studies program)
December 1994 - The North American Summit on the Future of Christian Worship, Nashville TN, Dr. Robert Webber
July 1989 - Westminster Choir College, Princeton NJ, Organ Improvisation – Dr. Paul Manz
April 24, 1988 - Ordained to the Gospel Ministry by Meadow Hills Baptist Church, Aurora, Colorado
July 1986 - Colorado State University, Ft. Collins CO- Handbell Performance - Steve Busch
July 1983 - Westminster Choir College, Princeton NJ - Practical Procedures for the Church Organist -Dr. Joan Lippincott
July 1980 - Westminster Choir College, Princeton NJ - Choral Conducting with John Bailey, Yale Institute of Sacred Music - Jon Bailey
1978-1979 - Private study of choral conducting with Mr. Al Lewis, Denver Public Schools
March 1978 - Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena CA - Theology and Styles of Worship, Dr. Robert N. Shaper
1972 - Private Study of organ with Dr. Robert Cavara, Chairman of Organ Department, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins CO
1970 - University of Oklahoma – received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering also studied organ with graduate music faculty; Substitute organist for numerous churches in the area and in various denominations
1953-1965 - Private lessons in piano and organ from Ms. Marcia Ehrheart, Duncan OK


July 2002 - spent two weeks in London composing music at Charles' Wesley's organ at the Wesley Chapel.
October 1998 - 2004 - Organist and Director of Music Ministries, St. Gabriel the Archangel Episcopal Church, Cherry Hills Village CO
January-August 1992 - Organist and Director of Music, Corona Presbyterian Church, Denver CO
July 1986-1991- Worship Leader, Director of Music and Organist, Meadow Hills Baptist Church, Aurora CO
1984 - Built and owned KHME-FM Radio station in Duncan OK
1980-present - Founded Adoration Publishing Company, Denver CO
1975 - 1983 - Director of twenty voice Baroque Choral Ensemble, developed and co-pastored large single ministry, Corona Presbyterian Church, Denver
1974-1986 - Owner of Larry D. Ellis & Associates, P.C., Telecommunications Consulting Engineers, Denver CO
1986 - 2012 - President and principal of SoftWright LLC (engineering software company), Denver CO

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