Standing behind a microphone is a resting place for Shea Sutherland.
The junior and Ark City, Kan., native is no stranger to music, but as her Tabor career has progressed, she has seen the stage serve as a bigger foundation than she could have anticipated.
She chose Tabor after receiving a scholarship through the Presidential Leadership Program. Once she received her phone call from President Emeritus Jules Glanzer regarding the scholarship, she didn’t think twice about her future.
Sutherland is also a member of Northside Baptist Church in her hometown, and the choir pianist is Lisa (Braun) Klaassen. She said that Klaassen (g’90) helped cement the idea of Tabor for her future.
“I fell in love with Tabor when I visited,” Sutherland said. “It was the people and the students I met that were already coming. There was a community here that I just loved. Tabor was definitely on my radar from the very beginning.”
As much as it was academic with her growing interests in communications, music and writing, Sutherland found peace in knowing that God opened her door to Hillsboro.
“I had tears of joy because it was so evident that this was God’s plan,” she said. “God is not a God of confusion, and it was definitely clear. It just all perfectly aligned.”
Sutherland, a communications major at Tabor, immediately signed up for auditions to participate in Tabor’s campus Contemporary Christian Worship Team, For His Glory. At her audition, Sutherland sang “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).” She said she first sang it at a relative’s funeral, providing her first opportunity to sing a song in public that resonated so deeply.
“That is a song that has been close to my heart since eighth grade,” she said. “That was also probably the first song I sang when I sang on my worship team at church.”
Led by David Martens, director of contemporary christian music, For His Glory has now given two groups of students the opportunity to lead worship on campus, locally and regionally.
She is now entering her third year on the team and leads For His Glory in chapel and at various youth functions throughout the region.
COVID kept the group off the road at the start of her sophomore year. They were able to hit the road last spring, adding trips to schools and churches in Hays, Hutchinson, Wichita and Lawrence.
“I love the community we have,” Sutherland said. “It’s a shared love to want to spread the Gospel through a common interest of music. The close connection we have is remembering that they’re with us if we ever need something. This year, even starting last year, we were able to travel and develop a closer bond on the road together.”
Sutherland said she often recalls what it felt like to stand in front of her peers as a freshman and sophomore. Thanks to a time of prayer and reflection ahead of the 2020-21 academic year, she has seen her perspective shift.
“I was reminded this past summer how special worship is,” she said. “Even if you’re on stage in front of a bunch of people, He wants all of it. I was on stage at the beginning of this year with a change of heart and new mindset. It changed the game, knowing at the end of the day that it’s worship between God and me, and it’s not a performance for people.”
Sutherland smiled when she thought back to her days of contemplating what college would have for her.
Studying music or be a part of a choral ensemble? No, but close enough.
As she continues her junior year, her prayer is that the Lord would continue to use her as a vessel and that she’d be a model of what prospective students see for their college career.
“The Lord wants your heart and wants your gifts,” she said. “Even though I didn’t see it February of my senior year of high school, He had Tabor and singing on this worship team written down for me.”