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Intern shares passion for music, worshipping God

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By SARAH BEACH

The News-Democrat

Relevant Church’s summer intern has a passion for music. Though his family is musically inclined, Tom Casselman was never very active in music until his freshman year of high school. He never thought he would go to Bible College, either.

Now, he leads the congregation of Relevant Church in services twice weekly, playing the piano for the service and leading the members in singing hymns.

Casselman is a sophomore at Indiana Bible College (IBC) in Indianapolis, Ind., and a native of Denver, Colorado. He is here for a 10-week internship at Relevant Church, which will end Aug. 4.

Before service, Casselman sets the mood by playing prelude music, then starts off the service with “something upbeat,” he said. 

Casselman attended John F. Kennedy High School in Denver, where his mother encouraged him to join choir.

“One of the biggest things that brought me into music, more than anything else I had tried, was that I could pour myself into it … I could just give it all,” Casselman said.

Later, he wanted to learn an instrument as well, to have a wider experience with music.

“I’m a musician at heart,” he said. “I love singing, but being able to express myself through an instrument is incredible.”

His mother encouraged him to learn piano from a member of his church in Denver, Landmark Tabernacle. After only seven to 10 months of lessons, he volunteered to play for youth services while the regular pianist was away. “As far as anything complicated … it was Greek to me,” he said. He had to pick up where his piano teacher left off and do his best.

Casselman began to be very involved in the youth group, even playing for youth conferences for thousands of youth. When the pastor’s daughter suggested that he play for main service, he was hesitant. But when the regular pianist was on vacation, they asked him to play, and he accepted.

At this point, Casselman thought he might get a music degree at a local university. 

“Before then, I had no intention of ever leaving Denver, Colorado,” he said, “and certainly not going to Bible College.”

That is until he went to a Youth Congress in Columbus, Ohio, where IBC had a booth. The music minister in Denver had recently graduated from there, and a few of his friends were wondering why Casselman had not chosen to go to Bible College, as well.

Casselman said that his mother enjoys keeping her family around her and would never have encouraged him to go so far away. “She doesn’t want anyone leaving the nest,” he said.

Because of this, it was a big moment for him when she suggested to him that he go to Indiana Bible College.  “From that point on, it kind of clicked, you know, I need to go to IBC,” he said.

A few months previously he had told his music minister that he had no intentions of going to Bible College and it was not for him. “[The decision] was divine. I don’t know how else to say it,” he said. “… The season of change made me realize it was a time for a change in my life.”

Casselman made arrangements and began attending IBC the following January. The college is a small theological seminary with around 250 students.

Having never even visited IBC before, he arrived with two 50-pound bags, a carry on, a personal item and what he was wearing, and that was all he had to get him through that semester.

“It was fun, my first semester, getting used to what it was like,” he said.  “I was coming in the middle of the year … so I had to slowly ease my way into different groups and different mentalities, but I ended up getting in choral my first semester. … I just jumped right in, feet first.”

Casselman was not sure that he wanted to take an internship, due to the challenges it would pose, but eventually decided to pursue one and ended up at Relevant in Carrollton. His mother hoped he would find one closer to home, but one of his good friends at college, Michael Hollingsworth, lives in Worthville, and that influenced his decision.

“He’s actually one of my closest friends at IBC,” Casselman said of Hollingsworth, and he knew that having someone nearby would help him make the adjustment.

Having decided that Carrollton was his destination, he scheduled his flight for the next week. While here, he is staying with the family of Rusty Bennett, pastor of Relevant Church.

Casselman described himself as a bit “standoffish” by nature at first, but “it didn’t take me long to get in with the congregation here,” he said.

Casselman takes some of his inspiration from Amos 5, which, to him, means that “God isn’t looking for just the music or the talent in worship, because talent is found under any rock, almost, in this world, but it’s the heart that’s put into it. It’s the effort; it’s the sacrifice. Worship in and of itself is a calling-out to God,” he said.

He shares this worship with his congregation at Relevant.

“In front of the congregation, it’s your responsibility to put words of worship on their lips,” he said, paraphrasing what he learned from his Dean of Worship Studies at college. “Just a moment, in which they’re touched by God, can change someone’s life forever,” he said. 

After his internship concludes on Aug. 4, he will attend a Youth Congress in Louisville, then go back to Denver for a week to visit his friends and family, before returning to Bible College.

Casselman is not sure yet where he will go after school, but knows music will be a huge part of his future calling. “To be able to just express myself was a power I hadn’t yet comprehended. I found that through music, and worship just brought it to the next level.”

“In ministry it’s nothing about what you want to do,” he said. “It’s all about where you’re needed and where you’re called.”