Students raise their voices to God at Ignite

Photos by Ralph Freso/Slideshow

The Ignite worship service keeps sparking new trends among the attending Grand Canyon University students.

Last year, they rushed the stage for the first time.

This year, that was a given – except that they were gathered around the GCU Arena stage in their spiritual mosh pit before the annual event even started Tuesday night.

But then they went one step further: They sang louder than ever before, so loudly that even God had to have chills.

And the Worship team onstage didn’t mind a bit. The arena-wide harmony was for every song, not just the oldies but goodies.

Marshanna Maxwell and the Worship Team performed for about an hour.

“Oh my goodness,” said Marshanna Maxwell, one of the eight vocalists. “I was actually so shocked just because, the way we plan our sets, there are going to be a lot of songs that the students will know. That’s intentional because we want the students to be engaged in that way.

“But when I stepped onto the stage, I didn’t expect at all to be hearing all the voices combined in this arena. I think the excitement of worshipping and just being in community with one another – being able to worship alongside people you care about – is such a special thing, and we get to do that here. That was really evident tonight.

“I was just blown away, just absolutely taken aback by the goodness of God that was seen in every single student and the echoes you could hear in all their voices.”

Equally blown away was Harrison Russell, one of several former Worship team members in the audience. The 2019 graduate hadn’t seen Ignite in four years.

“A lot of the songs were pretty brand new, too,” said Russell, now Director of Worship at Dream City Church in Glendale. “It was crazy that people were so engaged and participating so much with stuff that has not been out for very long.”

Dr. Tim Griffin speaks to the students.

Ignite is, in effect, a preview of what new students will see – and do – at Chapel and other campus worship services. The hour-plus event mainly features the music by the all-student Worship team, accompanied by a few words from Dr. Tim Griffin, Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor.

Griffin told the crowd of the time he got lost in a rough part of New York and, when he flagged down two police officers to get directions out of there, was approached on the other side of the car by someone trying to sell him drugs.

He compared that experience to what will confront many students in the next eight months.

“You’ll get good advice from one side and bad advice from the other,” he said. “Jesus can help you cut through the confusion.”

Sophomore Lauryn Laverne (center) and other students sing in praise with the Worship team during Ignite on Tuesday night.

Griffin noted how Jesus cut through that confusion in Mark 8:34-38:

Then He called the crowd to him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the Gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

As the service concluded with the now traditional waving of cellphone lights (it used to be candles when the event was outside on the Quad), Griffin urged students to live an unselfish life and follow Jesus.

“Decide tonight you’re not going to let the enemy become a wedge between you and Him,” he said.

A tear flowed down his cheek as he concluded with, “Will you do that?” and was greeted with applause.

Freshman Jaden Davis (foreground) and other students light up the Arena with their cellphones.

Next up were Camden Marasco, President of the Associated Students of GCU, and ASGCU Vice President Tyson Cantrell, to lead a prayer before the final song. They, too, were moved by the events of the evening.

“I’ve been at all of the Ignite ceremonies since I was a freshman, from having it out on the Quad to now having it in the Arena, and it was beautiful,” Marasco said. “Looking out and seeing all of the lights from here on stage was awesome.”

Said Cantrell, “At the end, looking at Tim and seeing a tear going down his face, it was very encouraging to see the genuineness of this crowd and the student body. I think one of the biggest things that makes GCU GCU is the authentic-ness of its student body.”

It certainly was authentic when many of the mosh pitters arrived 45 minutes before the start of Ignite and took seats in the first two rows to make sure they would have an up-close-and-personal view for the service.

“It was pretty exciting to see a group of kids that really want to be at the center of what we’re doing in these community gatherings,” Griffin said.

Students sing in unison with the Worship team.

It starts with the Worship team …

“It feels like they have upped everything on every single level, not only from a creative standpoint but just the worship leaders and the band,” Russell said. “They’ve come ready to lead with power and conviction. It was so cool.”

… And, Tuesday night, it extended to the crowd …

“Most of the time, we didn’t even need to sing. They were doing it for us,” Maxwell said. “We absolutely cherish those moments so much more than us leading the song.”

God cherishes it, too – goose bumps and all.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Worship team members:

Madison Russell – vocals

Bella Rea – vocals

Grayson Kredit – vocals

Caden Medina – vocals

Alex Ramirez – vocals

Marshanna Maxwell – vocals

Trina Beecher – vocals

Jilly Freid – vocals

Benjamin Park – bass

Colter Bonaroti – drums

Cavan Jones – keys

Tim Remy – guitar

Blake Deffenbacher – guitar


Related content:

GCU News: Students' passion for God flares in a rush at Ignite

GCU News: Students step up to plate for campus worship

GCU News: Upbeat 'Rhythm' sets tone for Canyon Worship


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