There's an obvious anointing on a musician called by God to lead others into His presence. It's something you can sense about them almost immediately. It's what they have to do - it's how God wired them.
Carmen D'Arcy is that kind of worship leader.
"Understanding my calling has been an organic, gradual thing; I think that's often true for many of us," admits D'Arcy. "God does us a huge favor by not freaking us out by letting us in on His vision for our lives too early on in the process. In my case, music in general-singing and playing the piano-has always been a central piece of my life, and I've used those gifts wherever God has placed me."
At the moment, God has placed the talented singer/songwriter in multiple roles. Not only is she leading worship and directing the choir at the 6,000-member Grace Community Church near Indianapolis, she's also touching lives beyond her congregation with her new worship album, A Place Called Grace (Brickstreet Records/Martingale Music/Koch). Produced by Bryan Lenox (Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, tobyMac, Sonic Flood, Sixpence None The Richer), the project showcases D'Arcy's powerful gift as a songwriter along with her warm, evocative voice. She has a way of really inhabiting a lyric in a way that brings the song vibrantly to life.
Her distinctive vocals combined with her poise and beauty have led to many opportunities for D'Arcy.
She was named Indiana's Junior Miss while still a senior in high school. Additionally, she was named Miss Anderson as well as a runner up to Miss Indiana while in college. She's appeared in more than 30 television commercials for a variety of products from pet food to frozen custard to fitness centers.
D'Arcy began developing her musical gifts growing up in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. "It's this little tiny town of just a few thousand people," D'Arcy says. "My dad was a pastor there of a little white church on Main Street and mom was the Sunday School Superintendent. They were just an awesome team."
They were also talented singers with a shared passion for ministry. Her father started singing with a quartet in college and each member married a spouse who also sang. Thus a new group was born. "Each couple had two children, so there were four families of four. We literally would pile into these two station wagons and off we would go," says D'Arcy. "That definitely introduced me to the love of music, but my grandpa-my mom's dad-was really instrumental in showing me about songwriting even early on. He was a writer and always had his guitar out at family gatherings."
D'Arcy further developed her skills through an encounter with one of Christian music's most accomplished writers. "I was fortunate enough to have Gloria Gaither as my songwriting professor," recalls D'Arcy. "She only taught for a short time at Anderson University and I just happened to be there during a season that she had a window and made herself available to do that.
To this day, I hear many of her admonitions and encouragements from that class in the back of my mind. She talked about not settling for the obvious metaphor and digging deeper, writing out of experience, writing out of an authentic place. It's definitely shaped me as a songwriter, especially the lyric side of what I do."
Though she's now married to Bill, and a mother of four young children, somehow in the midst of her wonderfully hectic schedule, D'Arcy still manages to devote time to her songwriting. "Multi-tasking is just really the name of the game and any women who has children understands that," she says with a warm smile. "A lot of times the songs really do just come in the midst of life happening around me. I think it's God's way of saying to me, 'I've called you to this. I've gifted you for this and I understand you don't have hours upon hours to just sit with your feet in the sand, sipping iced tea and waiting to be inspired.' So He gives me songs in the strangest places. I may be washing dishes, vacuuming the floor or driving car pool. I just always try to have a pencil, notepad and digital recorder handy. One time I accidentally tossed a lyric to a song I was co-writing for the very next week's church service into a McDonald's trash dumpster. Yes... I went back and went digging!
D'Arcy has been on the worship arts staff at her church, Grace Community Church in N. suburban Indianapolis, for six years and writes music that is an integral part of the congregation's worship experience. "Our choir is my great learning lab," she says. "When I have an idea for a corporate worship song, the first place I'm going to take it is to my room full of 75 choir friends.
If they connect with the lyric right away, can easily master the melody and rhythm after a couple of times through, and most importantly can easily engage in worship without having to work too hard at analyzing the various elements of the song, then it's a pretty good bet that our congregation will have a similar experience."
D'Arcy's songwriting has also caught the attention of the music community at large as her song "I Want to Sing" was selected as the GMA Academy Worship Song of 2006. Though she recognizes the power of music to move people, D'Arcy views worship as a lifestyle not just a Sunday morning event.
"Isaiah 58 makes it pretty clear that God's idea of worship is not nearly as conveniently and comfortably defined as we would probably prefer to make it," she says. "He wants so much more than just our 'official' church worship. He wants our life to worship Him. It's not that He doesn't love to hear us express our hearts to Him musically but that's just one of many ways we worship Him. He wants us to seek justice for the poor and marginalized. That's worship. He wants us to care for widows and orphans. That's worship. James 1:27 calls it 'pure, undefiled religion.' The way we invest our time and our resources is an expression of our worship.
Are we self-indulgent or are we looking for ways to invest in the lives of others not only because we want to 'do the right thing', but because we TRULY want to love well and be the hands and feet of Jesus? The way we answer that question is a measure of our worship."
D'Arcy and her family strive to worship God in all they do. Outspoken advocates for adoption, their youngest child is a son they adopted from Guatemala. They're working to shine the light on adoption by participating with Grace Hands of Hope, an international and orphan care ministry birthed out of their church.
Additionally, she supports and promotes the efforts of Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis.
"It's an amazing inner city ministry for at-risk children. They provide positive after school alternatives to gang activity and drug abuse. As board chair, Bill is highly invested and he brings that heart, passion and awareness home to inspire and challenge our family."
Whether supporting the efforts at Shepherd Community Center, growing her family through the miracle of adoption, recording in the studio with Bryan Lenox or standing before the Grace Community Church choir and congregation on a Sunday morning, Carmen D'Arcy's life is all about worship. She admits those times when she's worshipping with other believers are particularly special, but she doesn't want the power in those moments to fade with the songs.
"When He uses me and His spirit has really come, and there is an anointing in the room, there's no place I'd rather be," she says. "It's an awesome thing when you've got a whole room of people and everyone is crying out to God, asking him to meet them there. In those moments, my prayer is, 'God, don't leave us here. Make us restless for you. Fill us up so we can go out into the culture - to our local PTO meeting, or office party, or Rotary Club gathering, and reflect your love and truth.' There's a place for corporate musical worship, but if it's not a launching pad for something bigger, we might as well pack it up. Anything else is empty. In worship, we're called to be filled up - moved - changed - turned around and sent out so we can be the light that God uses to change the culture and draw people to Himself."