Make a Joyful Noise
Northland worship leaders share stage, life as they honor our Lord
What do 200 wigs, 10 shades of hair color, hundreds of recording sessions, nine kids and thousands of worship services have in common? Three best friends who have spent the last 20 years leading Northland worship together.
Can you imagine how many weekend services, holidays and special events these women have been part of, keeping in mind there was a time when we had seven services every weekend?! When I asked Sharon Diachesyn, Michelle Alexander and Laurie Groves how they did it, they said, “We just went with it because it’s what we did … and don’t forget about all the rehearsals!”
These ladies had a ton of stories to share with me about their 20-year friendship. It began with Sharon, who, after moving here in 1992, began singing with Northland’s worship team. She grew up studying dance, but after being told by someone at her church in Jersey, “God doesn’t like dancing,” she let that dream go.
Not long after that, her friend volunteered her to sing at a pastor’s dinner. Not knowing a lot of Christian music, she chose “Stubborn Love,” by Kathy Troccoli, because she felt it was the best fit for her voice. The pastor loved it so much that from that point on, he would periodically ask her in the middle of his preaching to stand up and sing.
Years later her family moved to Florida and landed at Northland. At the encouragement of her husband, Robert, she auditioned for the worship team. Looking back, she laughs talking about walking into the audition with Tim Tracey, our worship director at the time. She said it was so awkward as she walked in wearing an oversized dress with her pockets full of several different cassette tapes, fumbling for the right one with Tim patiently waiting.
Around that time Michelle sang for a concert being held at Northland. She met Eleanor Tracey and Teresa McCaskill and started getting involved singing for special events while leading worship at another church.
One year while caroling with fellow studio singers at a local hospital, she caught the attention of Eleanor, who was there visiting her husband, Tim. She said to him, “Dang! Those carolers are good!” She poked her head out of the hospital room, and in the hallway she saw Michelle. Just a few months later, she joined the worship team permanently.
Laurie had been attending Northland, thanks to an invitation from Teresa, but said, “I grew up in the Catholic church, so my sense of where music belonged in the service was very different from Michelle’s and Sharon’s. I was a singer, but I was just here for the preaching. Teresa asked me to sing a few times here and there, and over time I began to work my schedule at Disney so I could be at Northland more.”
Today, Laurie’s role is more than singing alone. She also coordinates the larger worship team, planning rehearsals and architecting the worship services with the musicians, tech team and pastors.
Not surprisingly, Michelle, Laurie and Sharon’s connection permeates every aspect of their lives. They’ve stood by one another through thick and thin – new babies, teenagers, and deaths of close friends and family members.
“We became parents during this time, and some of us have lost our parents,” says Laurie. Three weeks after flying home for her brother’s funeral, Sharon’s mom was close to dying. She wasn’t sure how she was going to afford to go back home to be with her mom. Without hesitation, “the girls” all chipped in for her ticket. It was as important to them as it was to Sharon.
“That meant the world to me,” Sharon said. “I told my family, and they were floored that I had those kinds of friends. I received beautiful texts and flowers reminding me that I had friends here praying for me. There was no doubt these were my best friends.”
When she became pregnant with her sixth child, Sharon was so nervous about telling Michelle and Laurie. She couldn’t believe how excited they were when she broke the news in an elevator on a gig on Marco Island.
About the announcement, Michelle said, “I had just had two miscarriages, but it never crossed my mind to not be happy for her. We have been through some of the hardest trials together. When I told Laurie I was pregnant with Gracie after the miscarriages, she lost her mind.”
Over the years, they’ve had some really fun(ny) times together too. There was the time when worship services were held at Lyman, and the night before, a bodybuilding contest had been held in the auditorium. The ladies remember walking in to find bottles of baby oil and makeup, and the stage was riddled with slippery spots from the oil.
Another memory Laurie shared: “We’d make plans to leave during prayer, but one of us didn't get the message. The other two thought it was funny to leave the one whose eyes were closed on stage with the pastor.” She would open her eyes to see only Joel standing there launching into his sermon.
Among the laughs and tears on their journey, they’ve never lost sight of the reason they were brought together.
“We have a singular mission together,” Michelle said. “We strive and are purposeful about creating something that God leads us to for the congregation to experience Him.”
Laurie agrees. “We are really, really great friends, but we are also gathered around the same mission. We want to offer our very best, whether it’s production, tech or singing ... without apology. There’s a perception that it’s a big show, but it’s really our effort to offer our best to Him so that others can worship at the throne of God without distractions.”
No matter how crazy their week is with rehearsals, worship or special events they’re often part of, you can still find them together on Sunday night for family dinner, a gathering of their friends, family and worship team. It’s an important part of their journey, not just working together but walking in life together. They view their relationships as a form of worship that glorifies and honors the Lord.
You can bet that, as we continue to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and beyond, these extraordinary women are busy working with the larger team to build a unique worship environment for our congregation. We hope you’ll join each weekend to lift our voices with Laurie, Michelle, and Sharon in praise and worship of our Creator!