Author Archives: shawntallen

About shawntallen

practical theologist, ebony-ivory syncopationist

Overdue Update

The celebration of my 38th birthday seems to be a fitting occasion to share an update on our life here in South Florida.

The wheel of transition that was spinning rapidly for the first 12 months of our life here has slowed considerably.


a South Florida sunset captured from our back patio

I have been leading the worship ministry at Grace Fellowship for 9 months now.  Below you can watch one of my favorite moments, as our band, choir, and dancers led worship together . . . (my daughter Grace is the dancer all the way on the right)

to watch the videos on this post, you need to read this on ]

The most fulfilling way I have served Grace Fellowship has been helping the church become more healthy by discerning vision, building systems, and facilitating communication.  Meanwhile, I am resetting the DNA of our worship ministry by creating a discipleship culture: calling people to follow Jesus by living UP toward God, IN toward the church, and OUT toward the world, and then empowering them to lead worship (as opposed to scheduling people to fill slots and then hoping they follow Jesus along the way).

If you want to learn more about the way we are creating a discipleship culture
and the missional community we just launched
(which ironically reminds me a lot of church planting!),
check out my new website:


Sara and I co-taught a junior-high class at Berean Christian School this year called the Art of Music.  I also taught group music lessons.  In the video below, you can watch one of these groups perform with my daughter Nellie as the lead singer (my Virginia friends will remember me leading this song).

Nellie also learned the mandolin and the bass guitar this year.  Grace learned the African drums and the piano, and Walker continued to learn the piano.  

All three kids had a very positive experience attending Berean.  Nellie joined the school’s track team and discovered that she has natural talent in distance running.  Grace received straight As all year long, enjoyed dancing at church, and started her cheerleading career.  Walker survived 2nd grade with an excellent yet very structured (hmmm, I can’t think of a word that describes Walker less than structured) teacher.  I also had the joy of baptizing Walker on Easter Sunday (you can watch the baptism below) . . .

Sara continues to tutor students from all over the world.  During the school year they usually tutor in person, but the other day Sara was trying to figure out how to schedule her day of skype tutoring sessions with kids who were in Germany, Colombia, and Canada (that’s three different time zones, plus ours).  In the Fall Sara hopes to go back to school to pursue a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine degree from the Atlantic Institute of Oriental Medicine.

Our family continues to get more and more healthy.  It seems like just about everything that we eat is organic, and we have eliminated all kinds of things some of us used to enjoy.  Fortunately, Sara is a great cook, and can make really weird, I mean, healthy, things taste good.  Sara and Shawn have been working out together (even entering the P90X world) almost every day for the past 4 months.  By the way, exercising together is a productive way to spend quality time with your spouse.  I wonder how many men reading this are married to a woman who can do 15 push ups in a row (no, not the modified “girl” push ups . . .  the real ones)?

If you missed my updates about how Jazz Nativity blossomed here in South Florida, you can find out how to listen to the music and read more at

Until my next overdue update . . .  Peace.




Categories: Experiences | Leave a comment

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

If you made it through the Christmas season without really hearing the words of this poem . . .  start the music, and read the lyrics prayerfully while you are listening. [Shawn Allen on piano, Steve Mutuku on electric bass]

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Categories: Songs | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Jazz Nativity 2013 CD is downloadable!

Jazz Nativity

Many of you have asked if you could buy a Jazz Nativity 2013 CD.   The 4,000 CDs we made are all being distributed here in West Palm Beach, but I have great news . . . the entire album is ready to be downloaded  . . . visit to find out more!

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Jazz Nativity simulcast at 6pm!

Go to to watch Jazz Nativity live tonight at 6pm (Sunday, December 8th). Simulcast live from Grace Fellowship in West Palm Beach, FL.

Categories: Events | 3 Comments

Jazz Nativity opens in South Florida!


Excited to share that Richmond, Virginia’s Jazz Nativity is reproducing itself in South Florida!

For my Virginia friends, there is no big band, no Starbucks, and no 2-man handbell comedy acts.  But you have to start somewhere.

For my Florida friends, you are invited to a beautiful retelling of the Christmas story through jazz, blues, Latin, and gospel, all on the piano, with lots of improvisation!

All the songs I’ll be playing that evening have been recorded onto a Jazz Nativity CD, available that evening and throughout the Advent season at Grace Fellowship for just $2.   Buy one CD, and we’ll give you as many free CDs as you want . . . as long as you give the CD away to someone! 

Here’s a sneak peak at one of the songs featured on December 8th at Jazz Nativity and on the Jazz Nativity CD.  This arrangement started as a Tim Wight (trumpet) and Shawn Allen (piano) duet at Richmond’s Jazz Nativity in 2009:

Categories: Events | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

Let Steve and Shawn Break Bread Together

One of the joys of my year in South Florida has been creating music and friendship with Steve Mutuku.  The guitar is a secondary instrument for both of us, but we had fun sharing this old spiritual . . .

Categories: Songs | 4 Comments

Tracing God’s Hand

Eleven months ago, compelled by the spiritual need and drawn toward its diverse culture, we arrived in South Florida.

Seven months later we had already reached the end of our first attempt to make an impact (Mosaix Church).

The four-month silence of this blog reflects the challenge of answering some hard questions:

“Was I really following God’s leading when I led my family from our healthy life and fruitful ministry in Virginia to South Florida?”

“If I was following God, and if I’m not going to start a church, why are we here?”

Processing those questions included good things like reading Scripture, praying, journaling, talking with friends, and considering several ministry opportunities. Unfortunately, I also spent (wasted) time trying to “figure it all out” like a business analyst.

Amidst it all, God spoke clearly to me. Not about the externals of what to do or where to go, but with insights about something much more difficult to change . . . me.

Two weeks ago, we decided to stay in South Florida until we clearly discerned what God was leading us to do. We signed a rental lease on a house across the street from both our church and the school our kids will be attending this year.

Then, a few days ago, the Worship Pastor at Grace Fellowship (the church I have been serving for the past year) unexpectedly resigned, and the elders asked me to serve as the Interim Worship Pastor.

I can now easily trace God’s hand bringing me to South Florida, working through the challenges of the past year, and calling me to lead the worship ministry at Grace Fellowship.

Times are coming in my life and in yours when His hand will not be so easy to trace.  May this story encourage us all to walk by faith and not by sight.

Categories: Experiences | 3 Comments

A Final Update on Mosaix Church

Before The Beginning
8 months ago we were in Richmond, Virginia, serving a great church (Gayton Baptist).  Our ministry was fruitful, our kids were involved in a healthy children’s ministry and were attending a good school.  Life was good.

After spending a couple of years in prayerful reflection, I identified several of my highest values that were not influencing my ministry or family.  To put it in a sentence:

I sensed God leading me to relocate my family to a multicultural region
where many lost people live with few opportunities to follow Christ in a healthy church.

The Beginning
South Florida is an intersection of multicultural life and spiritual need.  Grace Fellowship, a church in West Palm Beach, offered me a job so that we could begin shining a light in this region.

We left Richmond with a plan to start a new church, and were encouraged to do so in a city called Delray Beach.  We moved to that area, named the church, and began gathering about 15 people at our house each week.

The Middle
As I began to understand the city better, we found a part of Delray Beach that seemed to be a great location for our family to start a church.  However, we soon discovered a new church plant in that area already doing a great job reaching people.  So I shifted my focus to the western part of the city.

The next part of the story is hard to communicate in words.  I began to sense this western part of Delray was not where I was supposed to plant our family and plant a church.  On one hand, I struggled with the demographics of the area.  As you go west the population becomes less and less diverse and the median age climbs into the 70s.

On the other hand, I just didn’t sense God’s hand of blessing on our efforts to start a church (I know that sounds kind of strange, but it’s hard to put intuition into words).

While I was on this journey of wondering whether or not we were starting the church in the right location, a far more concrete challenge was emerging.  To put it succinctly, our family didn’t transition well into our new life.

Finding a good school situation for Nelly turned out to be a significant challenge.  Further, because we wanted to get connected to the church we were starting and the new community we were trying to reach, we didn’t get Sara and the kids involved at Grace Fellowship more than attending services on the weekends.  (By the way, if anyone reading this is simply attending a church on the weekend, don’t be surprised if you feel disconnected – you probably are!).  Well, moving my kids away from a wonderful church family and not moving them to a church family was a mistake.  They began to express feelings of loneliness and unhappiness.

The End
As we discussed the possibility of moving to a new location and re-starting the process of planting a new church, we realized that starting over in a new place would not be a wise decision given what our family has experienced the past 7 months.

Convinced that we were not in the right location and knowing that our family needed to become part of a healthy church family, we have made the difficult decision to not continue the process of starting a new church at this time.

Our challenges are not unique – everyone reading this update has their own set of challenges.  What is more unique is receiving support (financial, prayer, and just plain old encouragement) to go on a mission, and not fulfilling that mission.  It brings me great sadness to share this update with you.

After the End
For now, we are trusting that God may open a door for us to continue to make an impact here in South Florida.  The need is still very compelling, and there are many ways to meet that need besides planting a new church.

Please continue to pray for us.  Pray that . . .

– God will lead us to an established church where I can use my gifts and provide for our family

– The church family we find will be a great church home for our family

– We will find the right school option for 2013-2014 (in a region where good options are hard to find)

We are so appreciative of everyone who has been a part of our effort to start a church here in the Delray Beach area of South Florida.  Some of you have prayed.  Some of you have shared your resources.  Some of you have attended our gatherings.  We thank God for all of you.

While our current situation is discouraging, we are hoping that God will redeem this experience.  Regardless of what happens next, our real hope is not in how we serve God, but in God himself, who is always faithful to His children.


Shawn (for all the Allens)

Categories: Information | 11 Comments

Thank you . . .

Thank you to everyone who has prayed a prayer, given a dollar, followed this blog, sent an email, placed a call, texted a message, followed me on twitter, mailed a Christmas card, liked our new church on facebook, and even visited our new church.

Highlights from our first 4 months here in South Florida:

– We moved here to start a new church (eventually named Mosaix Church) because experts say 90% of the people in South Florida are spiritually lost.

– We arrived just in time for the kids to start school. Many of Grace and Walker’s classmates are Haitian, and we ended up transitioning Nelly to home-schooling in November.

– Walker was erroneously given permission by his teacher to walk home from school a few weeks after we arrived. He somehow found our home a mile away by himself, crossing a major 8-lane road without crossing guards to get there.

– I am working in the worship ministry of a great church in West Palm Beach called Grace Fellowship until we can raise enough support for me to focus my energy on planting our new church.

– Sara has received high praise for her work leading science experiments for schools all over South Florida. She starts a new job in January tutoring teenagers who winter in South Florida to continue their training as professional equestrian riders.

– Since the beginning of October, we have gathered neighbors at our townhome each Sunday night. We have cast vision for the church we hope to plant, discipled folks, shared the gospel, and eaten a lot of Sara’s great cooking. We’ve welcomed 34 different people into our home for these Sunday night gatherings, and have averaged 15 adults and kids each week.

– Next steps for Mosaix Church:
. . . leading the folks who are already gathering at our house to be a part of the team who will help us plant Mosaix Church.
. . . starting several “missional communities”. These groups will help us build bridges to new people in our community and at the same time seek to make an immediate impact on real needs.

Please consider helping make Mosaix Church become a reality by becoming a Prayer Partner or Giving Partner.

Until next year . . .

Categories: Experiences | 1 Comment

And we’re back . . .

Yes, blogging is back in session. The last few months have been very FULL for the Allens. But we are still alive, and so is this blog.

All the pages on the website have been updated.  Each page now features a beautiful picture taken by my beautiful wife.  See if you can figure out how each picture is symbolic of the page’s content . . .

Why South Florida?

Prayer Partners

Giving Partners

Month in Review

Contact Us

Mosaix Church

More blogging on the way . . .

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