Monday, March 26, 2007

Grace Note: A Liturgical Moment Of Salvation

On Sunday I gave an unexpectedly intense sermon on the commandment "thou shalt not kill," and chose a truly unsingable hymn for the closing hymn. Big mistake; bigger than usual. Because of a very sad loss we had announced earlier in Joys and Concerns, and because the sermon itself mentioned the loss and went on to be emotionally rougher in the delivery than it had sounded inside my head, there was a lack of flow between the end of the sermon and the closing hymn. I allowed for a pretty long moment of silence as the congregation and I shared the heaviness and thought, well, preacher lady, nothing's coming to you, so let's have at the closing hymn.

I had chosen #289 in the grey hymnal, "Creative Love, Our Thanks We Give" which has fantastic words but a truly awful tune. I can sight-read pretty darn well and even into the second and third verse was totally failing to pick it up. What a helpless feeling, standing up there with this beloved community gamely plowing through this complicated tune.

Then I noticed something wonderful. The song ends on an F, which is the same note on which our earlier hymn, "There is More Love Somewhere," begins.

We all know "There Is More Love Somewhere," and we sing it without the hymnal now. We had just sung it with great feeling earlier in the service.

So after we concluded our death march through "Creative Love, Our Thanks We Give," I just continued to sing... but the first verse of "There is More Love Somewhere." Everyone picked it up right away -- what a relief to be able to sing freely together after such a hard topic!! -- and I saw some of the choir members in the back of the meetinghouse join hands.

I'm ten years into this liturgical business, and man, you cannot let down your guard for a moment.


Blogger Cynthia said...

One has to leave room for the Spirit. I love those moments.

Anonymous Jess said...

Brilliantly done, dear. I've sung "Creative Love" before, but you have to have a good contingent of people who already know it to really make it work. Some churches I've been in have the choir learn a hymn like that and stand at the front of the sanctuary to help the congregation hear it better. Sometimes they'll sing the first verse and then everyone comes in for the other ones - it's a good way to introduce new hymns without that awkwardness.

The music director at John's internship congregation had marked up the entire hymnal with notes - "easy" "medium" "hard" and "don't even think about it" - for the minister, along with organ stops and such. We meant to duplicate it before we left but didn't get the chance - guess I'll have to get one together myself!

Blogger Paul Wilczynski said...

Joan and I had never heard that hymn but, at least for me, if I never hear it again it'll be too soon. Youch it was difficult! And in 5/4 time, from what I could tell (not positive about that).

But when you went into "There is More Love Somewhere", it was just magical. Terrific job.

Anonymous LadyBurg said...

Nice job! I'd be too embarrassed to sing by myself.

Anonymous Jess said...

It alternates between 5 and 6 beats per measure if you pay attention to the bar lines - which is where people get mixed up. It could definitely be notated in a simpler fashion. If you just count each note, and the accompanist plays good phrases, it's quite lovely. Not easy, but once you've learned it, it does work. Vaughan Williams is tricky that way.

Many people know the tune itself from the traditional Herefordshire Christmas carol - "This is the truth sent from above." Dawn Upshaw sings it with Chanticleer on one of their albums.

Blogger Stephanie said...

Teaching is similar in some ways.


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