Music for the Day of Pentecost

“Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart”

Chancel Ringers

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind…  Acts 2:1


The words of this sung prayer are among the most passionate in the history of hymnody. This devotional poetry is the work of George Croly (1780-1860), an Irish Anglican minister who moved from Ireland to London to pursue a literary career in poetry, novels, history and biography.

In 1835 Croly accepted the challenge to reopen a church in one of the worst slum areas of London.  The church had been closed for over a century, but through his personal charisma and dynamic preaching, he attracted large crowds to St. Stephen’s Church. Croly prepared a new hymnal for his congregation and published it as Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship. “Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart” first appeared  there under the title “Holiness Desired.” It is the only hymn by Croly to have survived.

Frederick Atkinson (1841-1897) wrote the tune MORECAMBE, named after a town in England. MORECAMBE is well suited for “Spirit of God…” In the first stanza, a descending melody accompanies the words, “descend upon my heart.” Then an ascending melody in the third line allows the words “mighty as thou art” to blossom. This rising figure also works well with the text of the other stanzas.

The final three notes of the melody, all on the same pitch, do not end on the customary home tone, but on the third of the scale.  Concluding the melody this way leaves a floating quality to the ending of each stanza, reminiscent of the hovering of the descending Dove, one of the metaphors of the Spirit.

This handbell arrangement by Valerie Stephenson uses special techniques such as ‘let vibrate,’ in flowing sections of the harmony, which  bring to mind the blowing wind of the spirit on Pentecost; ‘echo’ possibly representing the pulsing of the heart, and ‘shake’ representing the mighty God.


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Our Music This Sunday

Ascension Sunday 

and our call to discipleship


The lessons this Sunday point to Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples.  After he “opened their minds to understand the scriptures…and blessed them… he was lifted up,  and a cloud took him out of their sight.”  (Luke 24:50-51)


And from the book of Acts, Paul tells the apostles (from the Greek for “send forth”), what Jesus had instructed: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8)


Our hymn of praise for the opening of worship is “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus.” The “alleluias” that begin each stanza create a joyful tone for the entire hymn. As we sing, we acclaim the glory of Christ now that the work of redemption is finished (stanza 1); we are reminded that Christ has ascended but is always present with his people by his Spirit (stanza 2); we petition Christ to hear the cry of sinners and be our Intercessor (stanza 3); and we celebrate Christ as both human and divine (stanza 4).


Alleluia! Sing to Jesus;  his the scepter, his the throne;
Alleluia! his the triumph, his the victory alone!
Hark! The songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood:
“Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by his blood.”


Alleluia! Not as orphans are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! he is near us; faith believes nor questions how.
Though the cloud from sight received him, when the forty days were o’er,
shall our hearts forget his promise: “I am with you evermore”?


Alleluia! Bread of angels, here on earth our food, our stay;
Alleluia! here the sinful flee to you from day to day.
Intercessor, friend of sinners, earth’s redeemer, hear our plea
where the songs of all the sinless sweep across the crystal sea.


Alleluia! King eternal, Lord omnipotent we own;
Alleluia! born of Mary, earth your footstool, heaven your throne.
As within the veil you entered, robed in flesh, our great high priest;
here on earth both priest and victim in the eucharistic feast.


These words were written in 1866 by William Chatterton Dix.  Dix made many valuable contributions to hymnody; most of his best-known hymns are in common use in America.

One of the most loved Welsh tunes,  Hyfrydol (Welsh for “tuneful” or “pleasant”) was composed by Rowland Hugh Prichard when he was only nineteen. Prichard was an amateur musician, but he had a good singing voice and was a cantor, someone who helps facilitate worship.  Hyfrydol was published with about forty of his other tunes in his 1844 children’s hymnal The Singers’ Friend.


More music for Sunday

Lindsey Smith will play trombone: “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Colin & Geoff McLean will sing “Teach Me Your Ways, O Lord.”




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Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music!

Psalm 98:4

There are still openings for you to sing or

play an instrument in worship this summer!


So far, we have three dates reserved and they’re all sure to bring wonderful musical offerings to our worship while our choirs are on summer break.


  • July 23 June Gladding & Anne Scroggs – piano duet

  • July 30 Fitz Kirwin & Allison Ali – vocal & instrumental; praise-filled island sound

  • Aug 27 “Before the Throne of Grace” – women’s quartet: Sue Ferguson, Anne Scroggs, Rachel Winograd, Kelly Hagan

Sundays still available

June 11, 18, 25; July 2, 9, 16; August 6, 13, 20; Sept 6

Instrumental or vocal, individual or group – Accompanists available

Talk to Barbara after church, by phone 703-346-3512 or by email

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His Eye is on the Sparrow


Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”    

John 14:1

Civilla Martin, who wrote the lyrics to this familiar gospel song in 1905, said this about her inspiration to write the song:


“Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ was the outcome…”


The next day she mailed the poem to Charles Gabriel, who set it to music. Gabriel composed thousands of songs, edited 35 gospel song books, 8 Sunday school song books, 7 books for male choruses, 6 books for ladies, 10 children’s song books, 19 collections of anthems, 23 choir cantatas, 41 Christmas cantatas, and 10 children’s cantatas.


2nd stanza:

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.



Share your talent!


We are nearing the end of the church year and things are winding down. But there is music after Celebration Sunday and I hope you’ll want to part of it! While our choirs are on summer break, we want special music during worship.

  • Instrumental or vocal, individual or group – Accompanists available

  • Sundays available: June 11, 18, 25; July 2, 9, 16; August 6, 13, 20; Sept 6


I am happy to discuss with you anytime.


  • after church

  •  by phone 703-346-3512

  • by email


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In Our Music May 7 – Good Shepherd Sunday


 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  

John 10:11 





Shepherd’s Peace

While this handbell choir selection has no words, its calm and serene tempos give us a feeling of assurance in the Shepherd’s love. You might recognize the hymn tunes.


Call to Worship

Lead Me, Shepherd/Shepherd’s Tune  

In Sunday’s call to worship, our Youth Choir describes, Jesus, the Shepherd, as loving his sheep (us), teaching us to hear his voice, and keeping us from straying from the right path.  June Gladding has skillfully arranged the two songs using xylophones, metallophones, recorders and voices.



The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Psalm 23 portrays God as a shepherd, feeding and leading his flock. Some say that “you prepare a table for me” in verse 5 refers to the old shepherding practice of using little raised tables to feed sheep.  The psalm has a long tradition ascribing authorship to King David, said to have been a  shepherd himself as a youth.  In Jewish tradition, Psalm 23 is sung during Friday afternoon services and as part of the Sabbath meals. For Christians, the image of God as a shepherd suggests connections not only with David but with Jesus as “the Good Shepherd” in the Gospel of John.



Shepherd of My Soul

Susan Dengler has written these words, a tender expression of God as the “Shepherd of my soul, Keeper of my heart, Guardian of each step I take.”  I hope the prayerful words, paired with an equally gentle melody, written by her husband Lee Dengler, will remain with you as you leave worship and move through your daily lives.


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Yes, it’s still Easter! Alleluia!


 Some of you readers may not be aware that our celebration of Easter continues for seven weeks – right up to Pentecost, June 4!  In this Sunday’s gospel lesson, Jesus again appears to his friends, “opening the scriptures” to them.  While they are breaking bread together, the disciples’ eyes are (finally!) opened, and they “recognize him.”  (Luke 24) So if you hear resurrection music this Sunday, don’t be surprised…



God blessed us all through music during Easter Sunday worship!

Many thanks to the

Chancel Ringers, who rang a joyful prelude

Sanctuary Choir & Instrumental Ensemble, including several of our young people:

Lucas & Trevor Smith, Keith Scroggs, Colin McLean, Marvel Onga Nana, & Nate Shue

Soloists Susan Ferguson & Geoff McLean

Congregation, who sang the resurrection hymns wholeheartedly!


Music Opportunity: Handbell Ringer


Job description

Rehearse weekly on Tuesdays from 7:30 – 8:30.


Willingness to serve the Lord through music; no experience necessary!


September 2017


Fun, satisfaction, and the joy of fellowship and service.

Contact Barbara at



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Holy Week – Reflecting on the Cross through Music


After the excitement of Palm Sunday, our music follows Jesus during his last days, from the Passover supper to his submission to God’s will in the garden, to his betrayal, trial, and crucifixion. 



Maundy Thursday

Special music “Remember Me” records Jesus’ last supper with the disciples.  The disciples are shocked when he tells them one of their own will betray him.  But their shock turns to lethargy in the garden. It seems they still don’t get it.


Good Friday

The Handbell Choir begins our Good Friday worship with a dramatic arrangement of “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley.”  The Sanctuary Choir sings “Deep Were His Wounds and Red” and “Were You There?” at the close of a day that is surely a “black Friday,” and yet…



“Forsaken and forlorn, he hung there in our place.
But all who would from sin be free, look to his cross for victory.”


Worship and reflect with us this Thursday and Friday at 7:30pm.

 Christ Presbyterian Church

12410 Lee Jackson Memorial Highway

Fairfax, Virginia







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Palm Sunday Music – Donkey Leads Us to Holy Week


As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power they had seen…
Luke 19:37


Palm Processional

“Little Grey Donkey”


This Sunday our Youth Choir will begin our journey into Holy Week, processing with palms and singing about the “Little Grey Donkey,” who carried a very special person into Jerusalem. The anthem is crafted as a conversation with the “blessed of all beasts”


Do you know just who it is you carry on your back?


Don’t hide your head in shame…you are honored…


Under the excellent leadership of June Gladding, our choristers have been learning the story as well as the music.  Musician and poet Natalie Sleeth composed the song using text painting, the technique of writing music that reflects the literal meaning of a song.  Notice in  the accompaniment the steady clopping of the donkey’s hooves and the turn to minor when the text is about Calvary.  Anne Scroggs, bassoon, and Carolyn Tate, percussion, add to this  effect.



Closing Hymn

“We Sang our Loud Hosannas”


As we near the end of worship, our music turns dark and becomes a prologue to the events of Holy Week.  The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death.



We sang our glad Hosannas, and waved our branches high,
but some were silent, frowning, as Jesus rode on by.


Though many came for healing and stayed to hear his word,
still others, hostile, plotted and thus his death assured.





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Joy During Lent?

Our Music During Lent


“I Come with Joy”


I come with joy to meet my Lord, forgiven, loved and free,
in awe and wonder to recall his life laid down for me.


Choosing the music for worship can sometimes be challenging. I try to follow the lectionary, but this week with the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from death, it was difficult to find appropriate hymns without getting into the Easter theme of Resurrection.  So I decided to focus on the Lord’s Supper, one of the most important practices of the Christian church and a key symbol of our relationship to Christ and one another.

Brian Wren is one of the most vibrant hymn writers today. Most hymnals include at least a few of his hymns. “I come with joy,” which appears in at least forty hymnals in North America, was written in 1968 for Wren’s congregation as a summation of a sermon series on Communion. It reflects a shift in many communion hymns since the 1960s: rather than focusing on the suffering Christ on the cross, it emphasizes the Eucharistic dimensions of the feast. “Eucharist” is a term from the Greek that means thanksgiving. Unlike many older communion hymns, the first line speaks of an attitude of joy when approaching the table.

The first stanza is written from a first-person singular perspective. The individual worshipper comes to the table with joy “forgiven, loved, and free.” The second stanza places that individual worshipper in the Christian fellowship – with “Christians far and near.”  No longer is this a table of individual penitence, but a communal feast.

By the third stanza, the perspective changes from first-person singular to first-person plural. It is now “we” and “us” who are being shaped as one in Christ’s love. It is the feast at the table that removes the barriers that divide us: Christ’s love “makes us one” and “strangers now are friends.” In the fourth stanza, “we meet the Lord” and experience “His presence” through the meal.

The fifth stanza can be a sung benediction. Through the singing of this hymn, we are made into one body in worship and return to the world to witness as Christ’s “people in the world.”


Together met, together bound, we’ll go our different ways,
and as his people in the world, we’ll live and speak his praise.

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Our Music During Lent – “Amazing Grace”

“Amazing Grace”

 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12


Sunday’s gospel is the story of Jesus giving sight to the blind man and so much more…spiritual blindness. If you read John 9, you’ll see the many layers of the story. “Amazing Grace” contains the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that we can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God.

The hymn was written by English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807). Newton grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his early life was marked by his headstrong disobedience.  This disobedience led to being pressed into the Royal Navy, and after deserting, becoming involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his ship so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. In 1754 he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.

Ten years later, after his ordination, Newton wrote “Amazing Grace,” using his personal experience and the New Testament as the basis for many of the lyrics: the first verse can be traced to the stories of the Prodigal Son and the blind man.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The hymn has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named NEW BRITAIN.  A folk tune typical of the Appalachian tunes from the southern United States, NEW BRITAIN is the tune to which “Amazing Grace” is most frequently sung today.

DID YOU KNOW? “Amazing Grace” is probably the most famous of all folk hymns; it is performed about 10 million times a year.  Its universal message has led to its crossover into secular music: it has been sung in various venues (including Woodstock) by such popular music greats as Mahalia Jackson, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash, and is often played on bagpipes during funerals.


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