Monthly Archives: October 2013

Our Communion Hymn This Sunday

verb collage

“As We Gather at Your Table” (Hymn 2268, Sing the Faith)

I really like this hymn because of all its verbs.  It’s a prayer, asking God to transform us through elements of the worship service, to make us more fully into God’s image. 

Note the active verbs in stanza 1: gather, listen, stir, nourish, teach.  Don’t these words describe our worship? 

As we gather at your table,                                     WE gather.

as we listen to your word,                                        WE listen.

help us know, O God, your presence;

let our hearts and minds be stirred.                          GOD stirs our hearts and minds.

Nourish us with sacred story                                      GOD feeds us with Word and sacrament.

till we claim it as our own;
teach us through this holy banquet                         GOD teaches us.

how to make Love’s victory known.

Stanza 2 tells us what can happen when we allow God to “stir our hearts and minds:”

Turn our worship into witness                                  Our lives become a witness.
in the sacrament of life;
send us forth to love and serve you,                      We serve God.
bringing peace where there is strife.
Give us, Christ, your great compassion                 We show compassion.
to forgive as you forgave;                                      We forgive.
may we still behold your image
in the world you died to save.                               We see God in everyone.

In stanza 3, we continue the prayer, asking God through the Holy Spirit to help us:

Gracious Spirit, help us summon
other guests to share that feast                              To invite others.
where triumphant Love will welcome

those who had been last and least.                       To welcome everyone.
There no more will envy blind us,                            To give up our envy and pride.
nor will pride our peace destroy,
as we join with saints and angels
to repeat the sounding joy.                                     And to keep repeating the joy of God’s love.

Can you find the common thread in each stanza?

Words: Son of a Baptist pastor, Carl Daw has a strong connection to Virginia: he obtained his M.A. and Ph. D. from the University of Virginia and taught English at the College of William and Mary.  After receiving his Master of Divinity, he served at various parishes throughout the Eastern United States before he began work on hymns.

Music: Skinner Chavez-Melo, composer, was born in Mexico City, but completed his musical studies in the United States. He wrote hymn settings for several hymnals and presented workshops on Hispanic church music.  He died of spinal cancer in 1992 at the age of 47.

(Common thread: Love.)


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IN OUR MUSIC OCTOBER 27 “Holy, Holy, Holy” (chime choir prelude)

holy holy holy“And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”  Revelation 4:8

The familiar tune NICAEA is named after the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., at which church leaders began to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity. It is often sung on Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost.

 NICAEA is thought to be one of the finest tunes composed by John Bacchus Dykes.  He wrote the tune as a setting for Reginald Heber’s text, and ever since their first publication together in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861), the text and tune have been virtually inseparable.

By the age of 12, Dykes was assistant organist at St John’s Church in Hull, England.  In addition, he played the organ, piano, violin, and horn.  He also published numerous sermons and articles on religion, but he is best known for over 300 hymn tunes he composed.  Another of his popular hymn tunes is MELITA,  the Navy Hymn.

 Related Trivia –  The Navy Hymn was sung at John F. Kennedy’s funeral.



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Psalm 121“I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.

This Psalm is one of the more popular psalms in Christian liturgy, hymns, and anthems. Some call it the soldier’s psalm, and think it was written by David, trusting God to protect him in the day of battle. Others call it the traveler’s psalm and think it was written for the journey or voyage.

Psalm 121 is one of the Songs of Ascent, a title given to fifteen of the Psalms, 120–134, that each starts with
the ascription Shir Hama’aloth (Hebrew, meaning “Song of Ascent”). Many scholars believe these psalms
were sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the annual festivals, including Passover,
the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Others think the Levites (priests) would stand with musical
instruments and sing these songs on the fifteen steps of the temple.

The Songs of Ascent were well suited for being sung.  They are characterized by their

  • POETIC FORM – Verse 2 “maker of heaven and earth” and verse 6 “by day and by night” are merisms, word pairs that summarize the total by naming its opposite boundaries. Verse 8 adds another merism, “your going out and your coming in.” Hebrew poetry has neither metre nor rhyme. It is characterized by parallelism, or “thought-rhyme.” For example, gradation is used in Psalm 121: the thought of one verse is resumed in another. Note verses 1 & 2 “my help;” verses 3 & 4 “slumber.”
  • BREVITY – With the exception of Psalm 132,the psalms in the Songs of Ascent are short. The average length of a psalm is 17 verses; the average in this collection is under 7 verses (Psalm 132 has 18).
  • KEY-WORD – The word “keep” is derived from a verbal root that means “to protect, to guard, to watch over, to take care of.”
  • REPETITION – “Keep” appears six times in Psalm 121.

Allen Pote, who composed the music for Sunday’s anthem, also paraphrased the psalm. He has paired the
music and text to give us a feeling of longing for God, as well as a confidence in God’s perpetually watching
over us. What a hopeful thought on our life’s journey!



  • There are 150 Psalms.
  • Many early hermits (monks who lived in seclusion) recited the entire Psalter daily. Cenobites (monks who lived in communities) would chant the entire Psalter in a week.
  • It is traditional for some Jews to place a copy of Psalm 121 in the labor and delivery room to promote an easy labor, and on the baby’s carriage and in the baby’s room for protection.
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“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.And he was a Samaritan. “ Luke 17:15, 16

Sunday we hear the familiar story of the ten lepers. In the text, after the healing ofthe lepers, the focus narrows to one of the ten, the Samaritan, who alone turns backglorifying God and thanking him. Samaritans were the unlovely outsiders ofJesus’ day, so it seems appropriate that we sing “Let ALL things…”


Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving

To God the creator triumphantly raise.
Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
Who still guides us on to the end of our days.
God’s banners are o’er us, His light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
Till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished
As forward we travel from light into light.

His law he enforces, the stars in their courses
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
With glad adoration a Song let us raise
Till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:
“To God in the highest, Hosanna and praise!”

This text was written by Katherine K. Davis, who studied piano from her early childhood and began
composing at 15. She taught piano and music theory at Wellesley College. Like many of her 600+
compositions, “Let All Things Now Living” was first published as an anthem for the choir at her
school. Davis set the words to the tune THE ASH GROVE, a traditional Welsh folk song. The hymn has
become a favorite of many church choirs and congregations, and appears in 27 hymnals.

 “The Ash Grove” was featured in the 1980 BBC mini-series Pride and Prejudice.
 K. K. Davis also wrote the popular Christmas song “The Little Drummer Boy.”

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Come and sing in the Christmas cantata!

1 handbell.qxd

Rehearsals for our December 15, (11am) cantata, “Let the Whole World Sing,” begin next Wednesday, October 9, from 8:15pm – 8:45pm.  If you love to sing, but can’t commit to weekly choir practice, you are welcome to join us. Come downstairs to the choir room and enjoy singing some interesting settings of carols from around the world as well as some new music.


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world-communion-sunday“GATHER US IN” (HYMN 2236)

Marty Haugen (b. 1950) is perhaps the most prolific and influential composer of liturgical music of his generation. His hymns, psalm settings and paraphrases, and anthems are widely used in both Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations around the world. Haugen now has over 400 compositions in print. In addition to his compositions, he offers conferences throughout North America, Europe, the Pacific Rim, Asia and Central America for church musicians interested in worship renewal.

“Gather Us In” (1982) represents Mr. Haugen’s skill both as a poet and composer. He describes his inspiration for this hymn: “‘Gather Us In’ was written after I first heard the wonderful Oosterhuis text ‘What Is This Place?’ I wanted to craft something that might say a similar message to North American ears. I deliberately wrote it in second person to avoid gender issues and to more directly sing ‘to’ God rather than ‘about’ God.”

In the first stanza, we find that this community is one of honesty where we can bring both “our fears and our dreamings” into “the light of this day.” Regardless of who we are, we have an identity in this community as we respond to “the sound of our name” given at our baptism.

Here in this place, new light is streaming, now is the darkness vanished away.
See, in this space, our fears and our dreamings, brought here to you in the light of this day.
Gather us in – the lost and forsaken,
gather us in – the blind and the lame.
Call to us now, and we shall awaken, we shall arise at the sound of our name.

Stanza two continues a description of this inclusive gathering, a community that has a history and a purpose:
to “be a light to the whole human race” (Matthew 5:14-16).

We are the young – our lives are a mystery, we are the old – who yearn for your face.
We have been sung throughout all of history, called to be light to the whole human race.
Gather us in – the rich and the haughty,
gather us in – the proud and the strong.
Give us a heart so meek and so lowly, give us the courage to enter the song.

Stanza three describes a sacramental community where we receive the “wine and the water” and “bread of new birth.” This nourishment gives us strength “to be salt for the earth” (Matthew 5:13), and “fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.”

Here we will take the wine and the water, here we will take the bread of new birth.
Here you shall call your sons and your daughters, call us anew to be salt for the earth.
Give us to drink the wine of compassion, give us to eat the bread that is you.
Nourish us well, and teach us to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.

The concluding stanza clarifies that the work of the kingdom takes place now in the midst of the gathered, inclusive community, especially appropriate on this World Communion Sunday.

Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven, light years away,
but here in this place, the new light is shining; now is the Kingdom, now is the day.
Gather us in – and hold us forever,
gather us in – and make us your own.
Gather us in – all peoples together, fire of love in our flesh and our bone.

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