Monthly Archives: June 2014

Not Just Any Song Will Do

imagesNot Just Any Song Will Do:

Three basics for choosing church music

Today’s blog is in response to those of you who have asked how I choose music for worship.  My guidelines come from this article (adapted) in the Presbyterian Church’s “Reformed Worship” by Ronald W. Scates & Leo M. Wanenchak

“Why sing songs written by fallen mortals when Almighty God has inspired 150 of his own hymns?”

That kind of thinking made choosing music for worship a moot point for many of our Reformed forebears. You sang the psalms. No wrestling over hymns versus praise choruses. How things have changed over the centuries!

Today, worship planners stand beneath an avalanche of hymns. Never before have we had so much music to choose from. But much church music (new and old, “contemporary” or “traditional”) is of suspect quality and appropriateness for authentic worship in the Reformed tradition. The temptation is to incorporate what’s “popular” or “what works” without first asking some more important questions of the music: questions of theological faithfulness, musical quality, and liturgical appropriateness.

Is the Text Biblically and Theologically Faithful in Content?

When looking at a hymn, ask yourself: Does it point to God/Christ?  What theology is expressed?  Are the words understandable? Does it distract, or enable people to worship?  Does it substitute sentimentality for biblical truth?

Does the Hymn Fit Liturgically?

Do the words and mood of the piece reinforce the overall theme and mood of the service, the Scripture text being preached on that day, and/or the season of the Christian year? Does a given song fit best at the beginning of the service, or does the text really indicate a response that should come later in the service?

Is the Piece of Good Musical Quality?

Play through the music, not singing or mentally inserting the text.  Is this music of character, form, integrity? Is it congregationally singable? Then read aloud the text as if you are reciting a poem. Where does it lead your heart? Where does it leave your heart? What does it communicate to God? Now put the music with the text. Is it an artful union? Does it ring with beauty and distinction?   Music must move our heart, mind, body, or soul in a significant way. Remember, we are not speaking here about musical taste—what we like or don’t like. We are speaking about music as God’s gift of art to move us out of the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Balance Is Important

Music nourishes the soul into healthful worship. So it’s important that we focus on a balanced diet. Every hymn was once “contemporary.” In building a repertoire of the best, we need not only the best of today but the best of all ages, the best of our culture as well as the best of other cultures around the world, the best from our tradition along with the best from other traditions. Using such a varied menu will remind the congregation that we are not an isolated community of believers. God’s church extends past our walls and past our time.

The Reformed worship tradition has always emphasized both head and heart: worship as a service of the mind in which our hearts are moved  to praise, conviction, and passion for Christ and for good works amidst a broken and fallen world. Good music in worship carries great ability to enlighten minds and move hearts.

When we intentionally choose music that reinforces and stretches biblical faith, and moves hearts toward Christ, then we will more and more approximate worship that has authenticity, integrity, and, most importantly, will be pleasing to God.


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Music News at Christ Presbyterian Church


…to graduates Casey MacLean and Breana Tate, violinists, and Marvel Onga Nana and Stephanie Twedt, violists.  Our entire string section is heading off to college, but we’re hopeful they will be around for our Christmas cantata.


Summer Music

 Choir June 15 2014Christ Presbyterian is blessed with many talented instrumentalists, ringers, and singers.  Each summer, while the vocal and bell choirs are on hiatus, we welcome those musicians from our church family to provide special musical offerings during worship.   Here are a few:


Colin, recorderJun 22     “His Eye is on the Sparrow”   Marjorie Sielinski, soprano


Jun 29     “Spirit of God”  Tom Shaw, Jay Lough, Sujin John, Geoff McLean


Jul 6        “Before the Throne of God Above” Glenn & Elizabeth Himes, duet


Jul 20     “Come, Follow Me”   Women’s Chorus with Casey MacLean, violin


Aug 3      Keith Scroggs, clarinet; Anne Scroggs, bassoon, June Gladding, piano


Aug 10   “Sweet Hour of Prayer”  Men’s Barbershop Chorus



AND MORE:  Jillian Tate, soprano; Colin McLean, recorder; Eric Westrate, bass; Shirley Moore, solo


See you this summer at the 10am worship!







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Trinity Sunday: “Come, Thou Almighty King”

trinityTEXT:  This anonymous text dates from before 1757, when it was published in a leaflet and bound into the 1757 edition of George Whitefield’s Collection of Hymns for Social Worship.  The song exhibits a common trinitarian structure, addressing God the Father (stanza 1), God the Son (stanza 2), and God the Holy Spirit (stanza 3), and concluding with a doxology (an expression of praise) to the Trinity (stanza 4).

 The text has often been attributed to Charles Wesley, since Whitefield’s leaflet also included a hymn text from him (“Jesus, Let Thy Pitying Eye”); however, “Come, Thou Almighty King” was never printed in any of the Wesley hymnals, and no other Wesley text is written in such an unusual meter.


TUNE:  Felice de Giardini (1716-1796) composed ITALIAN HYMN in three parts for this text at the request of Selina Shirley, the famous evangelically-minded Countess of Huntingdon. Giardini was living in London at the time and contributed this tune and three others to Martin Madan’s Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, published to benefit the Lock Hospital in London where Madan was chaplain.

 Giardini achieved great musical fame throughout Europe, and especially in England. He studied violin, harpsichord, voice, and composition in Milan and Turin; in his early thirties, he conducted a successful solo violin tour of Europe. He moved to England in 1750 and for the next forty years lived in London, where he was a prominent violinist in several orchestras, taught, and composed operas and instrumental music. In 1784 he traveled to Italy, but when he returned to London, he was no longer popular.  His subsequent tour to Russia also failed, and he died there in poverty.

 ITALIAN HYMN, named for its composer’s homeland, appears in 1526 hymnals, sometimes with small variants when compared to the original melody


Come, thou almighty King, help us thy name to sing;
help us to praise: Father, all glorious, o’er all victorious,
come, and reign over us, Ancient of Days.


Come, thou incarnate Word, merciful, mighty Lord,
our prayer attend. Come, and thy people bless, and give thy word success;
Spirit of holiness, on us descend.


Come, holy Comforter, thy sacred witness bear
in this glad hour. Thou who almighty art, now rule in every heart,
and ne’er from us depart, Spirit of power.


To thee, great One in Three, eternal praises be,
hence evermore! Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see,
and to eternity love and adore.



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Pentecost: Holy Spirit, Enliven Me!


              Anthem, “Spirit of the Living God”

                        Children’s Choir with Adult Choir



On the last few Sundays, the lessons have been about Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, through whom Jesus would be with his disciples:


I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  (John 14:16)


I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. (John 14: 18)


Probably the most-often sung hymn on Pentecost, “Spirit of the Living God” (see words above) is our plea for that advocate to be with us, to strengthen us for living out our discipleship.  Daniel Iverson, born in 1890,  wrote the first stanza and tune of this hymn after hearing a sermon on the Holy Spirit during an evangelism crusade in 1926. The hymn was sung at the crusade and then printed in leaflets for use at other services. Published anonymously in Robert H. Coleman’s Revival Songs with alterations in the tune, this short hymn gained much popularity by the middle of the century. Since the 1960s it has again been properly credited to Iverson.

In Sunday’s anthem, Malcolm Kogut has added two striking stanzas, further specifying what we need and want from the Holy Spirit:


Kindle in my heart your fire.  Come light my way.

Come create, renew, inspire.  Come with your grace.

Fill me, lead me, show me, stir me.

Holy spirit, flow through me, call me to serve.


Make my life what it should be, teach me your love.

May the world see you in me, teach me your song.

Call me, feed me, heal  me, teach me.

Spirit who enlivens me, come rest in me.


Notice all the verbs in these verses: come, light, create, renew, inspire, fill, lead, stir, flow, call, teach, feed, heal… just a sample of what the spirit can do for us if we are open to it.

But my favorite verb in the entire song is in the last line:  “Spirit, who enlivens me…”  We are not just being passively visited by the Holy Spirit, but we are enlivened, which suggests action.  Here are some synonyms for the word ‘enlivened’: stirred, uplifted, buoyed, animated, invigorated, restored, revived, refreshed, rejuvenated, re-energized, stimulated, roused…

Perhaps the most appropriate meaning of ‘enliven’ for Pentecost Sunday is this one: to light a fire under!


Jesus told them, “…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.  John 14:26



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