Music Matters

July 2014

Has Community of Christ Sings been a hit with your congregation?

The enthusiastic acceptance of my denomination’s new hymnal, Community of Christ Sings (CCS), has been a joy…and a bit of a surprise in my small congregation. With only three or four individuals who volunteer to play the piano from week to week, I was truly impressed that these busy folks welcomed the challenge of mastering new music to incorporate into our services. The congregation has also responded, finding hymns that are becoming new favorites, hymns that have brought healing and life to the soul. So what has led to the tremendous blessing we’ve experienced? This short article is our story. If any of these ideas resonate with you, I hope you’ll consider trying them in your setting as well.

A special service: A congregation about an hour’s drive from ours has a quartet and accompanist who travel about once a month to provide special music for congregations in the area. Our congregation invited them to come and share a special program of new hymns. The order of worship for services like this can also be found online. You may also be able to enjoy such a special service or even more extensive workshops near you as true ministers of music are visiting every mission center in Community of Christ for coming months and years. All of these workshops are open to the public, and of course to any interested member of the church.

An event like this is only a beginning, though. Energy will wane unless there are continued experiences with the new music and texts.

Explore the music: The recordings of the hymns in CCS have become an invaluable resource for our musicians. These busy people who volunteer to play or lead singing began to find new music they loved. Some of the melodies and harmonies of these new hymns were so compelling that we just had to practice and learn them. Also, we became eager to share them with the congregation. One way we shared the new music was to make it part of our service music as preludes or other parts of the service. In this way, the congregation heard the songs and developed an excitement to learn them before they even sung them.

Explore the text: As a musician, I first fell in love with beautiful songs in CCS. But almost immediately, I found that this monumental resource is also filled with texts that minister to the heart, uplift the spirit, and offer healing and renewal. As our congregation has taken time to read the words, they too, have come to cherish the spiritual gift of CCS. We’re not alone in finding the new hymnal to be a milestone worship resource. At the 2013 Peace Colloquy, the International Peace Award recipient, John Bell, gave his testimony about the eloquence and spiritual significance of the music of people of faith.

Ministers in our congregation use the texts as readings or meditations in our services, generating a desire by the congregation so also sing the words. With advance notice, a musician might also use the hymn as meditation music in the same service where the words are read.

Teaching at the point of readiness: We have already come to love many new offerings within CCS. Many old favorites remain, too, creating broad appeal in the congregation. The new favorites weren’t necessarily sung with ease the first time, though. Luckily, the special service, the explorations of music and text, and the individual curiosity of our members all contribute to their readiness to learn. While strategies for learning new hymns have been shared in Music Matters on various occasions, here are just a few reminders.

Hints for learning new hymns have been extremely valuable to our congregation as we open the pages of CCS. But the most important testimonial we can share is that we have embarked on a blessed adventure exploring these treasures, new and old. We hope you’ll join us on this spiritual quest.

Links: For your convenience, the links from the article above are included below.

A sample service…
https://www.cofchrist.org/worship13-14/HymnalService.pdf

Mission center events…
http://www.cofchrist.org/hymnal/fieldministry.asp

An ecumenical testimonial…
http://www.cofchrist.org/hymnal/articles/Bell.asp

Purchase hymnals, audio recordings of the hymns…
http://www.heraldhouse.org/cart/edit.asp?p=344521

Read about strategies to learn new hymns…
http://www.cofchrist.org/musicmatters/2008/apr08.asp

—Blake West


Music Matters: tips and insights for church musicians. Subscribe to receive Music Matters every month.

If you have suggestions or ideas for future columns, please contact:

Jan Kraybill
Principal Organist
Community of Christ Headquarters
Independence, MO, USA

or

David Bolton
Worship and Music Support Specialist
Community of Christ Headquarters
Independence, MO, USA