Aaron Niequist has written an interesting song that can cross contexts, although it is primarily what could be considered a modern worship song with band accompaniment. If using the score from the link provided, make note--if each phrase is to contain four measures as in the video, there is an error in the score. At the beginning, the Gsus chord lasts two measures, and the Em lasts only one. The Em should be played through two complete bars, thus making a four-measure phrase. Also, the range on this particular song is questionable because there are so many sustained high Es. I would recommend singing this in F to make those notes more accessible for your congregation. The words and message of this song are very poignant, so with these changes, this could be a great song for your worship.
O Fount of Love
“O Fount of Love” is a strophic, hymn-like modern song that is written very much in the same style as songs of Keith and Kristyn Getty. This atonement hymn contains very singable stanzas with a most reflective text that could be used many times throughout the year, including Holy Week and Christ the King Sunday. When you download the song file from CCLI SongSelect, there is much more music on the page than you might need. All the extra instrumental accompaniment sections are included, but if you feel the need to sing only the stanzas straight through and avoid the instrumental sections, that is perfectly acceptable! Remember this is what is often referred to as a “blood” hymn, and it may require some extra explanation for those attending your church for the first time. (For those who have never been to church, singing graphic songs about blood can be somewhat horrifying.) Be empowered in knowing that explaining the setting of the song in a worshipful way is welcomed in worship. Although it does get a little low in places, the range is good for congregations, so I recommend the key of Bb. Accompaniment possibilities include organ, piano, and guitar. Keep the accompaniment minimal to enhance the reverence within the textual imagery.
Jesus, United by Thy Grace
Charles Wesley crafted a hymn of Christian fellowship that, in The United Methodist Hymnal, includes six of the original twenty-nine stanzas. Wesley’s point of being held together is reinforced by his imagery of the lodestone, which is a naturally occurring magnet. He includes such text as “united,” “ever toward each other move,” “ever move toward thee,” “inseparably joined,” “cleave,” and “bond” to support the hymn’s theme of connectedness with God and one another. Each stanza moves toward the end of the hymn, when we encounter “the bond of perfectness,” which is one of the defining characteristics of Wesleyan theology: being made perfect in love. ST. AGNES is a beautiful tune, but I would encourage singing it with more of a 3/8 feel in order to keep the tempo moving forward. This would also require holding the dotted half notes in measures 7 and 14 for one extra measure to avoid surprising the congregation and making the phrases feel short. Even though this hymn is in common meter (CM), there are not many tunes that are suitable for the text because this is one of the few CM hymns in our hymnal that begin on an accented syllable. Take this as an opportunity to teach the tune if your congregation does not know it.
I have found this to be one of the most singable hymns in our United Methodist collections because of the lilting nature of the tune, the key, and the possibilities for accompaniment. A hymn that models the kingdom of God by recalling the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet from John 13, “Jesu, Jesu,” calls us all to serve one another in love and humility. Pronunciation of the word “Jesu” is Yeh-soo. Accompaniment can vary on this hymn depending on the context, but I have found one of the best approaches by using fingerpicked arpeggios on a guitar with very light percussion (shakers, bongos, or a conga). This is also easily learned by a choir; sing the refrain in unison or four parts, and on the stanzas have sopranos, tenors, and basses sing the melody with the altos on the harmony a third below. Read History of Hymns: "Jesu, Jesu" »
We Would See Jesus
Our recommendation with the use of this resource this week is to speak the words of stanza 3 while the instruments accompany underneath. The use of a folk ensemble (guitars, mandolin, fiddle, etc.) can go a long way in helping this become a heart song of the congregation. Later in the service, we encourage you to sing the hymn in its entirety with the folk ensemble described above. Read History of Hymns: "We Would See Jesus" »
Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart
In this worship service, we recommend singing stanza 5 only as a response to the Scripture reading. This stanza expresses the sentiment of a prayer to help refine and make us perfect: “Teach me to love thee… one holy passion filling all my frame.” The prayer is that God would continually work in us that love might consume us and be our only desire. MORECAMBE is a beautiful tune that your congregation should know, especially in its musical passion in the last two lines as it moves to the climax at the beginning of the final line. However, if your church is not familiar with this tune, another option would be to use the tune FINLANDIA (“Be Still My Soul,” “This Is My Song,”), and sing the last two lines twice to complete the stanza for that tune.
Perfect Us in Love
This Charles Wesley text has its roots in the Hymns and Sacred Poems (1742), but the opening stanza of this setting by Taylor Burton-Edwards has often been overlooked in hymnals because of a syllabic issue in the fourth line related to the word “perfect.” We have found a way to work through this and present it to you here as a lead sheet, with a choice of either using the tune ST. AGNES (without the refrain composed by Taylor) or the new tune PERFECT US. This hymn can serve as a wonderful prayer related to sanctification and the journey toward Christian perfection. Accompany with a piano, guitar, or small instrumental ensemble. Be sure not to make the accompaniment too complex, or the gracefulness found in its simplicity will be muddled. The ideal key is D. The refrain alone would also make a great prayer response for your church, regardless of style of worship. View and download Perfect Us In Love (Burton-Edwards) »
You Are Holy
You might not think you would encounter a great Brazilian bossa nova by a Swedish composer in the ever-growing repertoire of congregational song, but Per Harling has written one of the most enjoyable songs in this style you will encounter when singing praise to God. This hymn has two parts--A and B sections--that are built over the same chord progression and can be sung simultaneously. However, I recommend singing the entire hymn through at least once before trying this. If you have a choir, simply divide them in a two-part arrangement (men and women, SB and AT, ST and AB, etc.) to help support the work of the congregation. Accompaniment can be varied, but piano and/or guitar should not double the melody. They should be played rhythmically, along with light percussion and a bass instrument (double bass, electric bass, etc.). A flute played one octave higher is the recommended instrument to double the voice in this piece. God is holy, so let the overall tempo and feel inspire you to move with the leading of the Spirit!
I Thank You, Jesus
This song from The Africana Hymnal can also be found in Worship & Song (3037) and is sure to be a congregational favorite, no matter what the church. A choir goes a long way on this by being able to offer the rocking choral parts along with the melody. If a choir is not available, however, don’t worry. The piano and any other accompanying instruments, which can go to a full band, will be able to support the overall spirit of the hymn well, and the hymn is very singable (and unforgettable). I suggest a tempo of 84 (per dotted quarter note in 12/8) as comfortable, accessible, and stylistically appropriate.
Other Suggested Hymns for The Great Invitation, Week 7:
“Christ Has Broken Down the Wall” W&S 3122
“There’s a Spirit of Love in This Place” W&S 3148
“Help Us Accept Each Other” UMH 560