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“Come to the Table of Grace”

TITLE: "Come to the Table of Grace"
AUTHOR: Barbara Hamm
TUNE: TABLE OF GRACE
COMPOSER: Barbara Hamm
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3168
SCRIPTURE: Luke 22:14-30; Isaiah 55:1-2; Matthew 26:26-28
TOPIC: Holy Communion

Background

"Come to the Table of Grace" has turned out to be one of the most popular new songs in Worship & Song. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It is a short, easy-to-learn and easy-to-sing memorable song.
  2. It is a song for use with Holy Communion, intended for congregational rather than solo or choral singing.
  3. It can be sung by the people, without them having to hold a hymnal, even as they move about the sanctuary during Holy Communion.
  4. It has an appealing pop musical style.
Dr. Barbara Hamm has a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. in English. She teaches English at the college level and brings her love and attention to language to her craft as a hymn writer. She values clarity and precision, simplicity as well as elegance, and -- above all -- a text that expresses solid, sound theology. She wants to bring that passion and discipline to her writing of worship songs in a contemporary praise and worship or popular musical style, qualities that have not always been present in that genre.

"Come to the Table of Grace" exhibits another of her goals in song writing: what she calls her "fierce desire for justice." This is not just a Communion Table, and the sacrament is not just an empty liturgical practice. This is God's Table. It is not yours, mine, ours, or our church's. It is God's Table, and God welcomes all to the feast and celebration. We are not to be gatekeepers. And this extends to the entire church, which is a place where all people are to be accepted and welcomed, rich and poor, male and female, old and young, black and white and red and yellow, gay and straight, military and civilian, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative – all are to be welcomed.

A lifelong musician, Hamm has played for church worship services since the sixth grade, and she has a minor in sacred music. For the past fourteen years, she has served as Minister of Music at Community Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) in Benicia, California. For seventeen years before that position, she was Director of Music at First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Antioch, California. She has frequently been called on to lead music and worship for national and regional gatherings of the UCC and Disciples of Christ.

Hamm has sought to hone her musical skills through study with well-known composer, hymn writer, pianist and United Methodist Pastor Dan Damon. Damon encouraged her to "go beyond my usual classically-trained style into more jazz and pop idioms. I have tried to do this, but with firm commitment to sound, solid theological content of the text."

Words

The simplicity and directness of these words are quickly understood and appreciated as they are sung. It is here at the sacramental table where, in meeting and communing with Christ and with others, we find and experience those holy and human qualities – grace, peace, love, joy. At the same time, these become words of invitation, confession, proclamation, and commitment.

As Hamm discussed this song with her teacher, Dan Damon, he encouraged her to write it as what he referred to as a "Zipper Song"; that is, a song with multiple verses or stanzas in which all the changes consist of a single word per stanza. Thus the song's four stanzas, "Come to the table of grace… peace… love… joy."

The song's second phrase reflects Hamm's passion for justice: this is not my table or our table, it is God's table, and God welcomes all here.

Music

This is not slow, penitential, expressive mood music for Holy Communion. This is joyous music for a festive celebration, sung with a good, solid tempo with a good solid beat, and strong accompaniment that will support and encourage solid singing. The triple meter can encourage clapping on the off beats 2 and 3, especially when accompanied in the triplet rhythm of a gospel style.

Guitar Friendly Chords

Capo 3: || D | A | Bm | D7 | G | A | D | A |

| D | Em | D7 | G | D | A7 | D G | D ||

Sources

See more Hymn Studies.

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