Laity Sunday 2016 Music Leader Notes

Disciples Called to Action: Living Vital Worship

The following planning notes for music leaders are for use with the Laity Sunday 2016 Worship Resources — Order of Worship developed by Jodi Cataldo (Director, Laity in Leadership); Taylor Burton-Edwards (Director, Worship Resources); Dawn Chesser (Director, Preaching Ministries); and Jackson Henry (Director, Music Ministries)

See additional resources for use with this service:

Now Thank We All Our God — UMH 102

This hymn is one of the greatest chorales in the history of the church.  Written between the years of 1636 and 1647, it is commanding in its presence by using traditional Baroque harmony and voice leading in a homophonic setting.  Each voice part is interesting in its own way, with plenty of opportunities for “melodic” singing, even if it is not the melody.  The best musical terms recommended to use when singing this are maestoso or pomposo, which both point to a very stately approach.  It is very regal in its composition, so sing it boldly.

If you feel led to take a different approach, however, I have often been influenced by the singing of this tune on the radio show, A Prairie Home Companion.  It can easily be adapted to fit within a folk band setting in the key of D.  Try singing it a little up-tempo with a unison melody, accompanied by acoustic guitar and, if you have access to them, a fiddle, snare drum, and maybe even an accordion.  Any of these instruments sound great together, or you may be inspired to add other instruments, or create your own ensemble.  Either way, when using a band, one of the best practices on this chorale is to make measures 4 and 8 fit within a 6/4 time signature (holding the note with the fermata for 3 full counts).

10,000 Reasons (“Bless the Lord”) — Available from

Having quickly moved into the hearts and voices of so many worshipers around the world, Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons” has brought new life to the singing of the Psalms, especially Psalms 103 and 104.  It can be quite easy to play on the piano and can be led with that one instrument alone.  It can also be accompanied by a full band, but one of the best characteristics of this song is its adaptability to any context and setting.

If you are looking for a creative way to sing this song, one of the successful practices is to pair it with one of the Psalms mentioned above and transition to the last half of the refrain as the sung response between stanzas of the Psalm.  After the final refrain of the song, instruct the pianist and/or band to continue playing softly underneath the reading or chanting of the Psalm, and crescendo into the second half of the refrain at the appropriate time, as indicated by the red “R” in the rubrics of The United Methodist Hymnal.

How Great Is Our God — W&S 3003

Written in a ballad style, this Trinitarian song can be a great way to begin a worship service.  It would most often be found in modern settings at the close of the opening worship set, leading forward into other acts of worship.  It is possible to accompany this song with a band, a piano, or a lone acoustic guitar.  Because of this, adaptability is also quite easy with this selection.

One of the most commonplace, yet interesting practices is to pair this song with the refrain of “How Great Thou Art.”  It is easy to make this transition toward the end of the song, and it gives singers of a slightly more traditional hymnody the chance to sing a familiar tune.  When doing this, however, it is important to keep the two songs in the same key.  Some simple adaptation may be needed.

We Are the Church — UMH 558

This popular Avery/Marsh song has become a familiar song of unity that reminds us that the church is not a structure built by human hands.  It is the people of God, gathering together and being led by the Holy Spirit.  For the purposes of this service, we have recommended dividing the song up into stanzas 1-2 here, and stanza 5 later. As people are invited to be seated following the second verse, continue playing a fade-out on “I Am the Church” leading into the first reading.

Make note that when you sing this song, it is very easy to begin at a swift pace because of the opening exclamations in the refrain.  However, don’t be tempted to go too fast because the stanzas are very “notey,” meaning the melody is very syllabic, and there are many syllables sung with a melody that jumps around a bit.  If you take the refrain too quickly, what will happen is a stanza that becomes bogged down as the congregation tries to fit all those syllables in.  It is ok to pull back a little bit on the stanzas, but having to slow down dramatically sets the stage for some awkward singing.

Love the Lord — W&S 3116

Be sure to create an environment for singing with all ages in worship.  This song can help!  I have often taught and sung this song by integrating some simple hand motions with the words, “heart,” “soul,” “mind,” and “strength.”  I would suggest accompanying this song with a band or a small ensemble using guitar and other strummed instruments.  It is very difficult on the piano, and even when playing it from Worship & Song accurately, it is clumsy at best.  For best practice, it requires a simple, repetitive rhythm (like a strum pattern), which is easiest on a guitar.  It even works a cappella if you are brave enough to sing it in that fashion. Or have an ensemble sing through the first verse and chorus and invite congregational participation on succeeding verses and choruses.

Take Up Thy Cross — UMH 415

We have suggested pairing this song with the tune GIFT OF LOVE (UMH 408) or O WALY WALY (W&S 3124) because of the lyrical nature it gives to Christ’s call to “take up their cross and follow me.”  I have most often seen this tune in use with hymns that have rhyming couplets (AABB), and though it is not as fitting for the rhyming pattern found in this hymn (ABAB), it will still provide a good setting for the congregation to sing.

What Does the Lord Require of You — TFWS 2174

It is possible for your congregation to sing in canon!  What it requires, however, is a leader of congregational song who understands the needs of creating a sung canon—cueing sections of the congregation when to enter, cutting sections off when the canon is over, and creating an overall inviting atmosphere within which the gathered people sing—and a willing choir to help sing the parts.  If you are wondering what a “canon” is, think of the way larger groups will sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” with different sections beginning at specified times.  Singing the melody lines against one another creates harmony where there was none before.  “What Does the Lord Require of You” is an example of an accessible congregational canon, but keep in mind that whenever singing a canon, it is best (especially if the congregation hasn’t sung in canon before) to rehearse this before the worship service begins.  The choir is vital with this endeavor because they will support the singing and give confidence to those in worship.

If you are in a situation where singing in canon may not be an option, I would recommend one of the following options:

  • Sing “How Shall I Come Before the Lord” from Worship & Song, 3124.
  • Instead of congregational singing, have the choir sing the piece entitled “Offering,” a beautiful choral setting of Micah 6:8 by John Ness Beck (Published by Beckenhorst Press).

Go Ye, Go Ye into the World — TFWS 2239

Though this is listed as a congregational song, this might be a great opportunity for the children in your congregation to sing as well.  Taken from a Choristers Guild children’s anthem, this melody was originally written for a young choir to sing, and it might be a great selection for the children of your church to present.  Even if you don’t have enough children to sing in multiple parts, have someone who plays the flute, violin, or other treble instrument to play the descant on the final stanza with the children.

Of course, the congregation can sing this song, too!  Know that we have planned this with flexibility in mind.  Adapt it to your context and what works in your setting.

Amen, Amen — TFWS 2072

This song is a favorite way to conclude worship in many African American and Caribbean congregations. Sing it with gusto, and maybe more than once, especially if you sense the congregation is ready to affirm all that has been said and done and can’t wait to get out to tell others about the love, justice, and good news of God in Jesus Christ. 


If using Acts of Thanksgiving instead of Holy Communion:

Thank You, Lord — UMH 84

This African-American spiritual gives thanks to God in a simple, direct form, and invites repeated singing with a variety of arrangements, including a capella. It may be sung by the congregation, by a choir or ensemble, or both. Consider alternating the words provided with verses such as “Loved the world,” “Gave your Son,” “Cleansed my soul,” “Made me whole,” “Death’s undone,” or “All things new.”

We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise TFWS 2031

Coming to us through the charismatic movement in the mid-1980s, the words and rejoicing spirit of this song are a great accompaniment to bringing and dedicating the offering. To add to the spirit of joy, invite the congregation to stand and clap throughout this song and sing it through at least three times. Consider slightly increasing the tempo and modulating the tune up a half step each time, moving from E-flat to E to F.

After the last verse, either modulate to G or start playing the chords for “We Are the Church” (verse 5) in F as the congregation prepares to join in the final verse as part of being sent forth.

May the peace of God be with you as you sing in worship!


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Categories: Worship, Worship Planning, Civil Observances, Laity Sunday, Laity Sunday

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