This is a very energetic song that is capable of being performed across genres, as is done by the writers of this song, Michael Gungor (who performs it more with a heavy rock feel) and Israel Houghton (who adds a lot more harmonic color and rhythm found in black gospel and pop). Note that it can be difficult for congregations to sing, and it might need creative solutions to teach. In many cases, you can divide up the stanzas to be sung by soloists and the refrain with the congregation. With this song, however, even the refrain is a bit tricky with syncopations, but the drive makes it worth singing if you are able. Remember that congregational participation is not limited to singing, so create a rhythm they can clap as the song progresses (for instance, quarter-note claps on every beat). Another option would be to have a band to sing this song as people enter and invite the congregation to sing beginning on the next entry. Suggested key here is G--both for singability and to provide a seamless transition into the next song.
This Little Light of Mine
This spiritual is a favorite among many congregations, but the often preferred melody and accompaniment is the one found in The Africana Hymnal, 4150, as suggested in the worship order. As with many spirituals, even a solo piano can play this accompaniment with some light improvisation (it doesn’t take much!) to jazz it up a bit. It will also work with a band accompaniment. Some of the most creative endeavors are when bands reimagine how to sing an older hymn or song in a new way. To guarantee authentic performance practice, appoint capable clappers in the congregation and the choir to clap on beats 2 and 4 of each measure. Ideal key is G.
I’ve Got a Robe
You will find this most interesting text and tune in The Africana Hymnal, and when considering the variety in a service, this would be a point where a vocal quartet might lead the singing a cappella with claps, light percussion, and even a walking bass line. We suggest you use words in this song to tie in with the theme this week (I’ve got salt/shake out my salt, shake it all over God’s heaven; I’ve got light/shine my light, shine it all over God’s heaven). This will allow the Scripture to speak through the singing in a way that reading the Scripture is unable to do! For the purposes of this opening set, the recommended key is G, which will provide continuity between songs as a part of the entrance into worship. Follow up this song with a reprise of the song, “Say So.”
Bring Forth the Kingdom
Not many songs speak to this Scripture as directly and poignantly as this offering from Marty Haugen. It is musically interactive with alternating parts in stanzas for a leader and the congregation/choir. The refrain and congregational stanza parts are very easy to teach, so be sure to take time before worship to offer a moment of rehearsal as an expression of Christian hospitality! Simply sing their stanza parts a phrase at a time and have them sing by echoing the phrases. Reinforce with them that the first phrase begins higher, and the second phrase begins lower. The refrain is a set of 4 simple phrases, the first three of which are almost exact repetition. This is a great song to use with children, too, having them either sing the “Leader” or “All” parts, and then inviting the congregation to sing the refrain. Written in a folk style, this hymn can be accompanied by a piano, light organ, guitar, or small instrumental ensemble. Using a guitar or piano in particular will help provide a pulse that is often difficult for a solo organ. For this service, we recommend singing stanzas 1 and 2 and transitioning into the next hymn, “Seek Ye First,” which is in the same key of D. Read History of Hymns: "Bring Forth the Kingdom" »
Seek Ye First
One of my earliest memories was singing “Seek Ye First” and hearing the soprano soloist in the choir of my small church singing the “Alleluia” descant while we sang the text of the chorus. Regardless of church size, many congregations know this song by heart because of its scriptural authenticity, motivic recognition (the “Hey, I know that song!” characteristic), and singability. Even if you don’t have a soprano who can sing the sustained “Alleluia” line with clarity, use a flute, violin, recorder, or other treble instrument to provide the same effect. If children are indeed singing as a part of this entrance rite, have a child play this line on the recorder. Accompaniment can be piano, organ, guitar, or any combination of these or other instruments. Sing in the key of D and transition back to stanzas 3 and 4 of “Bring Forth the Kingdom.” Read an article on Karen Lafferty, writer of this hymn »
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. Read History of Hymns: "We Would See Jesus" »
Let It Be Me
This title may not be familiar to you or your church, but it is a way to incorporate a song in the secular catalog into a sacred place of worship as an offering to God. The Indigo Girls often write songs of social consciousness, which apply to the insistence of United Methodists upon works of social holiness. If you have a couple of vocalists who would like to sing a duet with some light instrumentation, this is a great option. However, please note that this song is not recommended for congregational use. Reprinting lyrics will not be allowed under a common church copyright license like CCLI or OneLicense, and doing so would require contacting the copyright owner for permission. You may also expect to pay a fee to do so. Our recommendation is for a soloist, duo, or small group to perform it live without reprinting any lyrics in any form.
No Sweeter Name
This song by Kari Jobe focuses on the light imagery of the Scripture reading in this service. Whether sung by a soloist or the congregation, keep it simple. An effective accompaniment for this hymn would be a guitar, shakers, and a cajon or djembe. Jobe’s recording also features an accordion as a different timbre to offer beautiful countermelodies throughout. Ideal key is G.
Let Us Be Bread
This song rises out of the twentieth-century folk singing tradition in the church and focuses upon the role of those at the Communion Table to be bread for the world by the Spirit of Christ. This language is key to being a part of the reign of God, and the refrain of this song highlights the need for unity in extending the table. Have soloists sing the stanzas, and allow the congregation to sing the refrain. It is easily singable, even as people move during Holy Communion.
Let Us Offer to the Father (Te Ofrecemos Padre Nuestro)
If you happen to have a skilled guitarist in your congregation, this Central American Eucharistic hymn is a wonderful option that speaks to the Communion elements, offering, the reign of God, liberty, and peace. The last stanza is a brilliant doxology that creates a sense of fiesta coming out of the Eucharist. The melody can be tricky and is best taught to a congregation over time, repeating when possible on Communion Sundays. Ideal accompaniment is a guitar and light percussion. Should you have a bassist (either double bass or electric bass) in your congregation, have him/her experiment a bit on hemiolas on the first, third, fifth, and seventh measures of the stanzas. And if you are truly brave, try the Spanish text! When choosing “You Are the Seed” as the final hymn, this song makes a great transition to that celebrative song of mission. Read History of Hymns: "Let Us Offer to the Father" »
Salt and Light
This song is a prayer and a plea for God to make us salt and light as we go into the world. A perfect option for a band, there is lots of energy found in this song. The syncopations can be a little difficult for a congregation, so it may be best to invite them to sing on the refrain only. This could also be an option for an acoustic guitar with light percussion, but it does not work very well with piano and/or organ. It is more idiomatic with a strummed instrument. The ideal key for congregational singing is G.
You Are the Seed (Sois la Semilla)
Cesareo Gabaraín has created a beautiful song that sings of the presence of Christ in each of us. By using images of the seed, dawn, flame, and life, we sing of the fruits of ministry by working to gather in the harvest. These images are especially rich when sung as a means of spurring us to live what we pray in the world. The imperative is given to “go to the world” and “be a loyal witness,” so sing this song of sending forth confidently, knowing the mission field that lies ahead. The tune itself allows a number of ways to accompany, including piano, organ, guitar, percussion, or a combination of all of the above. The most important part of singing this song is keeping the tempo lively enough to fit four measures in each musical phrase. This is a song of celebration, so don’t turn it into a dirge! Read History of Hymns: "Sois la Semilla" »
Other Suggested Hymns for The Great Invitation, Week 5:
“Build Your Kingdom Here” CCLI 6186078
“We Are” CCLI 6129877
“Trust and Obey” UMH 467
“I Will Trust in the Lord” UMH 464
“Jesus, The Light of the World” The Africana Hymnal, 4038
“Dear Jesus, in Whose Life I See”
Music During Communion
The choices of songs during Communion this week are just that--choices. If other songs speak to your context more effectively, we encourage you to use them! There are some helpful tips we want you to consider, however, when singing songs in the middle of a ritual action that involves movement (i.e., coming forward for Communion, visiting prayer stations, or other spatial transitions).
- Sing simple songs. Whereas some of the songs we might even recommend to you are more complex at times, allow those to be used as is appropriate in your setting. Simple songs, however, give life to spatial movement of a congregation. It is almost like a work song. You would never sing something incredibly complex when digging a hole or hammering nails, so why would you do that when moving in worship and participating in the work of the people? Short refrains and simple choruses work best.
- Consider the dynamic of your Holy Communion ritual when selecting songs. Sing within a vocal range that allows a meditative spirit or a celebrative atmosphere if that is in order in your church. Experiencing a variety of worship dynamics during ritual actions also helps prevent them from becoming stagnant.
- Don’t forget to offer Communion to the musicians in your church. This is a simple thing, but it allows the table to be open to all.