Even So, Come
We featured this song by Chris Tomlin during the Advent season, and it is a powerful way to begin worship. Be aware of the nature of the bride and bridegroom language and how this might affect worship where you are. The ideal key for congregational singing is D (B minor), and accompaniment is best with guitar, piano, or band.
Oh, How Good It Is
This modern hymn contains allusions to the Beatitudes Scripture of Matthew 5, when we see the paradoxes of rejoicing/mourning, weak/strength, and affliction/grace. If you are familiar with the Getty/Townend song, “Across the Lands” (Worship & Song, 3032), the overall character of this hymn is very similar. The 6/8 meter gives it a boisterous quality that is a morale booster within a singing congregation, and its very nature, when learned by the gathered people, lends toward spirited singing. The best instrumental support would be an acoustic band with guitar, bass, and percussion. Have a choir sing in four-part harmony (found on the “vocal sheet” on the CCLI website), or a praise team sing in three-part harmony. The ideal key is C or D, depending on the comfortable singing range of your church.
They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love (TFWS 2223)
A congregation member once told me, “Don’t sing this song like a dirge!” She continued to say this song from the 1960s was a bold statement of faith and unity in action, and singing it too softly or gently does not allow the holy boldness to shine through. I have come to agree! Claiming we are one, declaring we will walk and work with one another is a courageous, prophetic statement. The closing doxological stanza finishes the climax of this work, so it is recommended to begin mezzo forte, with elevating volume, texture, and intensity with each stanza. F minor is written in The Faith We Sing; but for bands, this would also work in E minor. As written in the worship order, it is also possible to alter the rhythm of the melody and accompany this with a 5/4 rhythm akin to Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.”
Make Us One (TFWS 2224)
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and its director, Carol Cymbala, have long been a well-known fixture in contemporary gospel music. This short work in The Faith We Sing is a very singable chorus that needs to be sung quite slowly to allow the harmonies to develop completely and the vocal line to soar with sensitive phrasing. I recommend a metronome marking of quarter note = 48. Accompany on piano, organ, or rhythm section.
I Need You to Survive (Zion Still Sings, 219; Africana Hymnal, 4130)
This contemporary gospel hymn affirms our need of God and one another as we journey along the road of salvation and discipleship. Mark Miller has written a wonderful accompaniment found in both The Africana Hymnal and Zion Still Sings. Take your time with the accompaniment because there are a good number of sixteenth notes and tricky rhythms if taken too fast. A metronome marking of 48 is also recommended here. The ideal accompaniment is organ, piano, and/or rhythm section.
Jesus, Lord, We Look to Thee (UMH 562)
With this work, Charles Wesley crafted a beautiful expression of corporate holiness as we, united, seek to be made “altogether like our Lord.” This unity and togetherness also alludes to the key Wesleyan tenet of social holiness. The SAVANNAH tune is best accompanied on organ or piano.
Dona Nobis Pacem (UMH 376)
One of the best known canons throughout the church, “Dona Nobis Pacem” (translated, “Give us peace”) is also one of the easiest canons to sing. Adults, children, and youth have sung this lyrical canon for years, and it needs to continue! Don’t believe, however, that this must be done a cappella. That is certainly an option, but add instruments if it makes the singing more confident. No chord symbols are present with this canon in The United Methodist Hymnal, but the progression is:
Measure: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Chord: F C F F/C-C B♭ F F/C-C F
The other option is to have solo instruments supporting the voices. Divide the choir and congregation appropriately to help guarantee success!
Live in Charity (Ubi caritas) [TFWS 2179]
If you have had the opportunity to visit the Taizé Community, you will note that these short, cyclic choruses are sung many times. An interesting phenomenon happens when these songs are repeated--the sung words become a vehicle for the deeper prayers in the heart. The original language of this song was Latin, and I would challenge your congregation to sing the words because of the repetitive nature of the song. The phonetic pronunciation is as follows:
Oo-bee cah-ree-tahs eht ah-mor; Deh-oos ee-bee ehst
Accompany with any variety of instruments, including guitar, organ, piano, winds, and strings. Make sure, however, that the tempo sustains a four-measure phrase and is played gently flowing. Click here for a History of Hymns article that examines the hymn, “Where Charity and Love Prevail,” which is a translation of the ancient “Ubi caritas” text.
Mystery of Faith
What a gem of a liturgical piece this modern worship song is! The chorus uses the words of the Memorial Acclamation to frame this atonement hymn. The primary concern is the use of fairly graphic “blood” language (“Your blood was spilled for us”), even though when used in relation to Holy Communion, the image is somewhat more relatable. The original key of B works fairly well, but the beginning of the bridge (“Let it rise, let it rise; with one voice we’re singing…”) should be sung by a soloist, not the entire congregation. Accompany with piano, guitar, or band.
In Unity We Lift Our Song (TFWS 2221)
Ken Medema is often known for his choral compositions for churches, but in this hymn he has embraced strength in the language of unity. Creating a new hymn text to pair with EIN’ FESTE BURG is a challenge, but he has handled it gracefully in a hymn your congregation will want to sing again and again. The bold and confident nature of the tune adds to the proclamation experienced in singing, and it is best accompanied with organ. Alternate harmonizations and a descant can be found in The United Methodist Hymnal Music Supplement. Read History of Hymns: "In Unity We Life Our Song" »
We Are One in Christ Jesus (TFWS 2229)
This corito, or short song, must be sung with spirit and lots of energy, but keep in mind that “energy” doesn’t always mean “faster.” There is a certain intensity within the rhythm and melody of this tune, and it can be heightened by enhancing with instruments like guitar, tambourine, and claves. As Anne Burnette Hook has noted in The Faith We Sing Worship Planner, teaching this song to the congregation can be as simple as singing through on a “la” syllable before adding words. In this week’s context, we encourage alternating between English and Spanish if possible.
As is shown in the words of the bridge, “a call to love” is a message today’s church needs to hear and proclaim. We Unite is a very energetic text and tune with a driving pulse and well placed repetitive rhythms. The confidence and energy within this song is similar to what you will experience in “In Unity We Lift Our Song,” but the best accompaniment here is with a full worship band. Be encouraged to repeat the bridge numerous times, beginning softly with a gradual crescendo toward the recapitulation of the chorus. The ideal key for congregational singing is F.
Walk with Me (TFWS 2242)
Using a means of narrative that places the singer in the continuing lineage of holiness and discipleship begun in Scripture, John S. Rice weaves a thread through stories of Moses, Peter, and Mary Magdalene before directing toward the singers themselves (“And when you share your faith with me…”). This song, then, becomes an invitation to join the continuing journey of discipleship that has been a common pursuit since the beginning of creation. Accompany with piano, organ, or rhythm section.