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What Should We Do About Singing “Alleluia” During Lent?

There is a practice in some denominations of avoiding the use of "Alleluia" in liturgy and music during Lent. This is sometimes referred to as "burying the Alleluia." There is no official United Methodist rubric or practice, which means that congregations may decide for themselves. Lent is traditionally a time of fasting, preparation for baptism, and penance. The celebration of Palm Sunday quickly gives way to the other events and themes of Holy Week: Christ's passion and death. Some denominations scrupulously avoid Alleluia during Lent and Holy Week; and many United Methodists, in our enthusiasm for all things ecumenical, have adopted the practice. However, our Book of Worship — the official word on worship from General Conference — is silent on the matter. It says, "Because Sundays are always little Easters, the penitential spirit of Lent should be tempered with joyful expectation of the Resurrection" (page 320). That's also why the Sundays during Lent are named as "Sundays IN Lent" rather than "Sundays OF Lent."

The hymn, "Hallelujah! What a Savior" (United Methodist Hymnal, 165), is an excellent example of this tempering of the Lenten penitential spirit with joyful expectation of resurrection. The first four stanzas explore some aspect of Christ's passion, ending with "Hallelujah! What a Savior!" Hymnal editor Carlton Young recommends "each statement about Christ's passion may be sung slowly with deep devotion, followed ad lib with a rousing 'Hallelujah! What a Savior!'"

Some may be tempted to omit stanza five and its theme of Christ's second coming at the final resurrection, but I recommend against it. It may have been the presence of "Hallelujah!" in this hymn that caused the hymnal committee to include it in the "In Praise of Christ" section of the hymnal rather than the "Passion and Death" section where we find most of our Lenten hymns.

Categories: Worship, Worship Planning, Lent, General Planning for Lent and Easter