Coming Home | JOY IS OUR TRUE HOME
Cantemos al Señor (UMH 149)
On this day of rejoicing, this rousing hymn by Carlos Rosas offers a chance for the congregation to sing with joy! If the hymn is new to your congregation, the best way to teach it for the first time is to welcome all to sing on the estribillo, or refrain, in either Spanish or English. If they will sing in Spanish as a primary English-speaking congregation, it is best to teach them the Spanish words by rote. Looking at both languages on the page at the same time can be somewhat confusing when singing through initially. Here is a phonetic rendering of the Spanish text (note that “Aleluya” is pronounced the same way as “Alleluia”):
Ah-leh-loo-yah! Cahn-teh-mohs ahl Sehn-yohr. Ah-leh-loo-yah!
The tempo should be about 90-96 per dotted quarter note. Accompanying with organ might be difficult unless your instrument has defined clarity to help the tempo stay consistent. I recommend a strummed guitar or piano, with shakers and tambourines. Have a soloist sing the stanzas and invite the congregation to join on the refrain. When it becomes familiar, have the congregation sing the stanzas in English, and when it becomes a heart-song, challenge them to sing in Spanish! Read History of Hymns: "Cantemos al Señor" »
Again I Say Rejoice (Africana Hymnal 4001 OR CCLI #4302823)
If you are looking for a lively song for this service, look no further than this energetic work, which can either be found in The Africana Hymnal or directly from CCLI. There are benefits to either setting, but in using The Africana Hymnal, you will also notice the suggestion to substitute “all” or “we” in place of the word “men.” I personally recommend using “we” in this instance, but make note that if you are projecting or reprinting text in any way, you need permission from the publisher to change any lyrics. The other way to proceed is simply inform the congregation that whenever “men” is used, “we” will be substituted. Both settings (Africana Hymnal and CCLI) provide vocal options that work in multiple keys. There is a great need for more accompaniment than piano or guitar, especially in percussion. Therefore, accompany with a rhythm section or full band if possible, but at the very least, use a cajon, congas, or bongos, along with shakers and/or tambourine.
Rejoice (CCLI #4822523)
Another modern worship song option is this lilting call to rejoice, which is both rhythmic and fairly singable. As is usually the case, Chris Tomlin’s original keys are too high for congregational singing, so recommend singing in the key of F. Sing the bridge softly as a way to provide some variance in the dynamics, repeating and gradually building into a strong forte when the chorus resumes. Accompany with piano, solo guitar, or full band.
Many and Great (UMH 148)
This hymn, which is one of the most sung Native American melodies, should be known as a standard in all United Methodist churches as a hymn of praise from first nation peoples. It is our responsibility to make sure our congregations sing it as an affirmation of the presence of first nations in this land and the pursuits of justice and peace. In addition, the singing of this hymn is important as a way of embodying a spirit of praise and rejoicing in another character. Most congregations do not associate the key of C minor with praise, but this is a solemn statement of awe and wonder with a form similar to that of a traditional collect, embodying a certain stillness and reverence with its praise and petition. Accompanying with the written score in The United Methodist Hymnal is one option, but I recommend singing a unison melody with voice alone leading and one or two simple drums (hand drum, djembe, etc.). It is also possible to add a Native American flute or recorder to introduce the melody.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (UMH 211)
One of the most well-known ancient hymns of the church, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is based upon the “O Antiphons” contained on the second page of the hymn in The United Methodist Hymnal. These antiphons were chanted refrains used in worship, one per day, during the last eight days of Advent leading up to Christmas Eve. Like the original antiphons, this hymn sings of the longing and somber nature of the Advent season. We have recommended its use within the liturgy for the lighting of the Advent candles. All are welcome to sing the opening phrase in the liturgy, but it is also possible to have a soloist sing it in a very legato (smooth and connected) manner with a brief pause on the last note of each phrase; all should sing the concluding phrase: “Rejoice! Rejoice!...” Remove the plodding nature of the accompaniment and allow the melody to stand on its own as the stanzas originally did — as a haunting, unaccompanied chant. Or for a different approach, play a low E pedal point on an instrument such as organ, piano, cello, or bass, and bring in harmonies (with voices or instrumental accompaniment) on the refrain. Read History of Hymns: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" »
Prayers of the People (TFWS 2201)
Bonnie Johansen-Werner’s simple setting of this intercessory prayer can be very powerful in its direct prayer to usher in the reign of God and the connection of that prayer to the needs of the local community and the world. Even though there is a caesura (complete cutoff) written in the accompaniment score, it would also be possible to hold a soft Eb pedal point underneath the spoken intercessions and prayer requests. The recommended form in The Faith We Sing is as follows: Refrain, Petition 1, Response; Refrain, Petition 2, Response; and so on. Ideally, the leader of the prayer should also serve as the cantor. The accompaniment can range from organ to piano, to an arpeggiated guitar or other plucked instrument.
Prayers of the People (The Brilliance)
A wonderful addition to the modern worship music catalogue, this service music represents what is possible when combining modern music and liturgy. Short, cyclic choruses become responses as a part of congregational prayer. The A and B sections (“You hear us calling” and “Lord, have mercy”) are both equally usable as prayer responses. If you listen to the YouTube link in the worship order, you will notice a rolling accompaniment with many different instrumentalists. This kind of accompaniment gives a pulse to the prayers and is encouraged. However, keep in mind that whatever kind of accompaniment is possible with the musicians in your church is OK! Again, simpler accompaniments are oftentimes the best. For a keyboard, play simple chords on each beat. For a strummed instrument, something light, slightly syncopated, but steady is the best option.
This song is a great example of modern music created to serve a liturgical purpose, and it is very accessible to churches with any instrumental accompaniment. The song is not meant to stand alone as a song; it will require some intercessions to be created from the context of your community. Respond to each intercession with either the A theme (“You hear us calling”) or the B theme (“Lord, have mercy”). This poignant piece works with organ, piano, guitar, or any other simple accompaniment.
If You Believe and I Believe (W&S 3121)
One of the shortest phrases in the Scripture reading this week is 1 Thessalonians 5:19, which states, “Do not quench the Spirit” (NRSV). This freedom song is a testament to the work of the Spirit, originally among the people of Zimbabwe. As John Bell of the Iona Community comments in the collection, Sent By the Lord: Songs of the World Church, Volume 2, the original words were “the Holy Spirit must come down and set Zimbabwe free,” which is a testament to the song’s origin as a statement of defiance by the Zimbabwean people (Bell, 1990, 52). Now the song reads “God’s people” instead of “Zimbabwe,” and this chorus is a testament to the liberating work of the spirit in communities everywhere. If you have a choir that is able to sing four-part, SATB harmony, sing a cappella with drums and shakers as accompaniment. If a choir is not among the resources in your context, it is also easily accompanied by a keyboard instrument or guitar. The drums, however, will give it life, so add what you are able!
Peace of Our Praying (W&S 3022)
The opening statement, “Peace of our praying,” and the closing statement, “Hope of our hoping, Life of all life,” make this hymn an ideal addition to the Advent season. Beginning with a prayer for peace and ending with hope is an ideal way to move forward and inspire a spirit of anticipation in your congregation. Accompany simply with an organ or piano. The tune, PAHOA, is delightfully singable, even if it is new to your worshiping community.
O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (UMH 57 or W&S 3001)
One of Charles Wesley’s most well-known hymns, this classic hymn is so ubiquitous in United Methodist worship that it is also very easy to sing without nuance. Many times, I have witnessed churches singing this hymn so strongly that all musicianship goes out the window. There is something to be said about fervor (singing “lustily” and all), but it is important to keep the text before us in a way that reflects the place of grace in the hymn. Whereas singing the hymn with the organ supporting on the AZMON tune can be seen as an ecstatic musical and spiritual experience, I also recommend challenging the congregation by singing the AZMON’S GHOST tune by Mark A. Miller in Worship & Song. This tune can be accompanied effectively with piano, or even a complete rhythm section of piano, bass, guitar, and drums. Because of its prominence in Methodist churches and hymnals, I encourage you to do a search on umcdiscipleship.org with this title and see what all is offered on the website. Included among them is History of Hymns: "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" and the eighteen original stanzas of the hymn.
You Shall Go Out with Joy (TFWS 2279)
A song whose birthplace is within Messianic Judaism in the United States in the mid-1970s, “You Shall Go out with Joy” (or “The Trees of the Field,”) a paraphrase of Isaiah 55:12, became a staple within Pentecostalism soon thereafter, and then spread into mainline denominations largely through charismatic renewal movements in the 1980s and 1990s. The tune and performance practices, which include notation for clapping, reflect its Jewish heritage. On this Sunday where we are especially focused on Advent joy, it makes a marvelous hymn of sending. You may even consider using it as a reprise or in other arrangements as a postlude after the singing of the chorus of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” which concludes this service.