Matt Redman has crafted a new hymn that radiates light as much as the Scripture does this week with the Transfiguration. We decided to use this as the opening of worship at our first Fusion conference (Fusion: The Future of Worship in The United Methodist Church) in 2016, and it served as a beautiful expression related to this scriptural narrative. The words, “living for your glory,” seem to point to our response to the story of Jesus bathed in light on the mountain. The song in its entirety is singable, but if it is unfamiliar to your congregation, you might want to teach them the refrain and instruct them to sing it only. The worship leader, choir, or soloists can sing the stanzas. Accompaniment can be as simple as piano or guitar, but this song will truly shine when played with a full band. The ideal key is G.
O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair
One of the classic hymns on the Transfiguration, this selection recalls the narrative from Matthew 17. Be sure to keep the tempo lively for this tune with strong emphasis on the first beat of each measure, no matter the instrumental accompaniment. It was obviously scored for four-part singing and keyboard, but I have also composed a new setting of this hymn that uses the existing tune, WAREHAM, with a refrain to be sung between stanzas:
O wondrous sight! O vision fair,
Your brightness casts a holy glare.
Upon the mount, we find you there;
Dispel the darkness everywhere.
View and download this new setting of "O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair. (link coming)" Instrumental accompaniment for this setting can vary, but a strong, pulsing acoustic guitar would be able to drive the rhythm boldly. The ideal key for the new setting is as printed: the key of G. Read History of Hymns: "O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair" »
Shine, Jesus, Shine
Graham Kendrick may have never known just how popular this song would become in the global church, but it has been printed far and wide as an illustration of the brightness of Christ’s glory. The most poignant text may be found in the line, “Ever changing from glory to glory, mirrored here our lives tell your story.” We are invited into the story of Jesus and to reflect Christ’s light to others as a part of the continuing story of God’s people. This song is set in a way that can be accompanied by piano, guitar, full band, or other ensemble. The tempo must be lively, but take care not to go too fast, lest the second part of each stanza become unwieldy with the amount of syllables and notes in each phrase. Breathing and pronunciation can both become an issue if the song is too fast. The ideal key is A. Anything lower risks making the voices pressed and heavy because of the low tessitura (average range) of the stanzas. Read History of Hymns: "Shine, Jesus, Shine" »
We Would See Jesus
This week’s rendition of the hymn during the Prayer of Illumination contains an added stanza by Taylor Burton-Edwards that specifically addresses the Transfiguration and completes its use throughout this season after Pentecost. Continue to use this file with folk ensemble to bring new light to a hymn from The United Methodist Hymnal.
Set a Fire
I tend to think of this modern worship song as a recent expression of sung contemplative prayer. Found in the CCLI Top 100 in 2015, this was rated by our team of scholars and practitioners in the CCLI Top 100 Project, and some found it to be strongly Wesleyan. It evokes the sentiment of John Wesley’s own heartwarming experience and is simple enough that no music or words are needed for the congregation. Simply singing it enough times in repetition (as you would a song in the manner of the Taizé community) will be a means to teach it to your congregation. The entire melody is within four notes, so a variety of keys can be chosen, depending on the liturgical action in which the song is used. A good starting place would be the key of G.
Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory
In an interesting hymn that moves us from Transfiguration to Christian perfection, Thomas Troeger gives a vivid recounting of the story from the mountain. The hymn moves us from building our own shrine in worship within the church into the world, where we live day-to-day by following Christ. While there are numerous choices for a hymn tune for this meter (87.87 D), a couple of choices are GENEVA, which is already contained in The Faith We Sing, or NETTLETON (commonly associated with “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”). Geneva is a fairly traditional hymn tune setting best accompanied by organ or piano, but NETTLETON may open some more possibilities with a band or ensemble.
We Are Marching in the Light of God
This South African song is of great importance to the people of South Africa and around the world who stand for justice in the world. Marching in the light of God requires boldness and action, and this song continues the pivot presented in the last hymn, directing the attention toward moving from the mountain of the Transfiguration and into the world. This hymn contains lively rhythm, but it is supported well by choral parts that work quite easily with a choir. Supplement with djembe, shakers, and any variety of instruments, from piano and guitar, to supporting wind instruments. Invite the congregation to join in, or offer this as a special piece from a choir or vocal ensemble.
Shine on Us
Deborah D. and Michael W. Smith wrote this classic that addresses the brightness of the glory of God in a prayer-like setting that draws us near to God’s light, directing it to our path as we journey through the darkness. This song also makes a wonderful song of dedication for those who share testimony in worship. The choral sheet on CCLI lists this in the original key of C, but it can also work in D. Accompany with piano, guitar, or band.
We Have Come at Christ’s Own Bidding
Reflection on this Scripture would not be complete without this hymn by contemporary hymn writer Carl P. Daw. Sing it with the prayer that “our daily lives may prove us people of the God we bless.” The tune HYFRYDOL is used with this hymn in The Faith We Sing, but just as mentioned earlier, the 87.87 D meter opens it up to a number of other options as well. Be especially thoughtful in your consideration of tunes, however. Notice that the first phrase of the hymn addresses a “high and holy place.” The use of a familiar tune like BEACH SPRING might not be the best choice here because the music doesn’t support the image of a “high and holy place” (the melody drops considerably lower on this phrase). NETTLETON, EBENEZER, or BEECHER might be better options to elevate the congregation’s perception of the mountain described throughout this service.
Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days
We have left the mountain, and we are beginning the move toward the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday will follow this service, and this song and the liturgy surrounding it serve as connection points to move us forward to a time when we will be formed as part of the Lenten journey. LAND OF REST is a brilliant American folk melody, and it would be best accompanied here by a simple accompaniment of piano or arpeggiated guitar alone. There is almost a longing tone to the tune, so be sure to use a gentle, rocking tempo. This is possible in a slower 6/4 or a quicker pace like a 6/8.
Moving into Lent, this is a good time for people to hear the good news that God makes “beautiful things out of the dust… out of us.” The simplicity of the tune longs for a simple accompaniment as well. If you are familiar with Gungor’s original recording, you will note that it begins with a piano, guitar, and cello. This would be a beautiful accompaniment throughout if desired. Full band can be used, but don’t feel like you have to use all the instruments all the time. Find ways to show creativity with the instrumentation you may have within your church. Also, make note that the best key for this song is D. However, the original melody leaps an octave in the second chorus, which is far too high for a congregation to sing. Though the timbre will be different, you can accomplish the same effect by having a male voice on the stanzas and opening choruses before the leap, and then supplement with a mezzo female voice at the leap. When a congregation hears a male voice singing that high, the immediate thought is, “I can’t sing that,” and the voice oftentimes shuts down instead of continuing singing an octave lower. A female voice in the same frequency range assures the congregation that it is ok to not strain and leave the voice in a lower range when singing.