The Outsiders Join Us

Easter Season 2018 Worship Planning Series

Sixth Sunday of Easter 2018, Year B

This service begins with a quick, confident act of recognition of all persons who have started a connection with the congregation or its ministries during the past year. Last week focused primarily on outreach ministries to people who are different from the dominant culture and socio-economic location of people in your congregation. This week focuses on people who are finding a home among you recently primarily in worship, Christian formation ministries, and other ministries of the church.


We Are the Church

Many congregations are familiar with this song of unity, which allows the church to claim its nature as the body of Christ. Written by Avery & Marsh in the 1970s, this song focuses on the people of the church, not the location or building. One particular item to note: It is common for pianists and organists alike to begin playing the refrain much too fast, only to discover the error when the church tries to sing the stanzas. The song is entirely syllabic (one syllable per note), which the refrain remedies by having rhythmic sequences with longer notes added. The stanzas, however, are almost entirely eighth notes, and the text can become very difficult to sing if the tempo is too brisk. A recommended tempo for congregational singing would be no faster than 100 bpm. Keyboard instruments or guitars can work for accompaniment, but you may have to experiment some in your space to determine whether the keyboards or voices are best to lead through the difficult sections. For those leading singing, make sure your facial and body gestures reflect the joy of the text!

All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord

A number of approaches are offered for singing this Wesley hymn, and the use of the previous hymn might dictate which approach you will use. If you desire a contrasting style, singing the ARMENIA or GRÄFENBERG tunes might be a great fit. However, if you would choose to continue in the same key and with a similar character, you might find AZMON more appealing. Your context and use will determine which tune is best. The ideal accompaniment for any of these tunes is organ or piano.

Spirit Break Out

Prominent British songwriter and minister of the Church of England Tim Hughes is a part of the team that wrote this song, which is a simply constructed verse/chorus work with a driving beat around 75 bpm. The text is trinitarian (relatively rare among modern worship songs), with different portions directed toward “Our Father,” “King Jesus,” and “Spirit.” Accompany with a band, guitar, or piano. The original key of B will work, but there are only a few notes that make up the entire song, so the tessitura sits in the same part of the voice throughout. For this reason, you might want to lower a step or two.


Laurie Zelman and Mark Miller’s hymn, “Welcome,” gives us what Laurence Hull Stookey has referred to as the “intersection of time and eternity” (Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, p. 17) by connecting the past, present, and future with the eternal time of the reign of God. This hymn is rich with imagery of the table being prepared, shared, and extended into the world. If your congregation is unfamiliar with this hymn, my suggestion would be to teach it over time by asking them to sing the refrain (and taking the time to teach it to them before worship) the first time you encounter it during the Eucharist. Continue singing it in following weeks as you gather around the table, and have soloists sing the stanzas. Over time, the congregation will associate the hymn with the Eucharist and will be able to sing it as they build their liturgical memory. When accompanying on piano, which in this case is not easy, I would recommend not playing the melody because it can easily complicate the singing. Improvise on the chords of the song and allow the voices to carry the melody.

Draw the Circle Wide

Gordon Light and Mark Miller have collaborated together on this modern classic, which is increasingly popular with adult and youth choirs from its publication as an anthem from Abingdon Press. It is found in hymn format in Worship & Song, and it is especially poignant when paired close to “Welcome” (as recommended above) because the imagery of the open table is expanded here as the congregation prepares to leave the worship space. If you have a choir in your church, be sure they rehearse this well enough in advance to learn all four parts on the choruses. Invite the congregation to embody the song, too, by forming a circle inside and/or outside the space and joining hands, always leaving one space open for someone to be welcomed into the fold. This song can easily be accompanied by piano, small instrumental ensemble (any combination of piano, guitar, bass, light percussion, or wind/string instruments), or full band and praise team. Read History of Hymns: "Draw the Circle Wide" »

The River Is Here

The image of a river plays a prominent role in scripture, especially at the conclusion of the Book of Revelation. Rivers are sources of life–they enable life, but they also support life. Vast communities of creatures can be found in the water together, and this image supports the incorporation of welcoming all to the table. The repetition of the rhythm makes the text and tune accessible and easily learnable. The original key of G is ideal, and it is easily supported by a full band, but a solo guitar would also work. Add percussion if it is available.

All Who Hunger

The key word in the title and the beginning of every stanza of this hymn is “All.” It is not a mistake that Sylvia Dunstan placed this word so prominently in this work. Other words are used repetitively in key places, too: “Come,” “Here,” and “Taste.” The very text and tune pairing evokes the taste of bread and the scriptural image of manna in the wilderness. HOLY MANNA is a pentatonic hymn tune, which means it is possible to be very creative with the accompaniment. Either accompany as is with organ or piano, sing in a round, or if you have Orff instruments or handbells, create a repetitive ostinato. Even if singing in canon is not an option where you are, if a solo instrumentalist is available, simply have them play in canon as the congregation sings. Accompaniment with guitar would also be a great option. Read History of Hymns: "All Who Hunger" »

Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ

Included in the collection, Zion Still Sings: For Every Generation, this Fred Kaan text pairs wonderfully with a Jamaican folk melody to emphasize the importance of everyone’s talents and presence. A welcoming song, the rhythm also bounces and injects some gentle vivaciousness into the communion rite. Choral settings from JW Pepper and handbell arrangements from are also available if desired. The ideal accompaniment is piano, but organ settings are available as well.

Welcome to the Place of Level Ground

This modern song offers an invitation for all to come to a place where the love of God makes the rough places plain, the high are brought low, and the last are first. Level ground is where all people meet and encounter the living Christ. Singing this song at the close of worship also reminds us that we are to discover places where level ground exist outside of the church. If those level places do not exist, then we are to be about the work of justice in the world. The structure of this song is quite simple, but it can be difficult to teach (the chorus, for instance, has one five-measure phrase and one seven-measure phrase that can prove difficult to internalize with ear or voice). One way to make the song accessible is to teach the congregation the three notes on “Jesus Christ” and cue them to sing when that occurs. The original key of E is ideal for congregational singing.

In This Series...

Second Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Third Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Fifth Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Sixth Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Seventh Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Pentecost 2018 — Planning Notes


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In This Series...

Second Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Third Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Fifth Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Sixth Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Seventh Sunday of Easter 2018 — Planning Notes Pentecost 2018 — Planning Notes