Mystery Worship Series, week 4 — RESTORED
October 28, 2018
The following selections are congregational songs (most of which are chosen from this week’s Hymn Suggestions) with notes on key, tempo, and instrumentation, along with some practical and creative considerations in singing.
10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
Source: CCLI #6016351
Recommended Key: F
Tempo: 68–74 bpm
Instrumentation: Band, piano, or guitar
Notes: This modern worship song is recommended as a theme song for the “Mystery” series. It contains themes of strength, hope, and blessing in the midst of tribulation; and among many other modern selections, it is widely known. It can be sung as a stand-alone song, as a part of a longer worship set, or the refrain only can be used as a Psalm response.
How Great Is Our God
Source: Worship & Song, 3003; CCLI #4348399
Recommended Key: G–A
Tempo: 72–80 bpm
Instrumentation: Full band, piano, guitar, or rhythm section
Notes: This modern favorite is often paired with “How Great Thou Art” by incorporating the chorus of the hymn at some point after the chorus in this song. This work is widely known outside of the walls of the church because of its incorporation in ministries with homeless and prison communities, as well as other community organizations.
Resources: Call to Worship, based upon this song and Psalm 145
How Great Thou Art
Source: The United Methodist Hymnal, 77; Mil Voces Para Celebrar, 2; Come, Let Us Worship, 61
Recommended Key: B♭
Tempo: 56-64 bpm
Instrumentation: Organ, piano, or band
Notes: One of the most widely sung hymns of praise to God around the world, this is a hymn people love or dislike, both with passion. One cannot avoid, however, the fact that this hymn is sung “lustily and with a good courage,” as suggested by John Wesley. On a day when God is questioning Job about God’s power in creation, singing this hymn in worship is most appropriate.
Resources: History of Hymns: "How Great Thou Art" »
Goodness Is Stronger than Evil
Source: The Faith We Sing, 2219; The Upper Room Worshipbook, 436
Recommended Key: D
Tempo: 60–64 bpm
Instrumentation: a cappella with percussion (djembes, shakers, etc.), possibly organ or piano if needed
Notes: This short, cyclic song would make a great processional or recessional for worship. Even if your congregation is not familiar with this chorus, they will be after singing a few times. Keep the tempo steady, and even sing the congregation out into the world if used at the conclusion of worship, with the choir processing all the way outside to continue singing.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Source: The United Methodist Hymnal, 140; Mil Voces Para Celebrar, 30; Come, Let Us Worship, 81
Tempo: 86–94 bpm
Instrumentation: Organ or piano
Notes: The tempo of this well-known congregational hymn is dependent on the size of the congregation and the acoustics of the room. Small churches and those churches with minimal acoustic reverberation will likely find it more accessible to sing on the quicker end of the scale above, but churches with larger spaces that have more reverberant spaces will need to sing more slowly. Either way, sing joyfully as a witness of God’s faithfulness to the world and the church. An accompaniment setting written especially for the piano can be found in The United Methodist Hymnal Music Supplement II.
Resources: History of Hymns: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" »
My Life Flows On (How Can I Keep from Singing)
Source: The Faith We Sing, 2212; The Upper Room Worshipbook, 170
Recommended Key: G
Tempo: 68–74 bpm
Instrumentation: a cappella, organ, piano, or guitar
Notes: Robert Lowry penned a classic hymn that has been sung for ages, particularly in settings for choirs of children, youth, and adults. The setting in The Faith We Sing is very accessible, but the setting in The Upper Room Worshipbook is even more so. The rhythm in the latter collection is more consistent than the mixed meter of the former, though the sudden jolt of a different meter could be seen as a good fit for the text, “No storm can shake my inmost calm.” A flute, violin, or other treble wind or string doubling the melody or playing the alto harmony would also be ideal.
Resources: History of Hymns: "My Life Flows On (How Can I Keep from Singing)" »
O God Beyond All Praising
Source: The Faith We Sing, 2009
Recommended Key: B♭–C
Tempo: 68–72 bpm
Instrumentation: Organ, piano, or brass
Notes: Many aficionados of classical music recognize British composer Gustav Holst’s THAXTED tune as the centerpiece of his work “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” from The Planets. The pompous and bold nature of the tune is the perfect pairing for this text by Michael Perry. The key of Bb might be more appropriate for your congregation because of the number of high notes toward the end of the second phrase, which also returns at the end of each stanza. Several brass and/or handbell arrangements of this tune can be found online.
Resources: History of Hymns: "O God Beyond All Praising" »
O God, Our Help in Ages Past
Source: CCLI #2335500
Recommended Key: G (if using the CCLI setting)
Tempo: 100–108 bpm
Instrumentation: Full band, piano, or guitar
Notes: This modern reworking of an old Isaac Watts hymn and tune by William Croft leaves most of the widely known hymn intact but adds a chorus that offers different images of God, ending appropriately with the Ancient of Days. The key has been lowered substantially from other settings in hymn collections because of the range of the refrain. This puts the range of the stanzas in a much lower range for congregations than many will be accustomed to. Accompaniment can work with a band, but to accommodate the sound and texture of the band, the chords have been simplified in CCLI’s setting of this. A piano and light instrumental ensemble will also work well. To read the two History of Hymns’ articles on the original Isaac Watts’ text, see C.Michael Hawn's article here or Rozanna Goocey's article here.