How Can It Be
This modern song is quite simple and, especially as a solo, can be an effective way of embodying a possible response shown by the disciples in this week’s scriptural narrative. As a solo, the range is certainly manageable, and the instrumentation can vary. A couple of characteristics in the song, however, need to be discussed in your worship planning teams: 1) The self-referential means of addressing God, and 2) the amount of language about sin while never calling it by name. Addressing God self-referentially (i.e., “you plead my cause, you right my wrongs”) is not a problem unless this is the only way of addressing God. In other places in worship, seek variety in the means of reference by addressing God and God alone, or God in the persons of the Trinity. In relation to sin, the words of this song give flesh to what sin can look like, but it never calls sin by name. However, it opens the door to talk about sin, our brokenness, and our relationship with God. Take advantage of this opportunity to do some theological education in your church, and allow the music to inform your congregation.
Trouble in My Way
Simple songs often have the most powerful effect upon worship, and they can influence the congregation long after corporate worship has concluded. Set in a very common call-and-response format, “Trouble in My Way” offers a melody for a leader and choir, preferably a cappella. It is very easy to overthink songs like this one, but it is also of utmost importance to make sure those leading (both the leader and those responding) are clear on their vocal parts. The congregation will very likely join in singing both leader and response parts, which is definitely acceptable. Insert hand claps on counts 2 and 4 as desired.
Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee
This setting of a Charles Wesley hymn is known as “long meter” or “Old Dr. Watts” in African American church music. It is not the same definition of “long meter” as referred to in poetic meter terminology; rather, it is a defining performance practice in worship in black churches in which the melody is “lined out” in a very slow, improvisatory style. The voices lead and determine the overall melodic arc, complete with ornamentation, while the instruments (usually a band or at least a rhythm section) follow just behind the rhythm of the singers. This practice can be incredibly powerful if capable and understanding voices are leading, and in settings where this is unfamiliar, practice over time may be needed. Explore the cultural dynamics of other churches in your area by having combined services together in which these kinds of defining cultural songs can be shared. Read History of Hymns: "Father, I Stretch My Hands to Thee" »
We encourage the use of this song as a solo, but it would be manageable to sing with a praise team as well. The text relates especially well with the greeting of Jesus to his disciples: “Peace be with you.” An ideal key for this setting is F, and it can be accompanied by band or even solo piano. One thing to note, however, is that CCLI does not have a lead sheet for this score. It may require aural learning unless you can find a written score. Watch a video of this modern worship song as recorded by Miriam Webster »
Your Grace and Mercy
In a thematic emphasis very similar to the well-known hymn, “We’ve Come This Far by Faith,” this singable, memorable song echoes the same sentiment of God’s faithfulness within the repeated line, “your grace and mercy brought me through.” Make sure when singing this song not to go too fast (notice that the suggested metronome marking is 44--slightly slower is also ok). For authentic performance practice, it would also be encouraged to clap on all offbeats (2,3,5,6,8,9). A possibility with this song would be to create a medley by singing the refrain of “Blessed Assurance” in the key of C with this song (or sing “Your Grace and Mercy” in the key of D).
Peace, Salaam, Shalom
Discipleship Ministries’ Former Director of Music Resources, Dean McIntyre, created this effective, simple song with a haunting melody. Salaam is the phonetic rendering of the Arabic word for “peace,” and Shalom is the Hebrew equivalent. Every phrase uses all three words, as cohesive and inseparable as the persons of the Trinity, and each successive melodic sequence rises in the same way as prayers for peace until the final statement. Find ways to use this as a liturgical piece, even outside of worship, by creating prayers or readings with “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” as a sung response. If you do not have Worship & Song in your church, you can also find the hymn setting here »
We Give You Thanks
For an example of a modern song that provides more expansive language in reference to God, “We Give You Thanks” offers a number of different images: Creator, Provider, Redeemer. Make note that only two persons of the Trinity are mentioned (Covenantal God, Jesus), with no reference to the Spirit. However, the means of grace are present in this song as a way to offer thanks and infer the work of the Spirit. Some of the intervals between the end of one phrase and the beginning of another are tricky, but if your music leadership is confident, this should not be a hurdle as the congregation joins in singing. The ideal key for congregations is D. It gets slightly low at places, however, so consider having a female soloist sing the bridge in a lower range or a tenor sing an octave higher.
The chorus of this song by Andraé Crouch can be found in The United Methodist Hymnal. However, if you have never encountered the verses, find this in The Africana Hymnal and assign the verse to a soloist, inviting the congregation to sing the chorus only. Your congregation is very likely familiar with Fanny Crosby’s “To God Be the Glory,” but this work presents thankfulness in a slower, thoughtful, and very different way. If your pianist is able to improvise, give him or her the freedom to do so with this selection and fill out the accompaniment. A full band or rhythm section can also make the singing of this hymn memorable. Read History of Hymns: "My Tribute" »
Send Me Out
Steve Fee has created a great song that calls us to be the hands and feet of Christ as we are sent forth from worship. The rhythm is a bit tricky, so the music leadership will need to be particularly familiar with the song before attempting to lead it. However, the rhythm is accessible enough with repetition to be teachable for a congregation to learn. The ideal key is G, and the best accompaniment is a band with soloist or vocal praise team.
Let Our Earth Be Peaceful
Recalling Jesus’ greeting, “Peace be with you,” Shirley Erena Murray’s hymn prays for peace and calls us to be faithful in working for peace. Carlton Young’s tune, RAYMOND, is particularly peaceful, and the presence of some slight dissonance in the jazz harmonies are most effective and poignant in this simple tune. A large jump exists in the third short phrase, but support from a worship leader, sopranos, or even an instrumental accompaniment such as a flute or violin can add confidence to the congregational singing.