Awakening to the Table

The Great Fifty Days of Easter — Series Overview

Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

This week we are awakening to the meaning of the sacrament of Holy Communion. Often, when we think about stories from the Scriptures that speak to the practice of the Lord’s Supper, we may limit our range to the traditional texts associated with the holy meal...But there are other stories from Scripture besides these well-known ones that inform our practice of Holy Communion.


Shawnee Traveling Song

The purpose of the “Shawnee Traveling Song” is very similar to what I have encountered with the songs of Taizé. Even though the nature of these songs is different, the transcendence of singing them is shared among them. The words of songs from Taizé serve as the prayer themselves, but singing them so repetitively allows different prayers to form in their singing. In this Shawnee song, the sung syllables have no meaning, but as we see in The United Methodist Book of Worship, “sometimes the best way to think deep thoughts is to occupy a part of the mind with the trivial” (BOW, 197). Sing this song at a walking pace, with the quarter note = 60 beats/minute. The song itself is to be sung cyclically, so I recommend singing/shouting only the last measure at the very end. You may find yourself in a trance as your mind thinks on deeper things while singing at this lilting pace.

We Walk His Way (Ewe Thina)

Before singing this South African song, the choir must be prepared to sing a cappella. Instruct the basses to sing first, adding the tenors, altos, and sopranos, on successive times through, with the congregation singing whatever part feels best to them.The use of drums (particularly djembe or something similar) is effective here, along with some encouraged movement while singing. Do not get too complex with movements, as this can discourage a choir or congregation, but do not sing it rigidly. As is recommended this week, “Ewe Thina” makes a marvelous procession as the walking is embodied in the singing. If a cappella singing is not an option, accompany with light piano or guitar, preferably just playing on certain beats, not doubling the melody.

Hamba Nathi

Whereas this song exists in the public domain, a variety of translations have been printed and copyrighted. However, this version we recommend for you (also linked in the Order of Worship) is free to use. Here is a pronunciation guide for the Xhosa:

Hahm-bah nah-tee (m)koo-loo-lee weh-too

Do not put too much emphasis on the (m) sound of Mkhululi. Again, just as was the case with “Ewe Thina,” make sure the choir is prepared to sing a cappella, if possible. I have heard a variety of settings of this song, some with straight eighth notes and others with a slight swing rhythm. I have also encountered varying pronunciations of “Mkhululi,” sometimes ending in an “oo” vowel, other times ending in “eh,” and still other times ending in a schwa (“uh”). Whatever way you choose to sing it, do it with confidence after having done some of your own research. If a cappella is not an option, accompany with light piano or guitar, but try to at least find some drums to accompany this lively song.

Christ Beside Me

BUNESSAN is a favorite tune in many congregations, and it provides a warm, reassuring setting for the text of this hymn. Just as Christ walks alongside the disciples on the roadway, we sing of Christ’s presence with us--”Christ all around me”--as the friend who accompanies us along the road as we live in wonder at the resurrection. This would also be a great tune to have a children’s choir lead in worship, with plenty of visual motions for Christ above, below, beside, and all around. Accompany with a solo treble instrument, whether it is a violin, flute, or even played on a flute stop on the organ.

Love Has Come

Best used as a solo, “Love Has Come” offers a song in which the congregation can sing the chorus and bridge. I would not recommend the verses for congregational singing because of a lack of melodic contour and rhythmic syncopation. The chorus and bridge, however, are accessible, and the bridge has a building, repetitive quality that can be used to foster singing in the midst of the distribution of Holy Communion. It might even be appropriate for the worship leader to add text (not by projection or in print) by calling out new bridge texts that are somewhat more Wesleyan in relation to the ongoing understanding of salvation through sanctification. One option would be, “Spirit, fill my heart.” Allow the worship team to be creative in coming up with options, but realize that it is not legal to alter the songs in print or on screen. The Communion distribution is a perfect time to approach texts with a call-and-response format because people are moving with no books, bulletins, or other materials in hand. The ideal key for congregational singing is G.

Open the Eyes of My Heart

Paul Baloche created this popular song in the late 1990s, and it has maintained staying power to the present day. If planned creatively, it uses repetition without being redundant and creates a choir from within the congregation as the heavenly chorus of “Holy, holy, holy” is sung. In that section, it is also possible to create a one-measure vocal round (underneath the written chord changes) to create a texture with an echoing effect. The round can be divided between women/men, adults/children, or even just the seating arrangement in the worship space. The ideal key for this song is E. There is a slight variation between I/We, but a great practice in singing this song is inserting a prayer in which we pray for God to be revealed in our prayers, our discernment, and other endeavors. “I want to see you” can be interpreted as being somewhat shallow, but allowing that statement to lead into a prayer in which God’s call, plan, or will becomes evident to the gathered people is something altogether different. Read the Open the Eyes of My Heart Hymn Study »

Daw-Kee, Aim Daw-Tsi-Taw

This setting of a Kiowa prayer is beautiful and often ignored by many congregations because of the difficulty of the Kiowa text. I encourage its use, however, as a vital way of expressing Native American hymnody in the local church. We must find ways to reconnect with native peoples in our areas, and singing these songs helps us in the broadening of awareness to native communities and the United Methodist presence and history within them. This is a very accessible choral setting that features very well written voice leading for all parts. Allow each phrase to breathe by not rushing or singing too metrically. Introduce the melody with a flute and/or a solo voice on the phonetic Kiowa transcription, and have the choir and/or congregation sing in either Kiowa or English. If you feel insecure about singing the original text, that is understandable, especially since Kiowa is an oral language with no written components. However, I encourage you to sing it in the Kiowa with confidence, and offer that respect to native communities.

Heleluyan (Alleluia)

All United Methodist churches should be singing this song regularly, not only because it is a song of native Muscogee (Creek) peoples, but because it is a simple, memorable, and very usable statement of Alleluia. Depending on the setting and liturgical context, this work can be sung as an a cappella, unison song; it can be accompanied by a simple piano, guitar, or organ accompaniment; or it can even be sung as a 1- or 2-measure 2-3 part canon. A drum beat is most welcomed here, with a quarter note, 2 eighth notes, and 2 quarters in each measure (Rhythmically: 1, 2 AND 3, 4).

Here, O My Lord, I See Thee

The nearness of Christ at the Communion Table is the focus of this hymn, and on the day when we encounter the narrative of the meal in Emmaus, this hymn is the ideal choice. The text is profoundly intimate, and it creates a yearning to stay at the table, knowing that when the meal is over, “too soon we rise; the symbols disappear.” However, as Laurence Hull Stookey wrote in Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, this meal itself can be seen as “the intersection of time and eternity” (Stookey, 1996, p. 17), for there remains at the conclusion of the hymn a “sweet foretaste of the festal joy.” The ideal accompaniment for this chorale setting is organ, but a reimagined accompaniment with piano and/or guitar can also be very effective. Read History of Hymns: "Here, O My Lord, I See Thee" »

In This Series...

Second Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Third Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Fifth Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Sixth Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Seventh Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Pentecost 2017 - Planning Notes


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In This Series...

Second Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Third Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Fourth Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Fifth Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Sixth Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Seventh Sunday of Easter — Planning Notes Pentecost 2017 - Planning Notes