This year, All Saints, one of our Christian high holy feast days, falls on a Sunday. What’s the tradition at your church? Do you start the service with the stately “For All the Saints,” 711 in The United Methodist Hymnal (UMH), each year; or do you vary it with “Sing with All the Saints in Glory” (UMH 702 ) or “Rejoice in God’s Saints” (708 UMH)? All these are excellent hymns that have meaningful texts and equally meaningful tunes. They have stood the test of time and make great opening or closing hymns. Other hymns to consider are “Hymn of Promise,” 707 in The United Methodist Hymnal. This hymn would work well as a sung response to the “Act of Remembrance” or the “Prayer for the Faithful Departed” after the names are read aloud of church members who died in the past year. (See "Acts of Worship for All Saints Day or Sunday.") The reading of the names is often accompanied with the lighting of a candle and the tolling of a bell. Another excellent hymn, which is found in Worship & Song, 3152, is “Welcome.” The modern rendition of “Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone” by Chris Tomlin (Worship & Song, 3104) fits equally well at the end of this liturgy or as the closing hymn. If you want a lively closing song, go with “Soon and Very Soon” (UMH 706) by Andraé Crouch, which encourages swaying and clapping.
Whatever your tradition at your church, this year will be different. We may not all be gathered for worship in one place. We may still be scattered, with some worshiping online and others in person. Consider how everyone can participate in this service of remembrance honoring all our saints. Ask those at home to set up a worship space with candles they can light when prompted to name their loved ones. Perhaps they can include a picture or two and some flowers or a living plant. Then encourage them to have an extra candle to light for those who have died from COVID-19 or in the protests; include others in the naming of the saints. This meaningful service reminds us we are not alone, even when we are distanced from one another; and it reminds us that grace is relational, and we stand surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.