Singing in Community: Holy Week


  • For twenty-one years, Scott served as Program Director for Worship and Music for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He recently relocated to Toronto where he is currently freelancing as a musician, liturgist, and teacher. 

    The week that Christians call “holy” is coming soon, as it does each year. The ancient liturgies of this week summon us all to sing. Short acclamations of faith stand at the heart of the Christian year. It rarely takes a lot of words to say powerful, strong, and true things. Sometimes, less is best. Sometimes, words alone are not enough. Many of the acclamations from the traditional liturgical journey of holy week accompany the actions of a gathered community, not passive spectators.

    “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord” may be proclaimed as we process through the streets of our neighborhood. Learn a joyous, three-part 'Hosanna' taught by Holly Phares.

    “Where charity and love prevail, there is God” we sing as we kneel at the feet our friends and enemies, humbly washing their feet, as Christ did for us. Watch Debbie Lou Ludolph teach 'Between Darkness and Light.'

    “We adore you, O Christ and we bless you” we might sing as we move reverently, yet confidently, to the cross of Christ to receive healing and wholeness, perhaps leaving something from our own being that needs to be discarded. Hear Lindsey Nye lead her original song, 'Have You Died Before.'

    “The light of Christ” we declare, while shivering in the cold spring night around the new fire and the pillar of light, waiting with Christians around the world and throughout all time to once again greet the resurrection. Feel the joy of resurrection as Nancy Boldt McLaren teaches 'In Christ We Live.'

  • MMC partners with The Hymn Society in 2017

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    Brian Hehn is the Director of The Center for Congregational Song, the new initiative that The Hymn Society in the U.S. and Canada launches in October 2017.

    c2d2a9_b25e269de4424a1fa02e97fa84133db2.jpg_srz_238_252_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz.jpegThe Hymn Society is a community made up of hymn writers, song writers, hymnologists, song enliveners, and many other kinds of people. What unites us is a passion for congregational song. We believe that the holy act of singing together shapes faith, heals brokenness, transforms lives, and renews peace. Because of those core beliefs, our work is to encourage, promote, and enliven congregational singing. So, it is a natural fit that The Hymn Society and Music That Makes Community be in partnership with one another. The core values on the MMC website echo much of what our members hold true, and many of our members are a part of both of our communities. 

    The Hymn Society is excited for what MMC will be bringing to our conference this summer. Our members will have ample opportunity to dive into the MMC experience with a Sunday afternoon sing and a 2-session workshop on Tuesday. If you’ve never been to a Hymn Society conference before, what you’ll find is a group of scholars, practitioners, pastors, priests, poets, composers, and congregation members who are eager to sing and learn from each other. My first Hymn Society conference was in 2009 and I have never looked back! The combination of hospitality, knowledge, humility and skill with which our members approach their work is akin to the community that MMC is building with its membership. It makes for a wonderful week of singing and learning that is memorable and faith-shaping. I hope you’ll join us.

  • Paperless Music for Winter Solstice

  • Paul Vasile is a interim/transitional church musician, consultant, and composer based in New York City. He has been a Music that Makes Community presenter since 2011 and now serves as MMC's Executive Director.

    Several years ago, I hosted my first Winter Solstice gathering. It had been a season of loss and transition and I didn't feel especially cheery or comfortable approaching the holidays. Adding to the uneasiness, my ministry as a church musician asked me to give my best to liturgies and concerts that brought hope, peace and joy to others. But I just wasn't feeling it.

    So I gathered a group of close friends in my apartment on the longest night of the year. We prayed, we sat in silence, we shared a simple dinner of homemade soup, and we sang. It wasn't more than a hymn and a few short chants but there was something tender and beautiful in our voices. Our breathing softened as we filled the room with sound, making space for the unsettled and difficult parts of our lives. I think we left with a little more strength for the journey, with a measure of grace for the days ahead. I know I did.

  • Creating Space for Peace: An MMC Reflection

  • IMG_3053_(1).jpgCara Modisett is a collaborative pianist, essayist, teacher, and a contributing editor to Episcopal Cafe. She currently serves as Music Director at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Cara attended our MMC workshop at the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in October and offered this poignant reflection at the concluding Eucharist.

       We have prepared for the mystery of this hour.

    Last night, twenty or so human beings and one yellow lab circled a campfire, and it struck me how small an ember we were, glowing deep in the woods, circled in turn by towering trees and, beyond those, by the high, silver constellations, the waxing moon and the sweep of the Milky Way, so distant and incomprehensible, and also so close that it felt like we could almost hear the music of the spheres.

    We seemed fragile, this circle unbroken, singing and laughing and roasting marshmallows, and our music moved from the songs of summer childhoods to something deeper. These last days, while we have been sharing these mysterious hours, inviting God and one another into our souls and hearts, the whirlwind of the world has kept circling beyond us, the hurricanes of weather and politics.

    While I was thinking this, and during a break in the singing, one of us stepped forward to give thanks for being able to sing in the night when the morning is what we wish for. And in that thanksgiving was the promise that our fire was stronger than it seemed, small as it was within the world.

         We begin with breath – that’s all the tools you need.

    We’ve spent these last few days as teachers and learners and as friends-in-becoming, and often the lessons we’ve spoken have carried as much weight as the music we’ve sung: 

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    Take things step by step.

    Music without dissonance is boring.

    Oxytocin works.

    When we move out of our comfort zones, we can find great joy.

    When we make music together, we are never on our own.

    “Everywhere I go,” someone told me last night, “I hear someone singing.”

    Trust ourselves, trust each other.

    You don’t have to be perfect.

    A song is a container for the message, the ministry, the prayer.

    The congregation is the choir.

    Liturgy creates holy space for holy work.

    Even when we forget the words, the music doesn’t have to end.

    What is created through us can reach far beyond where we are.

  • Reimagining Hospitality Through Song: MMC Testimonial

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    Daniel Simons is the Priest for Liturgy, Hospitality, and Pilgrimage at Trinity Church Wall Street in New York City. In January 2017 he assumes a new role as Director of Spiritual Formation at the Trinity Retreat Center in West Cornwall, Connecticut, while continuing to oversee Trinity’s pilgrimage program.

    As a Priest at 
    Trinity Church Wall Street, I am called to imagine and create liturgical spaces that welcome visitors who attend our historic parish. For many years, the 10 a.m. Service in St. Paul's Chapel was a place of experimentation and innovation, as we frequently offered hospitality to worshippers from other states or countries.

    The global and religious diversity of our guests at St. Paul's posed unique challenges, especially because they typically comprised over half of the congregation. Many had no experience of Anglican worship. Planning liturgy in this context required us to abandon assumptions about who belonged and to create intentional spaces for community learning. You can read more about the service in an article published by the Anglican Theological Review.

    Music That Makes Community’s method of teaching and singing music emerged as a solution to these challenges: we gathered and wrote music that could be taught in the moment, might be sung in a visitor’s native language, and was beautiful as simple unaccompanied melody or with added harmonies. The result was a tapestry of song that gave confidence to the regulars and included the visitors in a single community of participation. Our congregational singing seemed almost miraculous in its beauty, simplicity, and effectiveness. 

  • Building a New Faith Community through Song: MMC Testimonial

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    The Rev. Mieke Vandersall is the founding pastor of Not So Churchy. She has been to numerous Music That Makes Community workshops and uses paperless music when she leads worship.


    I attended my first MMC workshop in St. Louis in 2010. At that point in my life I was seeking a traditional parish job as a Presbyterian pastor, but because of the restrictive policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) against out LGBT people I was unable to live into this calling. The stories behind this reality are complex and long, but the result of these stories is that I felt a call emerging to begin a new worshiping community. 

    I entered into my first night of the workshop and was led in song. I remember being overwhelmed with the feeling that I was worshiping for the first time in a very, very long time. I was being served through the incredible feast that the leadership of MMC provides. My soul was being watered and nourished and I began, even in that first gathering, to get back in touch with my passion for ministry and for providing the kind of space I experienced that first hour of worship. A space that allowed for my voice to be heard clearly and yet blend in with the clear and beautiful voices all around me.

  • Finding My Voice As a Leader: MMC Testimonial


  • Liesl Spitz shares 'Our Mother in Heaven,' a creative adaptation of a song from Southern Africa, at our Holy Week Retreat last February.

    I’ve always been happier coming up with harmonies than singing solos. Until I stepped into St. Lydia’s Dinner Church in Brooklyn, it never occurred to me that my voice might be strong enough to lead a group. There I learned to lead song paperlessly. I relied not only on my voice, but my ability to connect with everyone in the room, to communicate with my body and my eyes, and most of all my willingness to be vulnerable. Leading song doesn’t require a “solo” voice— just practice, and an openness to learn out loud.

  • Paperless Music in Context: Zion Lutheran Church


  • MMC presenter Sylvia Miller-Mutia leads an energetic Sanctus that would be effective for paperless, intergenerational worship. 

    Last month, Pastor Abby Leese and members of Zion Lutheran Church in Etters, PA visited a sister congregation that has incorporated paperless music into their liturgy. They took a Sunday morning field trip to another Zion Lutheran Church, just twenty minutes away in York, PA, which offers an intergenerational eucharist geared to help families with children worship and learn together. 

    Mark Mummert, the congregation's Cantor (and a longtime MMC collaborator) helped develop and lead the liturgy and has made their order of worship available as a resource. He also offered some helpful context for the service. 

    "We created a bulletin that is pretty didactic, so we don't have to say much. Also, the entire service has accompanying visual images, with art that comments on the action. The powerpoint for the service has no musical information (texts or musical notation) but we do sing some classic hymnody from the hymnal so it's not all paperless."

    Pastor Abby, who attended our MMC workshop in Baltimore last fall, has generously shared some of the things she noticed during her community's visit. As you read, perhaps you'll notice the way that paperless leadership at Zion Lutheran Church is helping create space for deepening trust, shared leadership, flexibility, and connection to the Sacred within and through the community. 


     

  • Learning to Befriend Our Fears

  • Paul Vasile is a interim/transitional church musician, consultant, and composer based in New York City. He has been a Music that Makes Community presenter since 2011 and now serves as MMC's Executive Director.

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    My second year of graduate school, I registered for an elective in continuo playing (see above for examples of figured bass, i.e. Baroque chord symbols). It seemed like a great way to round out my skills as a church musician and it offered the opportunity to play different repertoire than I usually encountered as a pianist. I went to the first class with a bit of nervous anticipation, which was kicked up a notch when the professor began with an exercise to assess our skill level. Each student was given an eight-measure melody with figured bass to sightread in front of everyone.

    I registered for the class to stretch myself, to gain new experiences, and to be able to perform Baroque music with more authenticity. But, approaching this moment of assessment, all I felt was fear: fear of being scrutinized, judged, inadequate. When an exceptionally gifted keyboardist played shortly before me, I was undone.
     

    Intimidated and insecure, I stumbled through my excerpt, sat back down, and decided the class was too difficult. I went to the Registrar’s office the next day and signed up for a choral literature class instead, embarrassed that I had even tried in the first place. 

    *          *          *

  • Made Holy By God

  • Ben Groth is currently the Associate Pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Menomonee Falls, WI. He has also worked as a musician in Lutheran and Episcopal congregations and started a choir in a mental health hospital. Ben has been a presenter at Music that Makes Community Events since 2014.



    Our beauty is not in our strength,
    it comes from our weakness made holy by God,
    made holy by God.

    Our faith is not in our knowing,
    it comes from our yearning made holy by God,
    made holy by God.

    Our hope is not in our triumph.
    It comes from our failure made holy by God,
    made holy by God.

    I wrote these lines in the midst of a retreat on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. Each verse shares the theme that the drive for personal success might be the greatest enemy of success as it relates to a life of faith. Strength, knowledge, triumph: these are all things that successful, well-adjusted, driven people are supposed to have. But the deeper truth is that we never get where we’re going on our own, and that the beauty, faith, and hope we yearn for can only come when we let the grace of God shine on the places of failure in our lives. In the midst of a world filled with violence, these verses ask us to let go of our own self-righteousness, and seek to empower us in the places our need is greatest.

  • Charlotte Moroz is an actress, musician and playwrite and the co-creator of The Society for Misfit Puppets, a year-long puppet-musical-producing team. She has been a Music that Makes Community Presenter since 2014.

    Friends, I want to talk about surprise and singing today. Since leading and singing paperless music more intentionally these past years, I've noticed that the degree of surprise that I feel has increased mightily. To contextualize, I am a bit of a song-seeking missile, working in theatrical and music-making fields and attending a church where group paperless singing is the norm. And yet, I still think "hot dang, this is the coolest!" and "Wow! That was so cool/weird/awesome/unexpected!" every time I get to sing with you all. That's a 1 to 1 ratio of my surprised delight to singing with a group.

    A friend and mentor of mine and an amazing musician and teacher, Jake Slichter, introduced me to the importance of surprise in making music and spurred my contemplating the delightful and motivating play of uncertainty in this kind of music-making. In this spirit, I offer 5 ways to think about singing paperless music via knowns and unknowns:

    1. Without paper in front of us, our focus has the chance to shift to the group. The things we don't know become things we have in common, so we get out of our own heads and into the mind of the group as we learn together. With focus shifted, we're kids out for recess: we can't help but be game to play.

    2. There is such a rebellious, bold, "we are the boss of our lives" deliciousness of making something new, no matter how small or brief, with a group. There are so many knowns in our adult lives (bills, schedules, pant size) and so many scary unknowns (seriously, what IS going to happen to that trash island that's growing steadily in the Atlantic? And what will I be doing in 5 years, let alone 1 year?), that it's a relief to play with safe(r) unknowns, like the kinds you find when singing together. 

    3. Sharing what we know can make us feel safe enough to sing out and make space for others and try something new, and there's a give and take of knowing that creates connections between people. As a song leader I may think I know a song, but sometimes the group surprises me and I learn something new about it. Important listenings can happen here, too, about power dynamics and privilege within groups and reflections of outside systems that purposefully inhibit singing out and making space for each human individual. 
     
    4. There is such a delight in getting to enact something that we have learned together. Once we've learned the song, celebrating our learning brings us together. There's a reason we drive each other crazy in the car singing along to whatever comes out of the radio... isn't it the joy of knowns?

    And, finally: 5. All of this creates the chance for us to tune and harmonize, which is what humans love, I think, deep down, like dogs love to be petted and cats love to taunt us from under warm covers on early work mornings. When the relationship between what we know and don't know is more fluid, less weighed down by fear, we are stronger and freer as individuals and as a group.

    So, in summary, I think the surprised exuberance I feel in paperless singing is just a cranked-up version of joy for the chance to feel both the comforting knowns and adventurous unknowns that are so important to us humans. No surprise there! 
  • Paperless Music for Children of All Ages

  • Matthew Burt is an organist, choir director, and liturgist who has been a presenter at Music that Makes Community events since 2010. He lives in Palo Alto, California, and currently serves as West Regional Councillor of the American Guild of Organists.

    Jesus said, “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4), yet for centuries many churches have taught and required children to sit in respectful silence as adults lead their worship and song. As the father of a two year-old, I think that possibly the greatest humility we can embody is to view the world through the lens of a child—inquisitive, appreciative, and unencumbered by the prejudices and fears of our adult society. How then can we approach this in our liturgy and our music?

  • A Table Grace for Summer Gatherings

  • Marilyn Haskel is a composer, choir director, organist and liturgist who has been a Presenter at Music that Makes Community events since the project's beginning.


    You probably know the song form "round." A melody is taught to the whole group, then the group is divided into smaller groups that are led to enter singing the melody at different times. In this round the smaller groups enter one measure after each other when it becomes a four-part round. The leader here (me!) should have learned the piece a little better before teaching, but she didn't, so making the best of a hurried situation, she corrects the melody before going on. This is a four-part round, but can also be sung as a two part round first as is done here.

  • The Rev. Sylvia Miller-Mutia is Rector of St. Thomas of Canterbury in Albuquerque, NM and has been a presenter at Music that Makes Community events since 2013.


    One of the great things about paperless music in liturgy is that it frees us up to look at each other and to move our bodies when we sing.  If you're not holding a hymnal, you have the freedom to hold hands with your neighbor, clap, dance or sign along with a song.  

    As a dancer, movement has always been an important part of my spiritual life, but it wasn't until about four years ago that I began working with a parishioner who had studied ASL to begin integrating simple sign language interpretations of some canticles, songs, and prayers of our community into worship on a regular basis.  

    Incorporating elements of sign language into worship is one way we can support the participation of visual and kinesthetic learners, pre-literate and pre-verbal children, and people who are hard of hearing in our liturgies.  

    I've found that "echo songs" are often a good place to start inviting congregational participation in singing and signing prayers. 

  • Paperless Songs for Racial Reconciliation

  • Ana Hernández is a composer, workshop facilitator, song leader, and co-founder of the Dallas/Fort Worth Threshold choir. She's been a presenter with MMC since 2010, and has composed many beautiful songs over the years that are beloved by the MMC network.

    Tell Me

    Why should it be my loneliness,
    Why should it be my song,
    Why should it be my dream
    deferred
    overlong?

    -Langston Hughes

    In his book The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin wrote “Color is not a human or a personal reality. It is a political reality.” I combined my tune If God is Love with Langston Hughes’ Tell Me to encourage us in the real work that is necessary to create a new political reality of love. As a culture we prefer avoidance of conflict and a kind of naïve cynicism; the repetitions of platitudes that make us feel clever. What if the repetitions can be used for more than merely making us feel better and dismissing conflict? What if by learning to sing together we can hone the skills we need to work through the things that divide us? What if we were to more intentionally imagine our part in healing the nations?

    Of course, this might initially seem to cause more conflict, but will ultimately move us toward deeper understanding and empathy as we come closer to one another from different worldviews. I know in my heart that there are no “others” – only us, and our refusals to engage one another at the deep levels of respect and love keep us stuck, fighting for freedom, and justice for all.

    The poet, activist, and public intellectual June Jordan wrote and sang this:

    We have come too far
    We can’t turn ‘round
    We’ll flood the streets with justice
    We are freedom bound.

    There’s a video of it being sung in the streets here (the tune begins at 3:34). It’s also lovely done as a round.

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  • How Paperless Singing Can Help You Learn Languages

  • Zachary Walter is a recent graduate of Union Theological Seminary, where he studied preaching and worship, and is a co-founder of Yes And Ministry. He's been an MMC Presenter since 2014.



    On May 14th at St Lydia’s church in Brooklyn, Yes And Ministry and Music that Makes Community will gather together to sing and share songs
    . I’m a co-founder of Yes And, and I’m here on the MMC blog today to tell you about who we are and what we do and what we have planned for Saturday.

    It is no secret that in the United States we do not learn foreign languages easily.

    This week, my community, Yes And Ministry,  is celebrating the day of Pentecost, which commemorates the Holy Spirit granting powers of language. This is an opportunity to celebrate the gifts of language,  and ignite a conversation about how our churches can often be monolingual spaces.

    Written music has its own language, and can intimidate musicians without formal training. Churches and communities with a culture of musical literacy often miss opportunities to engage natural musicians without formal training. By singing written hymns that are only in English, we might be discouraging non-English speakers from full participation.

  • Exciting News For Music that Makes Community

  • Dear Friends,

    We sent a letter to our supporters today to share exciting news for Music that Makes Community. We are thrilled to report that Paul Vasile will be stepping in as Executive Director of MMC at the end of July. This news comes of course with a goodbye--we are sad to wish Rachel Kroh farewell. She has served us faithfully as Executive Director over the past year and a half and is leaving now to pursue her work as an artist and printmaker.

    We extend our grateful thanks to Rachel for her hard and detailed work over these past years—she has shepherded us through the gaining our own 501c3 status, developed new ways of working with sponsoring organizations to make our work self-sustaining, developed our Board of Trustees, and provided us with a unique vibrant visual identity that reflects the beauty of our community.

    Rachel has this note to share:

    Friends, hearing you offer your voices so generously and bravely taught me that I have a voice too, and gave me a way into making music that I will always be grateful for. I've loved the challenge of turning a vibrant but loosely organized network of brilliant musicians and thinkers into an organization with structure, systems and processes. I will miss working with you but I am excited about all the ways MMC is going to flourish under Paul's capable leadership. –Rachel Kroh

    In the past Paul Vasile has been a vital part of developing and honing our MMC worship and leadership practices. Perhaps most importantly, though, he has a great deal of experience in programmatic and organizational development, as well as fundraising, something we are going to need a lot of! We are thrilled to have Paul take us into the next phase of our life; we believe he is exactly the right person at the right time.

    Times of transition are never financially easy. As we say goodbye to Rachel, and hello in a new way to Paul, might you join us in making a financial contribution to sustain the organization?

    We look forward to all that is to come as we take this next step in our work together.

    With love and gratitude,

    Donald Schell

    Chair of the Music that Makes Community Board of Trustees

    P.s. Act today to help us in this exciting time of transition. Please give now!

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    The MMC Board of Trustees at our gathering in April: Scott Weidler, Rachel Kroh, Nancy McLaren, Donald Schell, Jake Slichter, Cricket Cooper and Paul Vasile

  • Making Friends With New Songs

  • Hilary Seraph Donaldson is a congregational song enlivener with a passion for strengthening community through shared song, global music, and paperless worship. Her free web video series on song leading, Break into Song, is available on her YouTube channel and through her website, Transforming Every Guest. She currently serves as Pastoral Musician of Eastminster United Church in Toronto, Canada, and is pursuing doctoral studies in Musicology at the University of Toronto.


    “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”

    The joyful opening phrase of Psalm 96 invites us to renew our worship and praise God with a new song. It’s one of my favourite passages of scripture. But, I wonder if the Psalmist ever had to get up and teach a new song to a skeptical congregation?

    As anyone who has tried to actually teach a new song to a group of people knows, new songs don’t always get the enthusiastic reception we are hoping for. As song leaders, we always want the gathered people to share our love and enthusiasm for whatever song we are teaching, but let’s face it: we are creatures of habit. We like singing songs we already know.

    At MMC gatherings, we always learn many wonderful new songs, but this can leave us asking: how do we bring new music home? Here’s one piece of advice that I have found helpful:

    Start with a song that will make its own friends.

  • The Rev. Nancy Boldt McLaren is Minister for Faith Formation and Discipleship at Storrs Congregational Church in Storrs, CT. 

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    I am in the West Bank of Palestine for my sixth time, making observations and music with a group called Musicians without Borders that has a lot in common with MMC whose mission is to connect people through music.   Working with musicians and music schools in war-torn areas all over the world, Musicians without Borders aims to use music to “bridge divides, connect communities, and to heal the wounds of war.” By teaching the natural musicians of these war torn areas community music-making techniques very similar to what we teach at MMC events, the trainees are then able to teach, facilitate and empower others in their own particular context.  The embodiment of this group in Palestine takes a few forms, but the one I get to hang out with is the music school, Sounds of Palestine.  

    As luck would have it, I learn, on my first day in Bethlehem, that Sounds of Palestine is newly in need a choir teacher for their elementary-aged students. Just days earlier the program lay dormant and homeless, following a nasty power struggle from within.  One of the gnarliest dimensions of the decades-long military occupation is how the fabric of Palestinian society is threatened from within.  As resources are stolen and limited monetary reparations made, the economy fails and daily life regularly grinds to a halt due to violence and excessive bureaucratic checkpoints. Palestinians are often left at odds with each other. As soon as I agree to teach the newly formed Sounds of Palestine contingent who have come through the struggle, I sense a creeping awareness of my inadequacy in light of this so recent and so seismic reformation of the organization.  And yet, as thugs threaten, corrupt police are summoned and bombs explode, the music of a pride of children rumbles, squeaks, and honks.  Armed with their commitment to simply show up, to be present and to lift up their voices, the children, teachers, and supporters find a way where there is no way.  The way leads them to an abandoned building with the most beautiful garden I’ve ever laid eyes on: the new Sounds of Palestine, in the Garden.

    Did I mention I don’t speak Arabic? And the kids I am working with, all children who make their homes in refugee camps, no english?  

  • Paperless Songs for Recovery from Addiction

  • Ana Hernandez is a composer, workshop facilitator, song leader, and co-founder of the Dallas/Fort Worth Threshold choir. She's been a presenter with MMC since 2010, and has composed many beautiful songs over the years that are beloved by the MMC network.


    Ana lead Don't Be Afraid at our MMC Presenters' Retreat in September of 2015 at Holy Cross Monastery in Westpark, NY.

    “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.”
    - The Eleventh Step of Alcoholics Anonymous

    They met EVERY Sunday in a beautiful, candlelit room for an hour. Some went out together afterward, some went home, some stayed and chatted over coffee or tea. The gathering was called LifeLine, and it was neither a church service nor a 12-step meeting. Our only purpose was to work the 11th step together, so that we could walk each other through the ways of prayer and meditation, into conscious contact with God. I sang with them two or three times a month for three years, and they were the most intentional spiritual community of which I was a part. 

  • Paperless Songs of Protest

  • Marilyn Haskel is a composer, choir director, organist and liturgist who has been a Presenter at Music that Makes Community events since the project's beginning.


    See the listing for Cantemus Pacem Mundi in our MMC Songs Database.

    "Cantemus pacem mundi. We sing for the peace of the world."

    Composer Doug von Koss wrote this when teaching in Italy as Italians were marching to protest the United States invasion of Iraq. He wanted a strong musical statement that would “lift the desire for peace to a more assertive and active place.” He borrowed a melody he had heard in Canada and used this Latin phrase as the text.

    Singing beyond the page allows us to connect musically and spiritually with each other because we listen more intently: adjusting volume, tuning pitches to our neighbors’ harmonies, fitting different rhythms together simultaneously.  In a reverberant space the sound moves in a lively way throughout the room. Less effort is required individually to sing in such a room, but the ability to sing as an ensemble may be challenged.

  • Paperless Songs of Welcome and Gathering

  • Jacob Slichter is an MMC presenter, writer and drummer based in Brooklyn, NY. He has been a Board of Trustees member since 2014.

    Gathering a group with a paperless song is a powerful way to set the tone for connection, openness and learning in worship. Here are three of the reasons we think so, and some tips on how to start strong.

    Here's a video of Marilyn Haskel leading Peace, Perfect Peace by Robinson McLellan. Its not the best quality but it is a good example since the place where Marilyn's leading, St. Paul's Chapel, is a busy space where getting the group's attention can be a challenge.

    1. Gathering with a song declares “Here WE are.”
    The act of singing together creates one giant we that includes regulars and newcomers, those in grief, those amid great joy . . . everyone.   A paperless gathering song can further reinforce that declaration by lifting everyone’s attention from a page to the other faces and voices in the room.

    Tips for success:

    Teach the whole song, even if some know it already. When leading a gathering song, teach the song, even one familiar to the entire group, as if no one knows it.  Why?  Because even if everyone in the room has sung the song before, and no newcomers are present, your teaching leads the group away from insider behavior and models hospitality.  Thus, your leadership prepares the group to welcome and include everyone who walks through the door.

    Don’t force the mood. Consider that you are leading a song, not imposing a particular mood on the group.  Get people to sing together, while allowing them to occupy their varied emotional spaces.  For example, consider the difference between leading with a relaxed smile that says, “Be who you are,” and with a forced smile that says, “Get with the program.  We’re here to be happy!” Allowing people some space will bring forth more authentic and powerful singing.

  • Paperless Songs for Evening Worship and Night Prayer

  • MMC Presenter AnnaMarie Hoos is Congregational Communications and Program Manager at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and a member of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church. She has been involved in the MMC project since the very beginning.



    AnnaMarie led Night Has Fallen at our MMC event at the Bishop's Ranch in California in January, 2016. See the listing for Night Has Fallen in our Resources database here. 

    I spent a year living in community on Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland. That far north, in the winter, the dark comes early and the sunrise late. Also the island, even now, has few lights at night; you can see the light of every home and the headlights of cars cresting the arch of the hill two miles away as they come into the town of Fionnphort, across the sound on the nearby Isle of Mull. Once the power on the island went out in a storm, and we waited a couple of days for someone to come from the mainland to restore it. Night is something to take seriously there.

  • Paperless Songs of Abundance and Grace

  • MMC Presenter AnnaMarie Hoos is Congregational Communications and Program Manager at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and a member of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church. She has been involved in the MMC project since the very beginning.

    I was part of a team for several years leading an Evening Eucharist at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. This congregation gathers in the round on the cathedral’s beautiful labyrinth, near the entrance to the cathedral – and very far (a full city block, for that’s how long the cathedral is) from the sacristy, where all of the things we use to celebrate Communion are kept.

    One Sunday evening, as the congregation blithely sang the offertory, the presider prepared the table. Pure white linens: check. Silver chalices and cruets of wine: check. Shiny silver patens: check. Bread …. Yikes! We had no bread. No one had put any bread in the basket we used to carry all the items for communion from the sacristy at the west end of the cathedral to where we worshipped at the opposite end.

    We sent someone off to get some bread to consecrate, and while we waited we decided to sing. We sang through the music for receiving communion that was printed in the leaflet, and we waited some more. I’d like to say we waited peacefully and calmly, but we were a little anxious, feeling caught out and unprepared. Then the music stopped and there was an awkward silence. The presider stage-whispered, “Sing 'What We Need is Here'!" and I stage-whispered back, “But it’s not!” 
  • Paperless Songs for Singing at Bedsides

  • Rev. Donald Schell is a Founder of Music that Makes Community and Member of the MMC Board of Trustees. He is also a Co-Founder of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco.



    Rita Pihra-Majurinen taught us the beautiful song Holy, Holiness by Peter and Ellen Allard at our NYC Practice Group Gathering February 20, 2016 in Brooklyn, NY.

    As a young pastor in Idaho, over a week of visiting a parishioner who was dying of cancer, I saw him go from conversations to dimmed consciousness to comatose silence and finally stillness except for his slow breathing. When his family was there, I’d talk with them. When he was alone, I’d speak a prayer for him aloud, remembering that hearing persists even in coma.  

    For his working life, Joe had traveled the intermountain west as a cattle-broker. And when I first met him, he told me a story from his teenaged years when he’d worked summers as a sheepherder in Utah. Early one summer, alone in high meadow, he’d planned to sleep out, but near sunset, a sudden storm blew in, rain turned to sleet and then it began to snow. There was little cover and no way he could get down from the mountain. He was soaked and ill-prepared for the cold. Not expecting to make it through the night, he gathered the sheep round him, and lay down among them, reciting the 23rd psalm, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” and closed his eyes and slept. First light of morning penetrated the thin layer of snow that covered him and his wooly protectors. He told me that story to explain to his new pastor why he wanted the “23rd Psalm, King James Version” at his funeral.  

Music that Makes Community
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