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!”Just at that moment, the person we’d sent for the bread arrived with what we needed. It was just pita bread we bought each week from a nearby corner store, but how grateful we were for it that night! And then we did sing the simple refrain we were using that season as the bread was broken: “What we need is here. What we need is here.”
Of course, even if the bread had not arrived, we already had everything we needed: the community gathered in prayer, a song of praise and thankfulness on our lips, and God present with us in our midst.
This melody was written by the Rev. Amy McCreath when she was the Episcopal chaplain at MIT, and the words are from a poem by Wendell Berry:
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
The media and the culture around us constantly bombard us with messages that we don’t have enough, that we need to buy just one more thing to be beautiful, happy or loved. We can lose touch with God’s presence always with us, God’s provision for our needs, and the goodness in creation and in each other. Carrying a song like this in our hearts can shield and strengthen us when we are feeling stretched and inadequate, and singing it with others will help us remember God’s blessings in each other.
As well as “What We Need is Here”, I also commend to you:
Kerri Meyer’s tune “There is Enough” - upbeat, bright, generous in spirit, good with percussion
“Know that God is Good”, a song from the Democratic Republic of Congo which works well as an offertory or as a song giving thanks after communion.
Notes on using “What We Need is Here”: I have used this song many times. It is very easy for people to pick up and to harmonize. It makes a wonderful table grace, especially at a retreat or for a medium-sized group gathered for a meal. At my home congregation we sing it with the children before the sharing the Feast which is part of a Godly Play program. It also makes an interesting offertory or fraction anthem in a service of Holy Communion.
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