Cricket Cooper is Rector at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Pittsfield, MA. She has been a participant and presenter at many MMC events and has been a member of the MMC Board of Trustees since 2014.
Like many people, my first introductions to paperless music in 1970’s worship left me with mixed feelings. Frustratingly, there only seemed to be two “moods”: either a hyper-caffeinated clapping frenzy, or the other extreme intended to be meditative but too often flagging into a sort of sad despondency.
Music that Makes Community offers a repertoire of paperless music that can span and speak to the entire spectrum of emotions we call upon in prayer. We also learn that through our leading, we can shift intensity and mood by bringing the volume or tempo down or up, by breathing energy into the music with our whole bodies, or silencing a chant to a hum so that prayer petitions may be spoken over the top.
The beautiful thing about the songs in our website resources is precisely that they are meant to be led “by heart,” meaning that any piece of music that the leader chooses can be used in a variety of situations.
For example, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan’s “More Than We Can Ask,” is a lovely, simple chant that can be used in a host of different settings. I have used it in prayer groups, at a slightly slower tempo than his recording, with intervals of a hummed “drone” which create space for spoken petitions to be offered. Richard’s more up-tempo version would be lovely used as a prayer during a wedding or baptism, when joyful energy is the mood of the moment.
You can set, or shift, a mood by your song choice, as well.
Begin a Finance Committee meeting with “What We Need is Here” (by Amy McCreath), and you can feel a Theology of Scarcity shift to a Theology of Abundance! If things go south during the meeting, why not try a stretching break, followed by an energetic “rebooting” with Kerri Meyer’s “There is Enough”?
MMC includes songs that can easily be offered in an interfaith or non-religious setting. At the goodbye ceremony following a 9-day intensive Mindfulness Meditation teacher training last summer, I taught Rachel Kroh’s “In My End is My Beginning,” which helped remind us during our teary goodbyes that we were beginning a new venture together.
Lastly, these resources can invite us to pray with our entire bodies. When our whole, God-given selves are invited into the song, we pray in ways too deep for words. The gentle, sweeping, invitatory gestures modeled in our video by Donald Schell, turn Ruth Cunningham’s sweet “Christ Be With You” into a qi-gong-like flow that both calms and opens the heart.
You can find a great selection of paperless songs of prayer using the "Prayer" filter (under "Liturgical Use") on our MMC Songs Database. Check it out now by clicking on this link!How have you incorporated paperless songs of prayer into gatherings or services? Share your stories in the comments below. If you know of a paperless song of prayer that isn't listed, you can add a listing to the MMC Songs Database.