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.'
These moments cry out for song. Yet, how do we sing together as we move from place to place? What do we sing when we gather in the dark? How can singing bend with the moment, allowing for flexibility of time and emotion?
The liturgies of holy week are among the times I first discovered that the practices encouraged by Music that Makes Community really worked. I also realized that the people who were crazy enough to come to worship not only on Sundays, but also on a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were more than willing to be challenged with singing in a “new” way.
For those who plan liturgies and music, consider ways that singing without the hymnal or bulletin in hand may benefit those particular moments. For possibilities, explore the resources available from various denominations; especially check out material from Taize and Iona and the Music Sourcebook for Lent and the Three Days (Augsburg Fortress); imagine how repertoire you already sing may be led differently to engage the people allowing them flexibility and freedom to move and, most of all, don’t overlook your own potential to craft small melodies to accompany these beautiful moments of life together.
Singing in community can express faith, but it can also shape faith. During this center of the Christian year – as Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection all come into view as one act of salvation, wholeness, and love – I pray that your singing together is a vehicle for knowing the risen Christ in your midst.
Blessed Holy Week and Easter.