During the past generation, a wealth of new worship songs have been written. Many were inspired by the reforms of Vatican II during the 1960s, when the Roman Catholic Church translated their liturgy into the vernacular and began to encourage congregational singing. It should come as no surprise, then, that many of those new songs assume both Word and Table every Sunday. Also, since most Protestant churches celebrate the Lord's Supper more frequently than they did a generation ago, most hymnal sections on the Lord's Supper have steadily increased in size.
In the Service Planning article beginning on page 3, Carol Petter provides a rich variety of songs that can be sung during the distribution of the bread and cup for different seasons of the year. But the Lord's Supper is only one part of the service that can celebrate our communion with God, no matter the season. In fact, many services would be strengthened if the Lord's Supper were integrated with the rest of the liturgy, so that the entire service of Word and sacrament celebrates our communion with God. Here are several songs for a service that includes the Lord's Supper.
GATHER US IN
The word "gathering" is increasingly used to describe the beginning of a worship service. One of the first things we do as a body of believers is to gather together and unite our voices in praise to God.
"Gather Us In" is one of the most popular worship songs by Marty Haugen (b. 1950), a liturgical composer from Minnesota who has written and recorded hundreds of songs, including "Bring Forth the Kingdom"
(RW 37:31) and "Shepherd Me, O God," his beautiful setting of Psalm 23 (RW 38:30). Haugen is gifted both as a text writer and a composer. His songs exhibit the kind of craft and imagination that appeal to young and old in many different liturgical traditions. Many of Haugen's songs are published by G.I.A. Publications; he also served as an editor for their fine new hymnal Gather (reviewed in RW 43:46). Haugen is currently composer-in-residence at Mayflower United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"Gather Us In" is a joyful song for the opening of a service that includes the Lord's Supper, but it may be sung on other Sundays as well (using st. 1, 2, and 4). A glance at the accompaniment will reveal that this song is intended not for organ but for piano and/or guitars. To learn this song, introduce it two weeks before you are going to celebrate the Lord's Supper. Have a small group of musicians sing stanzas 1,2, and 4 as part of the prelude, and provide the text in the bulletin or on an overhead projector for people to follow. Another week, provide the music as well in a bulletin insert and invite the congregation to join on the final stanza. On the Sunday when you are going to celebrate the Lord's Supper, sing it all together as the opening song.
Note: You may not use a CCLI or Licensing license for this song; G.I.A. and OCP, the two largest publishers of music for Catholic parishes, have opted not to join them, therefore, separate calls to them are required to receive permission to reproduce their songs. In a way, that separation is unfortunate, perpetuating a division among churches that can't afford more than one annual copyright license fee. But some songs—including this one—are simply worth the extra ten dollars it takes to add it to your congregation's repertoire.
TASTE AND SEE
Psalm 34 is often included in communion services, especially because of the wonderful line "Taste and see that God is good." Carol Petter (see pp. 4-5) has written a hymn (Psalter Hymnal 301) with a refrain based on that part of Psalm 34. Dutch composer Wim Mennes (1917-1996) wrote the music specifically for her text.
As an alternative to singing the entire hymn, consider having the congregation sing only the refrain, with two readers—one male and one female—reading the entire psalm in responsorial fashion, as follows:
Reader 1: w. 1-3; Reader 2: w. 4-6; Refrain
Reader 1: w. 7-10; Reader 2: 11-14; Refrain
Reader 1: w. 15-18; Reader 2: w. 19-22; Refrain
SINGING THE SANCTUS
At one point in virtually every communion service, the words of the Sanctus (Latin for "holy") are spoken or sung. The complete text of the Sanctus and its position in the Thanksgiving Prayer are found on pages 14 and 15. The text of the Sanctus comes from Isaiah 6:3 and Psalm 118:26. The Isaiah passage is echoed in Revelation 4:8. We join our voices with the heavenly creatures whenever we take on our lips these same words heard by Isaiah and the apostle John. We also join our voices with the psalmist and the saints of all times and places who have sung and still sing this text around the world every Sunday as part of the eucharistic prayer.
The best known Protestant hymn, often sung in place of the historic Sanctus text, is "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty." But there are many more options for singing, and certainly these words call for singing! Over the centuries countless composers have included the Sanctus as one of the movements of the Mass set to music for choir and orchestra. As part of the current renewed emphasis on congregational song, many older simple settings have been revived, and many new settings have been composed for congregational singing. All Lutheran and Episcopal hymnals, for example, include more than one setting intended for all the people to sing.
Two settings of the Sanctus were included in earlier issues of Reformed Worship: a Hispanic setting featured with a descant by Jan Overduin in RW 28:35(also in Psalter Hymnal 626) and a setting by Kathleen Hart Brumm in RW 46:32.
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY LORD
Two other settings of the Sanctus are included here. The first is set to the tune LAND OF REST. In many hymnals, you'll find this tune used with the communion text "I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord" by Brian Wren (PsH 311, PH 507, RL 534, TWC 768). If your congregation knows that hymn, this setting of the Sanctus will be very accessible. Try singing the first four stanzas of "I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord" as the opening (or gathering) hymn; sing this Sanctus during the Thanksgiving Prayer, and the final stanza of the hymn as a doxology or parting hymn of praise at the end of the service.
HOLY IS THE LORD
The second setting was composed in 1826 by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) as part of his German Mass in F Major—one of seven Masses by this prolific composer, who lived only thirty-one years. Although intended for choir, this simple setting with a trinitar-ian variation on the traditional text has recently been included in hymnals for congregational use. The Worship Leaders' Edition of The Worshiping Church (Hope, 1991) includes a detailed description of the meticulous expression markings Schubert included in the score. While the congregation doesn't need all the following details, an organist can lead the congregation in holy praise by considering these suggestions:
The tempo is sehr langsam, very slow. The first nine measures are "pp" with a dramatic crescendo on the 10th measure and a sudden emphasis on the "ho..." of measure 11. Measure 12 is soft again until measure 19 and back down to "pp" for the last two phrases (measure 26 to the end)—measure 26 has a crescendo, measure 27 a decrescendo.
TWO SENDING SONGS
GO, MY CHILDREN, WITH MY BLESSING
This comforting text by Jaraslov Vajda is set to AR HYD Y NOS, probably one of the most familiar and loved tunes among the many familiar and loved Welsh hymn tunes. Vajda, a retired Lutheran pastor, has written many hymns, which are published in Now the Joyful Celebration and So Much to Sing About, both available from the Book Service of the Hymn Society (to order, call 1-800-THE HYMN).
"Go, My Children, with My Blessing" provides a sung benediction. These words are surely from the heart of a pastor who often spoke God's words of blessing at the end of a service. In this text he provides God's words of blessing for worshipers to sing to each other. This hymn would be most appropriate at the close of a baptism service ("in my love's baptismal river") as well as for a Lord's Supper service. And since the line "fed and nourished" could apply to the Word as well as to the Table, the hymn would be appropriate anytime.
Jaraslov Vajda (pronounced VIGH-dah) was born in Ohio in 1919; his father was also a pastor. Two of his pastorates were in bilingual Slovak and English parishes in Pennsylvania, and he translated many Slovakian hymns into English, including "Now Greet the Swiftly Changing Year" (PsH 444). Vajda eventually became an editor with Concordia Publications until his retirement in 1986. In Now the Joyful Celebration, Vajda writes:
Why then do I write hymns? To stir up my own awareness of God's will and mercy, to express my own need for him and to begin to render some genuine appreciation for his love, to review my place in his plan for me and for humanity, to refresh myself with his love so as to be able to feed others with it, to experience his forgiveness so that I can forgive others, to taste his peace so that I can be its instrument for others still at war with him, with themselves, and one another, and to look forward to God's ultimate goal for me, for which I have been redeemed at so great a cost.
HALLELUJAH, WE SING YOUR PRAISES
Finally, here is a "sending" song from South Africa. This is another song for which the organ may not be the best option. My favorite way of singing this is as follows:
First, teach it to a choir or small group of worship leaders until they can sing it from memory. Many choirs are so tied to the page that memorizing a text is a real challenge. But only then will the joy start to break loose and even physical involvement will start to feel irresistably natural.
Second, have your choir sing it as a parting song after the final blessing. Let them sing it unaccompanied, with good solid accents on these short phrases. If possible, accompany simply with drums, played not with sticks but with hands improvising a free accompaniment. Notice that each section is to be repeated. The next week, give the music to your congregation as well, and have them sing the repeats.
Third, listen after the service as people go out continuing to sing this song. Some day you might even want to process out singing this.
This music is under copyright to a publishing company that does not belong to CCLI. But it's worth it—pay the ten or twelve dollars they will charge you. It's an investment you won't regret!
Note: All these songs (with the exception of the Schubert) are currently on the list under consideration by the committee selecting contemporary songs for a new hymnal supplement to be coproduced by the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America. Worship song writers are encouraged to write for guidelines and send submissions (please send two copies) to Emily R. Brink, music and liturgy editor, CRC Publications, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids MI 49560.