Devotions for the Church Choir

To you, God the Singer, our voices we raise,
to you, Song Incarnate, we give all our praise,
to you Holy Spirit, our life and our breath,
be glory forever, through life and through death.
~ When Long Before Time, ELW #861

When a choir sings together, it is united in breath, rhythm, and melody or harmony. When this choir’s primary function is to lead the song of the church, unity claims a spiritual dimension, an understanding of breath as the Holy Spirit at work among them.

Much of this understanding of God’s Sprit at work happens without comment; it is simply present in the texts of the hymns, psalms, and anthems the choir rehearses. At other times, you as choir director might feel led to unpack the texts the choir is singing, to root them into the biblical stories that have inspired them and to ground their ministry in a more intentional way.

This leads to the matter of choir devotions. Do you have them? What form do they take? When and by whom? What issues inform your decisions?

Why a devotion?

The benefits of including devotions at rehearsal are many:

  • preparation and reflection on the time of the church year.
  • creating an awareness of the themes present in the hymns and anthems you are singing.
  • providing a prompt for regular prayer, especially for those not able to sing with you.
  • establishing a reminder that the choir’s work is service done in and through the work of God’s abiding presence.

Possible formats

Including choir devotions can mean different things depending on your context and traditions. You may have noticed that Prelude offers a written devotion based on the Revised Common Lectionary each week under the Soli Deo Gloria section in the bottom right after you log-in. These are easily accessible for regular use to members of Prelude Music Planner.

You might consider a devotion based on a hymn you are singing that week. The Center for Church Music based at Concordia University Chicago has published devotions based on a number of hymns of the day.

Perhaps a devotion could be as simple as reading a hymn that you will not sing in worship because it is unfamiliar to the congregation. For example, O Blessed Spring includes the poetic and inspirational hymns of Susan Palo Cherwien.

Other resources from Augsburg Fortress include the devotional book, Bread for the Day and Gail Ramshaw’s collection of short writings for the church’s commemorations, More Days for Praise.

 

Of course, a devotion could be written each week by the choir director or a choir member. This practice would be the most time intensive, but it would be a very contextual discipline that would regularly engage you in spiritual reflection for your particular community.

When and Where? By Whom?

Some choirs have the practice of setting the tone for rehearsal with a devotion before or after the vocal warm-up. Others prefer to end rehearsal with the devotion as a way to send the choir out for rest of their week. If you have a tradition of extended prayers following the reading of a devotion, you may wish to schedule devotions after rehearsal to preserve the flow. If choir devotions are newer to you, you may decide to read a devotion on Sunday morning before the worship service.

It makes sense that choir directors lead these devotions, as they have often spent the time with texts in their preparation. They also have knowledge of the background information of the hymns and service music. Yet it would also be a way to encourage the choir’s understanding and sharing of their role as liturgical leaders by having members of the choir prepare or read a devotion.

Other Issues to Consider

Finally, as you continue or begin a practice of praying or reading devotions with the choir, pay attention to your community and their needs. In some circumstances, you may have folks of different faiths singing with you. You may have people that sing in the choir but are loosely connected to the faith community otherwise. Some may find that praying together is a rewarding midweek boost; others might prefer music alone to be their prayer. Yet even in varied circumstances, this is a church choir, and as the director, you are invited to remind those who sing that it is a gift of God to unite our voices in thanksgiving. Soli deo Gloria!

For Further Reading: Preaching to the Choir: The Care and Nature of the Church Choir by Wayne Wold (Augsburg Fortress, 2003) 

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Two- and Three-Part Choir Music

Choosing repertoire for church choirs is one of the most difficult, time-consuming tasks of all choir directors, whether they direct larger or smaller choirs. There are some unique challenges facing those who direct smaller choirs, though. To support you in your work, this blog has many helpful posts on the subject. Find some time to read any one (or all!) of the following posts for inspiration and ideas:

To assist you even further, in this post I provide a list of 25 anthems for 2-part or 3-part mixed voices, arranged according to the liturgical calendar. I focus on mixed voices, since repertoire for SSA and TTBB are substantial topics in themselves. Not all of the pieces on my list are easy, so approach them as you would SATB anthems. Also, in my estimation, these anthems sound “complete”—you, your choir, and your assembly will not miss those other one or two vocal parts. Follow the links to the publishers’ websites, where you can listen to demo recordings and view sample pages. When you find something you like, most of these titles are available for download through Prelude Music Planner!

Advent

Comfort, Comfort Now My People,” arr. Richard Proulx. SAB, finger cymbals, and tambourine. MorningStar, AE-110.

Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” arr. Sam Batt Owens. SAB, keyboard. MorningStar, 50-0203.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers,” arr. John Ferguson. SAB, organ. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451401684.

Stir Up Your Power, O Lord, and Come,” Carl Schalk. SAB, organ. MorningStar, 50-0205.

Christmas and Epiphany

A Christmas Roundelay,” Austin Lovelace. 2-part, keyboard. ECS, 7316.

O Lord of Light, Who Made the Stars,” Daniel Schwandt. 2-part, organ. MorningStar, 50-9932.

On Christmas Night,” arr. Hal Hopson. 2-part, keyboard, optional handbells. MorningStar, 50-1204.

We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth,” Timothy Shaw. SAB, piano. Concordia, 98-4170.

Lent and Holy Week

At the Cross,” arr. Patricia Hurlbutt. 2-part, solo. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451479317.

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God,” C. F. Mueller. SAB, organ. G. Schirmer, 50303010.

Deep Were His Wounds,” Timothy Shaw. SAB, piano. MorningStar, 50-3125.

Out of the Depths,” Carl Schalk. SAB, organ. MorningStar, 50-3410.

Easter

Christ Is Risen,” Ronald Arnatt. SAB, organ. ECS, 7050.

Now Is Christ Risen from the Dead,” Frederick Frahm. 2-part, keyboard. Augsburg Fortress, 9780800678920.

The Day of Resurrection!” arr. Brian Wentzel. SAB, keyboard. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451451665.

Ascension and Pentecost

Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me,” arr. K. Lee Scott. 2-part, organ. Augsburg Fortress, 9780800646134.

Jesus, My All, to Heaven Is Gone,” arr. Howard Helvey. 2-part, piano, oboe. Beckenhorst, 1562.

Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart,” Robert Buckley Farlee. 2-part, keyboard. MorningStar, 50-5555.

General

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Timothy Shaw. SAB, keyboard. MorningStar, 50-5310.

O How Amiable Are Thy Dwellings,” Carl Schalk. SAB, organ. MorningStar, 50-6204.

Praise the Lord, God’s Glories Show,” David Schelat. SAB, conga drum. Oxford, 9780193865518.

Psalm 150,” John Harper. 2-part, organ. Oxford, 9780193511200.

Put on Love,” Lee Dengler. SAB, keyboard. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451420784.

The Beautiful Land,” Scott Perkins. SAB, piano. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451485752.

The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” John Rutter. SAB, piano. Oxford, 9780193416598.

Do you have a favorite 2-part or 3-part anthem? Share your repertoire suggestions in the comment section below!

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Tim Shaw

Timothy Shaw studied theology and music as an undergraduate and graduate student, and he has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as composer, college professor, music engraver, and church musician. He has presented workshops, academic papers, hymn festivals, and reading sessions at numerous conferences, churches, and universities throughout the United States. His publishers include Augsburg Fortress, Beckenhorst, Choristers Guild, Concordia, Hope, Kjos, MorningStar, and Shawnee.

Free Downloads? You Bet! — Maximizing Your Prelude Membership

It’s Wednesday at 5 p.m., two hours before choir rehearsal. You’ve just found out that an excellent soprano will be joining the choir for the following Sunday. Descants, something not often possible with a limited choir, would be a wonderful enhancement to the day’s hymnody, and with Prelude Music Planner, you have access to rich, soaring descants from Vocal Descants for the Church Year. Your Prelude membership to the rescue! Simply search by hymn name or tune in the title/theme/keywords search area, and filter “hymn/song” and “descant.” You can view and download the descants you need without using any of your Prelude points! Two possibilities for Christ the King are “Beautiful Savior” (ELW 838) and “Jesus Shall Reign” (ELW 434).

You just found out that a talented flute player in the congregation is home from college and able to play for Advent or Christmas. You could adapt vocal descants for use by a flute or other C instrument. Two suggestions for the Nativity of Our Lord are “Angels We Have Heard on High” (ELW 289) and “On Christmas Night” (ELW 274).

Another excellent way to get the most out of Prelude’s resources is by downloading choral stanzas from the two volumes of Choral Stanzas for Hymns. These work best when a choir can augment the singing of a hymn by singing a particular stanza in an alternate harmonization. For Advent, consider “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn” (ELW 242) in a setting by Thomas Pavlechko and “Savior of the Nations, Come” (ELW 263) in a setting by Michael Burkhardt.

Psalm settings abound on Prelude. Use your membership to download psalm tones and refrains, including responses to the readings at the Easter Vigil. If you don’t regularly use the Psalter for Worship collections and don’t own a copy, as a Prelude member you have access to these varied, reproducible settings for choir, cantor, and congregation.

You can also use Prelude for practical purposes, such as downloading harmony parts for a choir. Say you’d like to use a hymn from This Far By Faith. You own one or two copies of the hymnal, but not enough for the whole choir or a small group of singers. Prelude allows you to download hymns in various formats: harmony, melody only, or words only. When you enter the title of the hymn or song, limit your search to “hymn/song” and you will go straight to these versions rather than an anthem or prelude based on that tune. You can download a hymn in the version that best suits your particular need. Be aware that while some hymns are available in all formats, some have copyrighted harmonizations not available on Prelude.

LifeSongs is a fine children’s songbook published as part of an Augsburg Fortress Sunday school curriculum series. Perhaps you own the LifeSongs Leader Book but not enough copies of the songbook. A number of these songs can be downloaded from Prelude and used with music readers. An excellent example of a piece from this resource is “In the Bulb, There Is a Flower” or “Go Now in Peace,” both by Natalie Sleeth. If you reproduce or project copies of a copyrighted hymn, whether for the choir or for the assembly, be sure to report the usage under your church’s copyright license (OneLicense, LicenSing Online, CCLI) covering that hymn.

Get the most out of your Prelude membership with points-free access to hundreds of worship music items—including descants, stanzas, psalmody, and hymnody—to enrich your music ministry!

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Five Tips For Children’s Choir Planning

As a church musician heading into October, you may be fortunate to have your entire choir year mapped out. For children’s choirs, advanced planning is key to a successful year. If you haven’t yet charted the course for your choir year or want some guidelines for future planning, consider these five tips.

Choose a Theme

If your congregation follows the Revised Common Lectionary, you might be wondering how a theme for a choir year is beneficial; the church year provides its own pattern. While this is true, I have found that a broad theme can both enhance the lectionary and create excitement and cohesion for a particular year. Themes we have used include “Walking with God,” “Grace Abounds,” and “All God’s Children Sing.” The latter would be well served by the ChildrenSing Around the World collection available on Prelude or the Sing with the World songbook edited by John Bell. As you choose a theme, reflect on your particular context, what kinds of music you’d like to introduce, or what theological emphases you might want to share in song.

Sing the Psalm

Each time your children’s choir sings, plan to have them lead the psalm. Prelude offers accessible anthem settings of the psalm through the ChildrenSing Psalms collection. If you have a choir with a wide age span, consider teaching the older children to chant the psalm verses and teach the refrain to younger children, using Psalter for Worship, also available in Prelude. Better yet, teach the choir to collaboratively compose a psalm refrain during rehearsal.

Lead New Hymns

Take the long view with hymnody and children. The children’s choir can serve as excellent teachers of a new hymn if you plan in advance. Look at the year as a whole and choose three to five hymns that you will teach the children that they will, in turn, teach the congregation. Try to choose a hymn that can be sung more than once so that the assembly gets to know it. (A hymn very specific to a gospel text, for example, might not be the best choice). Consider an anthem setting of a hymn as one way to introduce it. Prelude offers many quality hymn anthems such as “Open Your Ears, O Faithful People” by Robert Hobby and “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” by Shari Anderson.

Take Care with Anthems

Consider the skill level of your singers and the arc of the choir year as you select anthems. If your choir sings monthly, can you learn one anthem each month while also leading the psalm and a hymn or two? Perhaps select a challenging anthem to learn over three months as well as some simpler refrains or liturgical music. Repeat favorite anthems that the older children will greet like a long-lost friend.

Plan a Retreat

If your rehearsals are like mine, you have much you would like to accomplish during a brief time. Once you have chosen a theme, psalm settings, hymns, and anthems in advance, you know what you can teach in one or two rehearsals and what requires more focused time. If you can, set aside a date in the fall and spring for a one- to two-hour retreat. Employ a variety of music and learning activities such as games and play. And of course, have food!

The hymns and songs your children’s choir sings forms their faith now and well into the future. Enjoy this labor of love for the sake of your own organization and for the benefits the children will receive.

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

The Splendor of the Earth: Worship Planning and Ecological Stewardship

On the fifth Sunday of Easter in our congregation, we, in company with many other lectionary-based Christian churches, sang Psalm 148. In this cosmic song of praise, all ages are invited to join the earth with its sea monsters, fire, hail, snow, fog, wind, mountains, hills, trees, wild beasts, and birds. “The splendor of the LORD is over earth and heaven,” we sang as a refrain. What a marvelous testimony to the fullness of God in all things!

When you sing psalms such as 148, do you pay attention to the way the earth is celebrated? What about when you plan assembly song? Even more, how much does care for the earth and ecological justice guide your worship planning?

We are nearing the summer solstice. This can be a time to reflect upon how ecological concerns find a place at our worship planning tables. What follows here are first, a few general observations and second, questions to spark conversation and reflection in your planning context.

Have you noticed . . .

  • the abundance of creation imagery in scripture, particularly in the psalms? The notion that heaven is our true home and the earth is simply a stopping point on the way does not have solid grounding if we are singers of the psalms. (And believe in a God who became flesh and walked the earth!)
  • the earthiness of sacramental theology? At the heart of our experience of God’s grace is bodily connection with water, bread, and wine. God’s word is made flesh and dwells in and among us.
  • the ways in which newer hymnody (and older as well) call our attention to themes of eco-justice? Remember, the psalter is the womb from which church music bursts forth.
  • the way the seasons of the church year can root us in deeper understanding and care for the earth? For example, the “greening” of Pentecost, calling our attention to the Spirit’s work in all that grows; the baptismal focus of Lent leading us to the waters; or the longing for light in Advent, awakening us to our dependence and use of energy (and of all that life forming in dark places, unknown or unseen by us).

Could you ask . . .

  • Do we pay attention to the psalms and other scripture that exalts the earth? Is regular psalm singing a commitment of our congregation? How can it be revitalized?
  • Do the words, rituals and gestures around the sacraments uplift the earth? Are references made to local water sources in the prayers? Can local wine and bread be used? Are connections made in preaching and song between the communion meal and all our meals?
  • What new hymns can we learn that lift up these themes? Consider “Light Dawns on a Weary World” (ELW 726) or “Touch the Earth Lightly” (ELW 739). Remember, hymns focused on care for the earth can be found under almost any category, including the church year, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. “Now the Green Blade Rises” (ELW 379) and “O Blessed Spring” (ELW 447) come to mind.
  • How can seasonal worship planning always be rooted in our experience of the natural seasons as creatures of the earth?

Some congregations may choose specific Sundays or seasons to focus on creation. While this might be an option, paying close attention to scripture and hymnody will reveal that every Sunday gives us an opportunity to regard Christian worship paired with stewardship of the earth. Much of the time, it is simply being aware to the riches that we have overlooked.

Resources to dig deeper

A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth’s Ecology by Benjamin Stewart

Lutherans Restoring Creation

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Singing in Summer

In one practical way, the call of a church musician resembles that of a teacher. Summers mean a little less activity, or at the very least, a different pace to your work. It would not be fair to say that church musicians have summers “off”—plenty of important work gets accomplished during the summer, especially looking ahead to the next year. Yet in many congregations, choirs and other ensembles do not keep a regular rehearsal schedule during the summer.

If your choirs and ensembles take a break from June to August, how can you use others to help lead assembly song in these months?

  1. Consider a partial summer break. Instead of a choir breaking for the entire summer, schedule them to sing selected Sundays each month. This may not work in every setting and might mean a smaller group, but it can provide some continuity in the choir’s leadership of assembly song.
  2. Consider different arrangements of voices. Could you have a men’s choir sing one Sunday and a women’s another? Prelude Music Planner offers many selections for treble or male choir. St. Olaf Choirbook for Men, Augsburg Choirbook for Men, and Augsburg Choirbook for Women provide a variety of selections for these voicings (include link: and ) Could a children’s or youth choir sing once over the summer? What about an intergenerational choir? One general piece that worked well in our setting was “I’m Gonna Sing with Over My Head” by Terry Taylor, available for download on Prelude.
  3. Consider soloists. Who in your congregation could be a cantor for a psalm? Could you also have she or he prepare a solo? (You can search for solos/duets using the “filter by type” setting on Prelude.) Do not limit such leading or solo singing to adults. Involve capable children and youth. This could be as simple as having a young person or adult sing a new hymn that you would teach to the choir and congregation at a later time.
  4. Consider instrumentalists. When they are not away at various camps, summer might be a good time to work with young instrumentalists as well as adults. This could mean solo arrangements for pre-service, offering or communion, but also enriching hymn-singing. If you have the numbers, try a summer instrumental ensemble. Remember, even a simple flute or trumpet on a hymn tune can enrich assembly song. Prelude offers many descants for easy download.
  5. Consider inviting musicians from the surrounding community. If your congregation does not have a budget for such invitations, perhaps members have family members who would like to share their gifts. You could also suggest that folks giving memorial money create a special fund to bring in guest instrumentalists or soloists.
  6. Consider being “up front” a little more in the summer. If you have ever considered leading more with your voice, summer might be a time to venture into “paperless” song leading. Visit Music that Makes Community for more about this style of song leading. Collections published by Augsburg Fortress such as “Songs and Prayers Around the Cross” lend themselves to this kind of leadership, as do hymns in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, such as “Come, Let us Eat” (491) or “Send Me, Lord” (809). If your congregation is not ready for this style of leading in worship, summer potlucks, vacation Bible school, and outdoor services might be a way to plant the seed.

Enjoy being creative as you plan for the summer. Pay attention to the gifts present in your worshiping community and beyond. Perhaps a quieter ensemble schedule will both help you focus on other aspects of music ministry and give you space to reflect and prepare for what lies ahead.

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Finding Your Rhythm in Holy Week

Let’s face it. Holy Week is plain hard for church musicians, pastors, church administrators, cleaning personnel, and more. Even with careful preparation, the demands of the worship schedule itself leave many craving a nice long Easter nap or a vacation.

Those of you who took the time to check out this blog when your demands are many might wonder how you might be at your best this week (or file the tips away for next year). How can you settle into a rhythm that will keep you in sync with yourself and the needs of your congregation?

Five Suggestions

  1. Don’t run on empty. Carve out time each day to feed yourself, physically and spiritually. If you have a marathon practice session, take ten minutes and sit quietly in the sanctuary. Check out the readings for Holy Week or meditate on a psalm or other scripture passage for the coming week.
  2. Consider binders. Some musicians like to gather all the music for this week and put it in one binder, or at least a binder for each service. (You can download many items from Prelude to make this easier). Binders can prevent paper shuffling and allow you to see what is coming at a glance. You can highlight or mark the binder with any instructions or reminders you might need.
  3. Less is more for some services. The ritual actions for the Three Days are rich and music helps carry these actions. Three anthems for Maundy Thursday or the Vigil aren’t necessary; keep things simple so that the music serves the liturgy. This is especially true for the Easter Vigil.
  4. Lists for your cantors, choir, and instrumentalists. Consider typing up a “Holy Week Master List” for your choir that includes all of their musical responsibilities listed by service. It will save time at the final rehearsals, and help choirs and other leaders feel more at ease.
  5. Thank your ensembles. Celebrate the joy of the Easter season and the extra effort put forth by your choir and other volunteers. Treats, a party, cards, public words of thanks in a bulletin or on a church’s web page­­—all of these would be appreciated. You want them to do it again next year!

Yes, this time of year is exhausting. Yet it is a kind of holy exhaustion, an intense time that immerses us in the central mystery of our faith: Christ is died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!

A prayer for this week

Gracious God, we give you thanks for another year of grace, for this Holy Week to hear and sing your saving story. As we kneel to wash feet, you kneel before us. As we meditate on your cross, you suffer with us; at the font you wash us; at the table you feed us. In word and song, you teach and transform us. Accompany us as we lead your people in song in these days, that together we run from the tomb, announcing the marvelous things God has done. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the light and life of all creation. Amen.

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Sharing Song with the Homebound

His name was Paul, and he was crying. His wife assured us that they were tears of joy, but they took us by surprise. He sat in his wheelchair in the kitchen, hands folded on a narrow table as we sang. With each song, he cried more intensely, visibly moved by our presence, possibly reminded of time and people no longer with him.

On the other side of the table stood six members of our church’s children’s choir, some still in their winter coats. We sang “Light Dawns on a Weary World” (ELW 726) our hymn of the month, followed by the anthem “Christ Has Broken Down the Wall” (available in Prelude and through Choristers Guild). The pastor stood next to the children as they sang and then set up the bread and wine on the table in front of Paul. A hush fell over the room as the body and blood of Christ were shared. Paul took a while to eat and drink, and the choir stood quietly until the blessing, our turn to sing “Share God’s Love.” That’s when his tears really flowed.

Take the light of Christ to the world.
Serving others wherever you go.
Share God’s hope, share God’s love.
Mark Patterson, The Joy of Part Singing

I share this story as an encouragement for a practice we have carried out for over two years now in my congregation, a way we have tried to live out sharing God’s love in the world. About six times each choir season, we replace our Sunday post-worship children’s choir rehearsal with a visit to a homebound member.

The arrangement is simple. We are welcomed in and arrange ourselves sitting or standing in a living room or kitchen. We sing, share a bit about our choir year’s theme, and introduce each singer. Communion usually completes the visit. We rarely have accompaniment or instruments, just the singing voices of a half dozen elementary-aged children.

Each situation is different. Sometimes the homebound member is hard of hearing, but, nevertheless, graced by our presence. We’ve visited a member who can only lie in a hospital bed, but encouraged the children to gather close. Sometimes the person or caregiver shares cookies with the children as they leave. We’ve even had the chance to pet a few friendly cats.

Four folks we visited have now died; a few of them we visited more than once. How does this help the children understand and wonder about the communion of saints? How does it enrich our spoken prayers at the end of each choir rehearsal?

The children’s choir has become a link between the worshiping assembly and those who are too frail to come to worship. We typically think of choir as a worship-related ministry; much of our time is spent preparing for Sunday’s liturgy inside the church’s walls. Yet each week in worship, we are sent. “Go in peace . . .” We are sent as individuals, of course, but how can we envision our choir being sent to “remember the poor” and “share the good news”?

Perhaps you do similar outreach in your setting. How else do you share God’s hope and love through your singing ministries? What ideas and encouragement can you share with other church musicians?

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.