Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just think about it, okay?

"Likewise, churches, if you insist on operating like it's 1963, you might not be too long for this world. If you're just now considering using contemporary music in your worship, you're 20 years behind. If your church is full of politics that strangle your ministry, you just might be put "out of business" by churches who are more concerned with seeing people reached for Christ."

"The Next Big Thing" by Don Chapman.

While I remain unconvinced about the multiple-site church idea (whatever happened to planting indigenous churches?), perhaps I've just never been in a situation where it would make sense. At least read this and think about our music in Reformed Baptist churches. Could it be that our adherance to the Trinity Hymnal actually hinders our growth? Could it be that we could affirm the regulative principle of worship, maintain at atmosphere of gladness and gravity, while using contemporary music styles and instrumentation?

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Monday, April 27, 2009

More congregational song

From Covenant Life, Gaithersburg, MD

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More congregational song

Harvest Bible Chapel, Elgin, IL

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Principles for worship at HBC#12

11. We fuse historic and contemporary hymnody.

No church or service can be all things to all people – but we do not value stylistic narrowness. We believe there are affections owing to God that different tunes and different texts and different genres may awaken better than others. We will strive to be who we are without exalting our own tastes as the standard of excellence or power. We will see God's guidance in each worship setting to be both indigenous and stretching.

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Sitting in my car in a parking lot in NE Philly

The Lord used this song in my own life at the most difficult time I've known. And it was a calamity of my own making. There was no one else even partly responsible. My world had crashed around me. 

It's not that the difficulty went away when I heard this song. Not at all - actually things became much, much darker in my soul for a very long time. But here was hope. I held onto what this song had to say with the grip only the desperate understand.

We all have those songs, I suppose, that not only speak a good word now, but also bring back many memories - painful, sweet. God is good. From Sovereign Grace

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from Ch. Wesley

Sometimes I find a good hymn -- but don't know what to do with it -- what tune (that we know) best fits? Sometimes that means I have to rearrange the hymn slightly. That's the case with this hymn.

Charles Wesley wrote this for Advent, "Jesus comes." Advent suggests much more than a baby in a manger, of course. It speaks to the eternal purposes of redemption. Since the hymn seemed appropriate to the preaching yesterday, we sang it.

The United Methodist hymnal suggests the tune
SAVANNAH ( Commenting on the tune, one web site notes, "SAVANNAH is reputed to be of Moravian origin. John Wesley first heard and learned it from the Moravians either en route to or during his time in Georgia where he was a missionary priest overseeing the Anglican work in Savannah. The tune appeared in his 1742 collection, Foundery Collection, with the name 'Herrnhuth Tune.'" You can find it here

We didn't use

I chose
DIX (6 7's) instead ("for the beauty of the earth"). That meant I had to add something. I repeated the 3rd line of each verse, and added an "alleluia, amen." 

We also used the arrangement for this tune. It has a bouncy, carribean flavor to it! 

Jesus comes with all his grace, 
comes to save a fallen race
object of our glorious hope, 
Jesus comes to lift us up
Object of our glorious hope, Alleluia, Amen!

Let the living stones cry out, 
let the seed of Abram shout
praise we all our lowly King, 
give him thanks, rejoice and sing
Praise we all our lowly King, Alleluia, Amen!

He has our salvation wrought, 
he our captive souls has bought
he has reconciled to God, 
he has washed us in his blood
He has reconciled to God, Alleluia, Amen!

We are now his lawful right, 
walk as children of the light
we shall soon obtain the grace, 
pure in heart, to see his face
We shall soon obtain the grace, Alleluia, Amen!

We shall gain our calling's prize, 
after God we all shall rise
filled with joy and love and peace, 
perfect then in holiness
Filled with joy and love and peace, Alleluia, Amen!
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Sunday setlist for April 26, 2009

It was Friend Sunday -- Mark Redfern preached Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." He made it easy for my preparation, giving me solid ideas for what he wanted the singing to accomplish. Thanks, Mark!

By the way -- I'm so thankful for the music team we have here at HBC. Every week they give themselves to the Lord and to his people in hours of practice. (This week 4 hours rehearsal!)

Walk-in song
Your grace is enough

Everlasting God
Jesus comes with all his grace (tune:
I'll post this separately
Psalm 24 (tune:
Another one from the Evangelical Psalter. See here.
O Great God / sov grace

b4 the sermon
The sands of time

After the sermon
O Great God

In the evening Pastor Joe continued his exposition of John 17. Vv.13-15 speak of Christ's purposes in keeping us here. Themes of joy, opposition, perseverance marked our music. It was good to have Joy Malone back on the piano!

I will rise / Tomlin

Fight the good fight (tune:
I use an updated text.
A debtor to mercy alone
See here.
I know whom I have believed
See here.
It's been mercy all the way

b4 sermon
I'm forever grateful / sov grace

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Congregational song

Perhaps a series on different kinds of congregational song world-wide. Let's start with the Morriston Tabernacle Swansea (Wales). The Welsh sure know how to sing!

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Principles for worship at HBC #11

10. The congregation’s voice drives our music.

While we seek greater and more varied instrumental accompaniment, it should always take the servant’s place to help our singing.

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One more hymn today

Is this a setting of Psalm 22? Not strictly so -- but it does follow the broad outline of the psalm in a gospel paraphrase. I found this text in Met Tab's 1991 hymnal, Psalms & Hymns of Reformed Worship

I had some difficulty in finding a tune (L.M.) that would take in the widely different emotional states of the opening and closing of this hymn. Perhaps one should think of using two tunes within the same hymn? Now there's a new thought. We only used one tune last night -- what we know as "the river is wide." I called the hymn ...

A gospel account of Psalm 22

Such grief was yours, such deep distress,
such pain, O Christ, intense and real,
subject to all the pangs of death
and such forsakenness to feel

The powers of darkness hem you round,
malice with rage and hatred roar,
and human nature melts like wax
as life and strength to death outpour

No sorrows more, no greater hurt
no more humiliation sore,
no greater judgment, heavier stroke
has ever been, nor evermore

For you have borne a host of hells
to raise our souls to life above
that we may glorify your name
and feed upon your glorious love

Such sorrows never shall be mine!
My Lord has borne them all away
O may this heart to all declare
your lovingkindness every day

from the Evangelical Psalter

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Hymn to look at

Fred G. Zaspel (pastor at Word of Life Baptist Church, Pottsville, PA) wrote this hymn. See him here. He wrote it with the tune in mind that we know as "Morning has broken." It's an old Scottish/Gaelic tune.

No condemnation now in Christ Jesus!
Great consolation -- Jesus has died!
Our sin laid on him, full pardon gives us
Looking by faith dim we're justified!

With judgment sure must God recompense us?
He perfectly just, what is our plea?
This: "Christ is for us! Who is against us?"
His blood shed for us, pardons, sets free!

In him and through him -- Christ our Defender!
Praises all due him, what mystery!
God in Christ dying as the offender!
His blood supplying our pardon free

Christ the great surety to those believing;
He all the pur'ty God can demand
Righteousness given -- conscience relieving!
by blood forgiven, in Christ we stand!

To Christ all blessing, praise without measure!
In him we're resting, his peace made known
His all the labors -- ours all the pleasure!
God's gracious favors through Christ our own

When there before him -- then, in full glory --
we sing our new hymn new praises give
'Twill be this old song of Christ our glory;
Through ages told long: "In Christ we live!"

© 1995 Fred G. Zaspel

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Setlist for Lord's Day -- April 19, 2009

Pastor Ted preached in our gathered morning worship, from Revelation 5, on the achievements of the Lion/Lamb.

Walk-in song
See what a morning (Getty)

Lord Most High/Famous One
All hail the pow'r of Jesus' name
He is exalted
Jesus, your name (Getty)
Glorify your name

Before sermon
Agnus Dei / Michael W. Smith
After sermon
He is exalted

Jonathan preached in our
gathered late afternoon worship (we now start at 5!) from Roman 3:21-26, on rediscovering the wonder of the gospel (Christ becoming our sin, being forsaken by God, bearing the full wrath of God against our sin).

Walk-in song
I will rise / Tomlin

O for a thousand tongues to sing
Here at your cross (really, "The Wonderful Cross"/Tomlin with a different hymn)
No condemnation! (tune: morning has broken)
Psalm 22 paraphrase (tune: the river is wide)
    I'll post these last two hymns.

After sermon
Man of sorrows

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Psalm singing / second of several

... reasons for not having pursued regular psalm-singing here at HBC.

2. Expired tunes
I can almost hear the howls! Look -- I have spent enough years as a Reformed Baptist and in the PCA to love most every tune found in the Trinity Hymnal. But that doesn't mean I think they all work well in a contemporary setting. I think, rather, that many (most?) sound and feel really old. Out of touch. Their musical language is dusty. I’m not saying that we can’t learn old tunes. I am saying that I don’t think that’s the best choice to make.

[Excursus begins . . .
I just put on my education-director-for-the-symphony hat. Every piece of music written (whether a symphony or a humble hymn tune) comes in the musical vocabulary (melodic theory, harmonic development, formal structures, etc) of its day. Stuff written in 1810 sounds much different from that written in 1910. Only a few pieces of any generation ever escape their own time and become true classics. Only a few. Most so-called “classical” music lies in dusty obscurity – and rightly so. But it’s the few that thrill us! They speak to us across centuries – and still have something for us to listen to in the 21st century. So we program the best from Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, Dvorak, etc. Why? Because everything written in 1780 was wonderful? No, of course not. But once in a while a piece rose to the top.
Hymn tunes are no different. They didn’t come from a divine pen. No angelic help. They sound like the time & place they came from. I have a tune book for a New England hymnal (ca. 1810). Trust me – most of the tunes in that book should remain forgotten. We don’t want them! They aren’t good because they’re old. That’s goofy thinking. Let’s quit this idea that “old tunes are better than new tunes.” Many of the tunes in Trinity Hymnal come from Victorian England. They really sound their age! They aren’t better because they’re old, or because they come on the pages of a blue book!
My ideal church setting: many/most of the tunes we sing would be less than 50 years old; a few tunes (the classics) from earlier times would also be included.
. . . Excursis ends]

Further, in my experience (back east) we tended to use a few tunes repeatedly for several psalms. There's simply no way, however, that
LEOMINSTER, for example, can adequately handle all the psalms we gave to it! Tunes speak their own truth; words speak in propositional language, but music speaks in emotional/affective language. So tunes speak to us with an emotional message, one that needs to fit the words. The better the fit, the more the song embraces us.
The psalms are so varied in their heart, passion, doctrine -- that we need all kinds of tunes for them. Read Psalm 56. Perhaps that should have some kind of blues tune?

Next time: Figuring out our worship

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Psalm singing / first of several

For many years I've been convinced of the need for the gathered church to sing the psalms. In another church (reformed baptist) and time we used the Trinity Psalter with great joy. I love singing the psalms. I want to get serious, again, about singing psalms -- at HBC. How can we incorporate them into our gathered worship?
My reasons for not having pursued psalm-singing more aggressively here in O'boro are several.

1. Goofy English

The psalters I'm familiar with (including Trinity) are full of what I call "psalter-syntax." They torture natural word-order so as to get the meter and rhyme sequence correct. Classic example: "The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want. / He makes me down to lie / In pastures green: he leadeth me / the quiet waters by." Though this looks correct on paper, it comes out much differently, at least when sung with CRIMOND (the usual tune for Psalm 23). If a congre-gation is accustomed to it, you can deal with it. We did -- taking time to explain the psalms we sang,
It seems that the more 'complete' a psalm-setting intends to be, the greater tendency toward psalter-syntax. Better English settings, on the other hand, tend to be more paraphrastic.
Further, many psalm-settings are full of "thee/thou" language -- verb forms long absent from normal conversation. But we're going the other direction at HBC, trying to update older hymns whenever it won't harm the sweet sound a song has. I want Newton, Watts and Toplady to sound accessible to modern ears. So I sure don't want to add more old-sounding language when I don't need to.
HBC has no history of psalm-singing, except as an occasional selection from the hymnal. But that's not the same as intentional psalm-singing. So I will need to find better/contemporary metrical settings for the psalms.
[And yes, I know all about psalm-chanting -- everything from Anglican to Gelineau. And no, we're not going even think about trying that here. I'm not sure too many places ought to. If your'e not sure what I'm talking about, that's okay. Chanting our way through the psalter clearly doesn't fit our stated desire to be "rooted and relevant."]

Tomorrow, Expired Tunes...

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A good reminder

Dr. Bob Gonzalez put up a good reminder on Saturday -- a song that Steve Green made well-known, "God and God Alone." See his blog for a Netherlands choir singing. Here is Steve Green himself. Praise God!

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Sunday setlist for 4/12/09

PB preached the resurrection of Christ. We started early, so the choir could sing also.

Walk-in songs
D/Eb Were you there?
Bb/C Christ the Lord is ris'n today

F/G Alleluia, alleluia (tune: ode to joy)
C/D Crown him with many crowns
F The gospel is true
[Heidelberg catechism Q. 45]
C There is a redeemer

Before sermon
Choir: See what a morning
E/F There is a higher throne (Getty)

After sermon
Christ the Lord is ris'n today

In the evening the choir sang a collection of Getty hymns, accompanied by a readers' theatre re-telling of the gospel narrative. Pastor Joe preached Isaiah 53. We sang one congregational hymn.

F Blessing and honor (from H. Bonar)

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Principles for worship at HBC #10

9. We strive for undistracting excellence.

We will try to sing and play and pray and preach in such a way that people's attention will not be diverted from the substance by shoddy ministry nor by excessive finesse, elegance, or refinement. Natural, orderly and undistracting excellence will let the truth and beauty of God shine through.

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Another communion hymn

What a delight it is to find good hymns for the Lord's Table -- not just hymns about the atonement, but about this sacred and happy feast -- this sacrament of covenant re-stipulation (there's a word you don't see too often!). We used NETTLETON. The words have been updated. It sang well. Give it a look.

Abba, Father, We Approach You
"Abba Father" we approach you
  in our Savior's precious name
We your children here assembled 
  now your promised blessing claim
From our sins his blood has washed us, 
  now through him our souls draw nigh;
and your Spirit too has taught us 
  "Abba Father" thus to cry

Once as prodigals we wandered 
  in our folly far from you,
but your grace and mercy reaching 
  has redeemed us through and through
You have welcomed us as children, 
  kissed us with a Father's love
spread the festive board and called us 
  soon to dwell with you above

Clothed in garments of salvation 
  at this feast we take our place
we rejoice with you rejoicing 
  in the riches of your grace
"Come and dine," we hear you saying 
  as we view this table spread
"I have found my once lost children; 
  Now they live who once were dead!"

"Abba Father" all adore you, 
  joy resounds in heav'n above
while in us they learn the wonders 
  of your wisdom, grace and love
Soon before your throne assembled 
  all your children will proclaim
"Glory everlasting glory 
  be to God and to the Lamb!"

James G. Deck, 1841, Hymns for the Poor of the Flock / Public Domain

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Hymn on 2 Corinthians 5

As the preaching was developing out of 2 Cor 5, I went looking for suitable hymns. From the Hymnary web site I found this hymn. It's good!

For The Glories Of God's Grace
It's a meter -- and needs something uplifting, I think.
MONKLAND would work (if the congregation knows it already). I chose HENDON since we know it well. (Note: HENDON requires the last line to be repeated.)

For the glories of God's grace
let us bring unceasing praise
From our fallen sinful ways
we are reconciled to God
we are reconciled to God

Strangers once to what is good
bound in Satan's servitude
Purchased by our Savior's blood
we are reconciled to God
we are reconciled to God

Christ the Lord unstained and pure
took our sin, made us secure
named us his ambassadors
We are reconciled to God
We are reconciled to God

Sinless and immortal, he
paid our debt on Calvary
Raised from slaves to royalty
we are reconciled to God
we are reconciled to God

God's good news of love we bring
to the lost and wandering
Come believe rejoice and sing
We are reconciled to God!
We are reconciled to God!

Author: John Antes | John Wilkes | Marie J. Post
Copyright: ©1987 CRC Publications

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Sunday Setlist 4/5/09

Pastor Rich preached 2 Cor 5:15, and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. The music theme followed these great themes of reconciliation by a great Savior.

In Christ alone
Let us love and sing and wonder
Because we believe
For the glories of God's grace (from 2 Cor 5) -- I'll post this separately
Amazing grace/my chains are gone
Fairest Lord Jesus
I love to tell the story

Planned but not sung (time constraints)
Embrace the cross (John G. Elliot)

In the evening we celebrated the Lord's Table. Much singing at the table tonight! PB led us well.

Man of sorrows (Katie Redfern's tune)
Lamb of God (Paris)
Jesus, thy blood and righteousness

O dearest Jesus
Here O my Lord (from a hand-out we sang all the stanzas Bonar wrote)
Look, ye saints
Awake, my soul, in joyful lays
Abba, Father, we approach you (I'll post this separately also)
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