Input Needed for New Hymnal

The survey should take 20-30 minutes to complete, and will be available until January 31, 2011.

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music is conducting an online survey to ascertain whether a new hymnal is needed and wanted in the Episcopal Church (as called for by a resolution from the last General Convention). Any Episcopalian, or choir or music director at an Episcopal Church, is invited to participate:

The survey should take 20-30 minutes to complete, and will be available until January 31, 2011. Please take the survey, and share the link with your friends and fellow parishioners.

This is the second phase of the study. In the first phase, completed Dec 15, a stratified random sample of congregations was invited to participate. If you completed a survey in that phase (if your congregation was in that sample), you don’t need to complete it again.

Results of the survey will be presented to the next General Convention.


Ancient Words

Words matter, and music helps to implant them in the hearts of our hearers.

I’ve been thinking about religious tradition and the church. Being raised in a nonliturgical church, I was not raised to reverence what most people recognize as religious traditions. After all, it is not the outward trappings of religion that define my relationship with my Maker, but the state of my heart. I still believe that.

But throwing away all religious tradition is tragic.

I am a firm believer in the power of words to change people and situations. The words we choose and how we use them either build or destroy, strengthen or undermine. I’ve been thinking about this more for some reason lately in relation to religious history and tradition.

Lynn DeShazo wrote a beautiful hymn several years ago called “Ancient Words” and I guess it’s been driving this meditation. It’s about the power of faith expressed in words and the words we use to pass faith down.

I began thinking about the Ancient Words of our faith through the ages that express my faith. Some of them are directly biblical, some are extrabiblical, but still important to my faith.

Words like:

– In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

– I AM that I AM

– The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall want for nothing.

– You shall have no other gods before Me.

– As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

– Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad. (Hear O Israel, The Lord is God, the Lord is One)

– Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

– We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen…

– Almighty God, to you all hearts are open and all desires are known, and from you no secrets are hid

– I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go, I will return and receive you unto myself that where I am you may be also.

– Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.

– And I bring you good tidings of great joy.

– Our Father who art in heaven.

– Miserere Nobis. We are wretched

-Kyrie Eleison.  Lord, have mercy

– He is not here. He is risen.

– It is right to give Him thanks and praise.

– Alleluia! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God. Alleluia!

There are many others.

But how much more important is it that we not only treasure them for ourselves, but that we share the Ancient Words with others. It is not enough that we know them, but that we teach them and share their power.

Peace, Love, and Joyful Noise,

Deborah Warden


What do you need?

What do you need to help be a better music leader?

OK, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to put your ideas together and lay your requests out there.

What do you need to help you better serve your church in the music ministry?

Some ideas that have been tossed about are:
Reading Sessions
Training weekends (Friday/Saturday) at Honey Creek
Leadership for Parish Musicians
Choir Festivals

What else have you thought about or wished for?


What we are doing anyway?

Reflecting on the role of the church musician…I see myself as a musican – one who practices the art and craft of music – for the glory of the Father. I’m not there to show off. My purpose is different.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the role of music in the ministry of the church. Music is primarily seen as a performance art but performance really has no place in worship. After all, the main purpose of the worship is to adore and connect with God, not to show off.

That said, music is a powerful force. Weaving together words, rhyme, meter, and harmonics is an art form that exists in every culture. Music, even through the many permutations that exist in the world, is a constant. The spiritual, sometimes tribal, draw that music effects on us varies from individual to individual, but  some deaf people can still feel the vibrations.

Church music functions in several different ways. First and foremost, congregational music in worship is about the worship. This does not change whether a church prefers southern gospel, sacred harp, traditional hymnody, contemporary praise music, or any combination. It adds a point where the congregants can and should offer praises to God Almighty. It’s about the joyful noise that the psalmist David described.

Second, music has also been a teaching tool in the church particularly in societies where literacy is not the norm or for preliterate children. This occurs for several reasons. The frequency of hymn repetition usually means that the hymns are heard more often than a specific passage of scripture. The patterns of strict rhyme and meter with frequent repetition make memorization very easy, and sometimes even unintentional as anyone who has ever had a song stuck in his head can attest. The hymns of any given church are usually screened by the powers that publish to ensure that the hymns are consistent with the doctrines of that particular denomination.

Third, in liturgical churches, there are chants, prayers, hymns, and psalms that are regularly sung as part of congregational worship and longer pieces that are chanted or sung on special occasions. These are also part of worship. The plainsong of chant done well musically parallels the text and augments it making it more interesting to hear than to be read to.

Fourth, special instrumental music – preludes, postludes, offertories, etc. – offer time for quiet contemplation. Congregants should take the time to enjoy the art form, but to use the sounds and melodies to help center their minds for contemplation and prepare themselves for what is to come next in the service.

Fifth, special vocal music – choirs, ensembles, individual singers with or without accompaniment offers the advantages of a presented text (the lyrics) with the opportunity to allow the congregation time to contemplate that text. This type of music is the most problematic for most churches. It requires the most work since it means that multiple musicians – some of whom must have some training and skill – have to work together to choose appropriate music, practice, teach musical skills to those who want to learn and participate in groups, come to agreement on how the musical score should be interpreted, or even write or arrange the music desired. Depending on the complexity of the piece and the skill level of the musicians, music presented in this fashion may take months to prepare. And while it is the most demanding, it is also one of the most rewarding personally. I love to sing in groups both large and small because I love the interplay between different sounding voices and instruments. I love the way a good score can bring emphasis to the text. I love the way that music can reach into your head unexpectedly and grab your attention. I love that when I don’t have the words of my own I can still have a song in my heart to speak to God or to others about Him.

Unfortunately, it is easy to see church musicians as “performers” since that is what we see in secular music. I don’t think of myself as a performer. I see myself as a musican – one who practices the art and craft of music – for the glory of the Father. I’m not there to show off. My purpose is different. I desire no applause (praise should be reserved for the Savior), although an occasional acknowledgement of hard work is appreciated. And sometimes the tendency to see church music as a performing art diminishes the ability to fully appreciate it’s power to move people spiritually in worship. For me, it’s just part of who I am. It is how I serve, how I worship, and how I can share God’s love.

Debbie Warden
King of Peace Episcopal Church
Kingsland, GA


Starting the Conversation

Your input is needed to get this network off the ground.

We have created this web log to begin communications among those in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia who are church musicians and would like to network with one another. We want to group pages of information and resources here, begin conversations and dream big. Add your comments below to let us know what you want to see happen in this space.