Have you ever wondered about the music that is chosen to be part of traditional services at St. Peter’s? Who plans the songs? How do they get chosen? When are we going to sing my favorite? Can we please never sing that one again? Here’s a window into the process.
The rostered leaders of the church and I get together to plan hymns on a seasonal basis. In fact, we recently met to plan hymns from the first Sunday in September through Christ the King, 12 Sundays worth! We sit down together to plan hymns having looked at the readings for each Sunday and our primary goal is to find songs that draw out the themes found in these readings. Some resources, like SundaysandSeasons.com, are invaluable to our planning time, but sometimes there’s nothing quite as useful as cracking open the hymnal and leafing through it!
What about the actual songs we choose and where we place them? For each week, our primary hymn is the Hymn of the Day (HotD).
As Lutherans, we view the centrally located hymn of the day as the people’s proclamation of the gospel found in that day’s readings.
Yes, after the pastor proclaims the gospel, the assembly follows up with its own proclamation! The voice of one is juxtaposed with the voices of many. Such an important hymn often gets planned first with the goal of attempting to most closely match the messages in the readings for the day.
Next are the gathering and sending songs. For both of these songs, we try to relate to the readings for the day (hmmm…there seems to be a theme here). Here, though, we also try to capture the feeling of these two very different times in the service. For the gathering song we try to capture a quality of openness and willingness to receive the Word, whereas sending songs tend to embody some sort of call to action. After all, as we are sent out from the worship service, the real ‘service’ begins.
Finally, we take some time to plan songs to sing during communion. While obvious choices are many of the fine hymns found in the Communion section of the hymnal, sometimes we have found yet another hymn that relates to the day that we just couldn’t let go of. We get really excited when there’s a song in the Communion section that actually relates to the readings for the day. Ah, the life of a church nerd!
Of course, there are so many other considerations. Do we know this song? If we don’t, is it easily learned and is it worth learning? Have we sung this recently enough? Have we sung this too recently? Are we gravitating toward this song because we like it or is it because we think it’s the best fit? Did we pick 3 hymns with 17 stanzas each? Back to the drawing board!
So, that’s a brief introduction to how we choose music for the traditional services at St. Peter’s. Maybe you have more questions? Feel free to ask, but be warned, the answer might start with something about the readings for the day!