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Selecting Music for Community Worship

Selecting Hymns


You have three hymns to choose: the opening hymn, the gradual hymn, and a hymn at the preparation of the gifts. The hymns should be chosen according to their liturgical use and their relationship to the readings or the theme of the day. They should complement each other, and should reflect a variety of styles and keys; i.e., we wouldn't want three old Victorian hymns in E-flat. (In Lent there are two hymns – see the separate submission form for Lent.)

The opening hymn should be an upbeat hymn of praise, one that will gather the community in song. The gradual hymn should be brief, and relate especially to the readings surrounding it. The hymn during the preparation of the gifts may be a musical commentary on the readings or it could be a Eucharistic hymn, looking toward the Great Thanksgiving.

Before selecting hymns, consult the Order of Divine Service and find what will be the readings for the day. Then read through them and become familiar with their content and common themes.

Now, take your Common Praise and turn to the Biblical Index, pp. 937–944. Look up the scripture references for the day and note the hymns listed. Check out each of the hymns and see if they might be appropriate. You can also consult the Subject Index, pp. 925–936. Make a short list of hymns, narrowing the list down and moving them around until you come up with a good mix.

That being said, not every hymn has to relate closely to the readings. Some days the readings are just too obscure, or there are several subjects that may be drawn from them. Think of hymns you like, or of hymns that come to mind as you contemplate the readings. Think of the flow of the liturgy, how people will feel as they sing.

You should to contact the preacher to find out the theme of the homily so that it will be reflected in the hymns. Two people reading the same scripture passage may take away vastly different ideas from it, so it is important that you find out from the preacher what themes he/she will emphasize, so that the music can relate closely with the homily. Likewise, it may be appropriate for the preacher to refer to the hymnody during the homily, so be sure to be in communication with the preacher in the early stages of selecting music. It’s entirely possible that the preacher won’t have any particular theme in mind; they may not yet have turned their attention to the homily. That’s life – just let me know that you’ve contacted the person.

Remember that we need a variety of hymns from week to week. The goal is not to select three hymns that everybody already knows, but rather to choose three hymns that go well together and that will deepen the worship experience. In the University setting, where our focus is on learning, we should have new hymns from time to time. Likewise, we should avoid singing the same hymns too often; for example, we won't be singing hymn 73, One Bread, One Body, again this year.

When you have your selections ready, enter them in the form on this website and submit them, along with your comments. For each hymn selected, please write two or three sentences explaining your reasons for that selection so I can understand the thought process behind your choices. Explain how it meets the criteria set out above and how it relates to the readings or to the other elements of the liturgy. Please do not simply tell me that you selected a particular hymn because the Holy Spirit told you to. Our purpose here at the University is to sharpen your abilities and your knowledge, so that the Spirit will have more to work with; intuition alone is insufficient as an explanation of your decisions. Please reflect on the music and the liturgical function of the music; don’t just write a theological exegesis of the text.