All Creation Sings: Teaching New Assembly Song in Challenging Times

Posted on November 12, 2020 by ELCA Worship

We are inspired and encouraged by singing together. Not being able to do so has made this pandemic time immensely challenging and grief-filled. We long to join our voices as one in our sung praise and prayer. With All Creation Sings soon to be released amid such challenges, worship leaders rightly wonder how best to use the resource when we are not yet able to sing together in worship.

One feature of ACS is the inclusion of many short songs; they make up nearly one-fourth of the collection. In recent decades, the church has witnessed greater interest in “paperless singing,” that is, singing together without printed or projected words or music for worshipers. While a more recent practice in many worshiping communities, the oral tradition of music-making precedes our singing from published materials. It may seem odd, then, to include them in a printed collection, yet their presentation in a bound volume allows the church to know about these songs, even if best sung without singing directly from the book itself.

This time of pandemic presents some unique opportunities around such short, “paperless” songs.

Home Use
Incorporate these short songs in home worship. Since many songs are a single melody line, keyboard skills are not a necessity; any instrument or the voice alone would suffice. We read in Deuteronomy, “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them…when you lie down and when you rise” (Deut. 6:7). Short scripture songs such as “What does the Lord require of you” (from Micah 6), “Though the earth shall change” (based on Psalm 46), and “If we live, we live to the Lord” (based on Rom. 14:8) provide ways to surround our days with God’s word. They can be sung as part of bedtime prayers, family worship, around the dinner table, and at other times.

Outdoor settings
Transporting instruments and sound systems outside can be challenging. While many communities incorporate instruments aided by amplification in successful ways, the short songs in ACS require sparse, if any, accompaniment. Like singing in outdoor camp settings, these songs can be led in a call and response format. Even if the whole assembly could not yet join in, two or more soloists could model the call and response. Invite the assembly to accompany the songs with movement. Songs that would work especially well are “May God bless us / Bwana awabaraki,” “Guide my feet,” and “Come, bring your burdens to God / Woza nomthwalo wakho,” among others.

Online gatherings
Those who have been planning and experiencing music in an online format know well the difficulties this format presents. When it’s not possible to sing synchronously, a leader may sing lines of a short song and then pause for silence while those at home sing back (even if they can’t be heard by the leader). Or such short songs could be sung in an online choir gathering. Their brevity would allow different singers to sing a line rather than having the whole group sing together. For more about how short songs might be experienced virtually, see recent blogs and webinars offered by Music that Makes Community.

During this time we are apart, the words and melodies in All Creation Sings can be imprinted in our ears, minds, and hearts so we’ll be ready to participate more fully when we can sing together. Consider this a time of discovery along the way. In addition, the prayers and songs in ACS can enrich individual prayer and reflection.

As we approach Advent, we pray fervently for Christ’s peace to come among us.

Let your peace rain upon us,
O living God of peace.
Let your peace rain upon us,
Lord, fill our hearts with your peace. (ACS 989)

 

 

Let Your Peace Rain Upon Us / Yarabba ssalami.
Text: Palestinian traditional; tr. Mark Swanson, b. 1955 and Mark Sedio, b. 1954
Music: Palestinian traditional
English text © 2020 Augsburg Fortress
Permission required for further use by contacting Augsburg Fortress or reporting to One License.

 

 

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