Today’s post is written by Julie Grindle, Assistant to the Bishop for Candidacy and Mobility in the Upstate New York Synod of the ELCA. A past president of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM), Julie also served on the Hymnody Working Group for All Creation Sings.
New Fire. Easter Proclamation. Ancient stories. Baptismal waters. Bread and wine. This is the night. As you plan worship for the Vigil of Easter, All Creation Sings offers many and various ways for us to sing the centrality of our faith.
2021, like its 2020 counterpart, will be unique in how the Easter Vigil liturgy is offered. The people may be assembled but only online; or if they are assembled in person, it may be outside for safety reasons. If you are inside, the people will be distanced and the chances are slim that singing will (or should) be allowed, at least by the assembly.
Despite these challenges, this is fertile ground for exploring the new resources in All Creation Sings. Because the resource is so new and because the assembly has not been together regularly, I strongly suggest that instead of choosing a lot of new material for this year’s Vigil, you select one or two of the new songs and hymns highlighted below and spend some time introducing to the assembly in whatever form they will be used at your Vigil. Perhaps short videos at the beginning or end of Sunday worship can acquaint worshipers with the new material. You could discuss the text in depth in a forum and then listen to the melody played by an instrument or sung by a soloist. Consider using the hymn during the upcoming Easter season, preparing the congregation now for next year’s Vigil while taking advantage of the richness of the texts and themes this year. With those caveats in place and the health of your congregation as your priority, I join you in looking forward to the time when we join all creation is singing together again, both now as the assembled people of God and when we are gathered with all the saints at the great feast of the Lamb.
Once the new fire is lit and the Easter Proclamation has been sung, we gather to proclaim the ancient stories. Many hymns and songs in All Creation Sings align with the suggested sung responses found in Sundays and Seasons. The Creation story (Gen. 1:1-2:4a) has at least three possibilities, all in differing styles. The first, “Earth is full of wit and wisdom” (#1064), explores God’s love of the creatures created under God’s discerning eye, including the roly-poly, the penguin and the platypus. “Before the waters nourished earth” (#1049) explores God’s love and lament for creation, and God’s intention to bring restoration to it. Finally, with “In sacred manner” (#1071) we are reminded that we are to love God’s creation as God loves it and treat it accordingly.
The other readings have excellent offerings to choose from for musical responses. Just a few possibilities are:
Reading 4 (Exod. 14:10-31; 15:20-21): “Who is like our God /Quién como Jehová” (#1098)
Reading 5 (Isa. 55:1-11): “Surely God is my salvation” (#926)
Reading 6 (Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6): “Come and seek the ways of wisdom” (#971)
Reading 9 (Zeph. 3:14-20): “The earth adorned in verdant robe” (#1068)
For the Procession to the Font, there are many possibilities depending on how much liturgical movement there is and what style of music you would like. If you are celebrating baptisms, “Take me to the water,” an African American spiritual (#957) and “God of promise, let these signs of grace”, a new composition from Paul Damico-Carper (#959), are excellent possibilities. If there are Affirmations of Baptism or a Thanksgiving at the Font, “Come to the water of life” (#955) has a beautiful text reminding us that the font is where we should look to find justice, mercy, and love.
When it is time for the Setting of the Table, there are texts that are perfect for an evening liturgy, especially the Vigil, because they reflect the joyousness of God’s salvific yet unseen work in darkness. Hymns that reflect this include “Womb of life and source of being” (#948) and “In a deep unbounded darkness” (#1093). A hymn that helps us move liturgically from baptism to Paschal eucharist is “To Christ belong, in Christ behold” (#958). Susan Briehl’s text reminds us that “the buried grain springs forth again with fruit one hundred-fold.” And in the second stanza we sing of this night when, “the binding shroud is here released, the veil of sin and grief, and in their place a wreath of grace and robes of joy and peace.”
During communion I encourage you to use other new hymns that combine the elements of story, water and meal that make this liturgy so unique and central to the liturgical life of the church. “Woman, weeping in the garden” (#935) is a lovely response to John’s Easter gospel. “Lift up your heads” (#1032), while originally written for Easter 2, works beautifully on this night – “O taste and see what once was lost rising in this feast of love.” Finally, “Joyful is the dark” (#1096) is a tremendous text that recounts God’s redeeming work over many different nights. The last stanza sings: “Joyful is the dark, depth of love divine, roaring, looming thundercloud of glory, holy, haunting beauty, living, loving God. Hallelujah! Sing and tell the story!”
Finally, as we are joyfully sent we may sing, “Day of delight and beauty unbounded” (#933): ”Sing now of fasting turned into feasting; sing the Lord’s favor lasting forever; sing, all things living, alleluia!”
To learn more about All Creation Sings, visit www.augsburgfortress.org/AllCreationSings.