By Katherine Will
One of the keys to our worship as Episcopalians is the understanding that our liturgy functions on many levels of awareness. There is an intellectual component as we study Scripture. There is an emotional component as we express our love, sorrow, repentance, and all the other feelings that find their place in our liturgy. And, in the Eucharist, God speaks to us in ways that have no words, to parts of our soul beyond our conscious mind.
Music is an important tool which assists our worship on all these levels. Speaking to our intellect, music amplifies the words we sing and the words we hear, whether they are words of Scripture or the striking poetry of hymns and choral music. Emotionally, a poignant musical phrase, with or without words, might connect with our feelings, helping us express them more fully. And music allows us to go much deeper, to express that which is otherwise inexpressible.
“Sacred music is a spiritually-centered art form that is designed to fulfill specific functions in liturgy. Sacred music sounds different from popular music, and even from classical concert music, because it has an entirely different function. It is not primarily intended as entertainment. Sacred music is a form of prayer. It enables us to touch the central core of our humanness. It opens a door and allows us to enter into the presence of God.” From Worship in the Episcopal Church, by Martha Ainsworth
We are blessed at Grace to have three active music ministries in our midst. Chancel Choir leads our worship in traditional styles of music, both ancient and modern. Grace Harmony leads our singing using guitars and a folk tradition. Joyful Noise gives our children a voice and a place within our worship. All three groups strive to create an atmosphere of prayer and praise, and enable our parish to reach closer to God through words and music.
But liturgy is literally “the work of the people” and is meant to be an active, not a passive action. Hymns and responses are there for all of us as a parish to sing, not just the trained musician. Raising our collective voice in song takes us to those other levels of awareness and connects us with all the saints who join in our song. Keep your heart and mind open for something you may not have heard before.
Blessings to you!