Rev. Lisa Musser and Glenn Stroh, Lilly Scholars, facilitated by Dr. Charlotte Kroeker
The Saint Michael and All Angels project introduces music into a liturgy that has been spoken for nearly two decades. The leaders are working with the congregation to do this in ways meaningful to the parishioners and faithful to the Rite I liturgy they love. The 7.30 a.m. worshipping congregation began by discussing the direction of their music with Lilly Scholars Glenn Stroh and Rev. Lisa Musser in September, 2018, using questions posed by the Rev. Dr. Tim Shapiro, of the Center for Congregations, at the CMI workshop in June, 2018.
The Wisdom of Congregations*
They might have been teaching a class on music in worship. Yes, their reflections on experiencing music in worship were that profound. When asked, “Of music in worship that speaks most deeply to you, what memories does it stir?” they responded:
“The music of the church gives me beauty and joy. . . .reminds me of loved ones past. . . .makes me think of fellowship with others at church activities. . . .brings to mind the reason I converted to Christianity. . . brings thoughts of my children attending church with me. . . .reminds me of my grandmother singing hymns. . . .of singing in the choir. . . .”
The actual music that triggered these deep memories was varied, and included organ music, hymns, thoughts of an Old Cokesbury hymnal, Bach/Beethoven/Handel, Gospel songs, sacred classic music, the Doxology, instrumental music, Gregorian chant (identified as a form of prayer), praise/worship music.
When asked how these memories connect to deepest held values, the answers continued to be similarly thoughtful: “The music passes on values to my children. . . it helps me learn to love and serve the Lord. . .the lyrics of songs demonstrate the importance of the faith. . .music is of comfort when troubled. . .music connects with the spiritual/brings God close. . .music makes me a part of the service. . .reminds me of the blessed company of faithful people both in heaven and on earth. . .creates memories that help maintain my faith. . .music is a form of worship. . .”
The setting? An early Sunday morning liturgy where music is being added after 20 years of a spoken service with no music. How can that be done while preserving the liturgy treasured by those in attendance? It is clear music is important to the congregation. When asked if its addition over the past year has been positive, the answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!” The music “gets me more involved. . .gets me into the spirit/spirituality of the service. . .helps me to know we are on holy ground. . .we cannot have worship without music. . .connects me to the past, my family, memories. . .helps me remember words of the faith. . .calms me. . .leaves with me and stays with me. . .brings me closer to Jesus. . .helps newcomers feel a part of the service. . .when we sing together it binds us into community. . .”
Want to follow the progress of this little congregation? Below are pictures of the space and people who worship. Follow us on Facebook for regular updates. The story is not finished!
*Part of the 7:30 a.m. congregational project at St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church for the Lilly Peer Learning Project in Worship and Music at the Church Music Institute. Rev. Lisa Musser, Priest and Lilly Scholar
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