Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A difficult week

Sorry to those of you who have been checking every 30 minutes to see if I've posted something (yeah, right). It's been quite a couple of weeks!

Besides all the comp preparations, for those to whom I haven't spoken, Amy and I, after much prayer, decided that I should start applying to other churches. I did on Tuesday at 3:30, and got a call at 4:30 for an interview. After my interview on Thursday, I was hired on Friday—all of which happened, obviously, incredibly fast. I knew that I felt like it was the right time, but, the ease and quickness of all the events following confirmed that for me.

The difficulty lay in telling the folks at Hightstown, especially our pastor and his wife, because I truly love them all. Although I could at times be frustrated, there is not one whom I won't miss greatly. It was my first church job as organist and as music director, and, as a beautiful, historic church, it was an excellent one. So, tonight at executive meeting, it was time for me to let them know, which I had to do by letter since I couldn't make a speech without too much sadness on my part. They were shocked, but incredibly supportive and positive towards me. I really hope that God has the right person already waiting to be hired as the new organist, and that that happens really quickly!

So, I'm fairly melancholy after having to inform people with whom I've worked and fellowshipped for four years that I'm leaving, and in looking forward to tomorrow, when I'll help our neighbors, whom we've known for eight years now, pack up to move to Oklahoma. But, I'm excited to start at our new church, where I will only be the organist, and where there are many more people involved in the music program. In looking over their bulletins from the last year, it looks like they sing a wide variety of hymns and choruses. I'm excited to see what it will bring in my musical and spiritual development.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Trinity Sunday!

I was thankful this week for Trinity Sunday, because after the unfortunate torpor of Pentecost, the hymns celebrating the Trinity are some of my favorites. Since so many hymns include a trinitarian last verse (thanks to the Latin poets of the early Middle Ages, like Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, author of "Of the Father's Love Begotten"), there are many to choose from.

We sang "Holy, Holy, Holy," the last verse of "Now Thank We All Our God," "Praise Ye the Triune God," and I played "Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart," "Of the Father's Love Begotten," a setting of "Holy, Holy, Holy," and one of "Ave colenda trinitas." After the service, no fewer than 6 people commented on how much they enjoyed Sunday's music!

I was mulling over whether I played better because I like the hymns better, or if they're just better hymns, and, I think the latter. With so many to choose from, and so many with great theological statements (well, I like "Praise Ye the Triune God" for its Victorian feel), and so many with rousing tunes, it seems like a better corpus for congregational singing.

So, is the church comfortable with the Trinity, but not the Holy Spirit? It seems that the musicians are, since there are so few Holy Spirit hymns but so many Trinitarian. Or, perhaps it's only the church now that is in that situation. It seems like you can't have one without the other, though. Many of the Trinitarian hymns are old, too, so maybe we're not addressing either. The newest hymn in our service was "Praise Ye the Triune God," written in 1858 (not counting the Dennis Jernigan special music provided by my lovely wife). Maybe the rousing music for them has lasted better than the calmer music of the Holy Spirit hymns.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pentecost hymns

In choosing hymns for this coming Sunday, I've realized something. Hymns about the Holy Spirit are generally boring. There's "The Comforter Has Come," with tune by William Kirkpatrick, but, other than that, they seem fairly sedate. I truly enjoy "Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart," but a whole service of songs of that nature would be fairly monotonous.

Are there ones out there to which I'm just unfamiliar? Even contemporary ones I know tend to be more meditative, such as "Breathe" (my least-favorite song), or any of the river/spirit imagery songs.

I guess there is "Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit," although I wouldn't really consider that Pentecost. Or, I suppose the Episcopalians have some nice ones—"Hail this joyful day's return," "A mighty sound from heaven," or "Come, thou Holy Spirit bright." Also, there's a second setting of that to the tune ARBOR STREET, which I find stately but joyful, even though in a minor key (see "Jesu Meine Freude," below). And, "Hail Thee Festival Day" has its Pentecost verses (also below).

There's of course the trinitarian verses in so many hymns that mention the Holy Spirit, or the last verse of "A mighty fortress," too. Some of the "Holy Spirit" hymns in many hymnals seem to be focused rather ambiguously, such as "Spirit Song," which switches back and forth from Jesus to the Holy Spirit.

All that to say, what are we missing? It seems like Pentecost was a momentous occasion, and one that would be important for all Christians of all time. Further, I'm sure the first Pentecost was both incredibly frightening and exhilarating. What are we doing singing such flowing, gentle songs about such an event? The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, sure, but the Holy Spirit is also what has indwelled the Church.

So, what are some more appropriate hymns/songs that I don't know? Having gone to churches most of my life that never even knew when Pentecost happened through the year, have I missed out?