I am delighted to invite you to join us for the first in a series of classes to be held in September through November, on writing hymns and songs. The teachers will be hymn writers Rev Carolyn Winfrey Gillette and Rev. Dan Damon. We were fortunate to already have Dan begin to work with us at the end of last year. We look forward to working with him again later this month. This is part of our Vital Worship Grants project.
Our first class with Carolyn will be this Sunday afternoon at 2:00pm Pacific on Zoom. We hope you will join us. Below is a letter of introduction from Carolyn, a link to a prerecorded video, and a few questions to think about, whether or not you have a chance to watch her short pre-class video.
You are invited to participate in whatever way works best for you, writing songs or prayers or even just reading and listening along. Please do join in as we create worship resources helping Lakeshore connect some of our social justice ministry themes and our worship. Let me know if you have any questions!
See you Sunday afternoon on Zoom!
Dear Friends at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, I am looking forward to meeting you this Sunday, September 13th, at 2:00 p.m. on Zoom, for the beginning of our series on “Singing with the Bible in One Hand and the Newspaper in the Other: Hymns for Justice.”
I have looked up your church online and I see that you care a great deal about justice. Your work is grounded in your faith. For the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at how worship and music intersect with our concern for the poor, for immigrants and for racial justice.
I’d like to introduce myself a bit. My husband Bruce and I are pastors in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I have some Baptist roots; my great-grandfather was a Baptist minister in Culpeper, Virginia, serving for 40 years in one congregation. When I first started writing hymns, I felt wonderful affirmation when the American Baptist Churches asked to use one of my hymns in a national meeting. Baylor University has commissioned me to write a number of hymns over the years for their Christian Reflection journal. This summer, the Baptist Peace Fellowship asked me to write a hymn for their meeting.
For quite a few years, Bruce and I served as co-pastors in churches in NJ, DE and PA, and we are currently serving a small congregation in Central New York State. When many people think of New York, they often think of New York City, but we live several hours west of there, in the small town of Owego, nestled in the middle of farm country, right along the beautiful Susquehanna River. As you may know, I had hoped to travel to be with you in person to teach this series of classes, but a year ago, Bruce was diagnosed with acute leukemia, then he had a bone marrow transplant, and as he was recovering from that and just starting to get out and about, we all ended up in the middle of this global pandemic. So, Zoom it is!
In our Sunday afternoon sessions, we’ll be talking about hymns, and we’ll be singing them, too. We’ll give you the words to the hymns we’re using in each class, and you’ll be muted so you can sing along to recorded versions by a wide variety of musicians, right in your own home.
We’ll be talking together about hymn writing. What are the distinctive features of hymns vs. other kinds of church music? What makes a “good” hymn? What are the mechanics of how hymns are written? You’ll have opportunities to write some words for worship— maybe a hymn, or a two-line worship response, or perhaps a prayer or litany for justice. You are welcome to listen, to sing, to share in conversation, to ponder and pray, to write, to listen to what others have to say. You may feel creative, or you may think you would rather prayerfully listen. All are welcome to participate in a way that feels comfortable for you.
Finally, I’ll be sharing some pre-recorded meditations and reflections with you to watch during the “inbetween times,” in between our bi-weekly class sessions. These are an invitation for you to consider how your worship life and your work for justice intersect in your own experience. How do faith and life connect, for you? I look forward to our times together in September and October! May God bless you in your journey of faith!
Grace and Peace,
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Homework Questions Based on Video Meditation One (Prelude):
1. Think about your first memories of church worship. Write down some words or phrases that describe what you saw… what you heard… what you felt.
2. What are your earliest memories of singing in church? What songs or hymns do you remember singing?
3. Can you think of at least one example of a “vertical” hymn (focused on praising God) and one example of a “horizontal” (focused on sharing God’s love and justice with a hurting world) that you love to sing?
4. How have the hymns of the church formed your faith?