Lent

"Immortal Love, Forever Full" and 15 More Anthems for Holy Week

"Immortal Love, Forever Full" and 15 More Anthems for Holy Week

Holy Week is the week in between Palm Sunday and Easter. It’s the time in the church year when we remember the Last Supper, Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal, the denial, the crucifixion.

Some churches have several Holy Week services: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil. Others alternate between having a Maundy Thursday service one year and a Good Friday service the next. Still others have one combined Holy Week service that touches on all the events of the week: the Last Supper, Jesus praying in the Garden, and the Crucifixion.

Last year, I shared my service outline for a combined Holy Week service that incorporated music, art, and poetry. I used symbols to guide us through the events of the week: Light, Water, Table, Garden, Courtyard, Cross, Darkness. Download a copy for free here.

5 Ideas for Creating Meaningful Lenten Services

5 Ideas for Creating Meaningful Lenten Services

Lent, as a season, is about reflecting, simplifying, cleansing. It’s about searching our hearts, forgiveness, and grace. It’s also about love and freedom and growth.

It’s a time we remember Jesus being tempted in the desert for 40 days (hence the reason Lent is 40 days long), teaching the people about God’s love and how we should love others, breaking bread with his disciples, and living out God’s will for his life.

In Lent, we refocus on the renewing waters of baptism, the cleansing river, the fountain of grace.

Some say that the Sundays in Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days; rather, they are considered celebration days or “little Easters" (source). But I think this is missing the point a little: Lent is a journey, a time of self-reflection and examination of the heart, a time when we invite God in to do the work of shaping us and molding us into His likeness.

It’s a process, and it takes time.

How can we create space for this in worship? How can we make this season more meaningful? How can we capture the quietness, the self-reflection, the invitation to come just as we are in our Lenten services? 

Prayers for Choirs: No. 3

Prayers for Choirs: No. 3

I often think of Lent as a quiet season - stillness, simplicity, stripping away. But as much as we might try to have a quiet, reflective season, life doesn't always work out like that. Sometimes, life is anything but quiet and simple. Sometimes, it's overwhelming and sometimes, it's just plain complicated.

Restlessness.
Uncertainty.
Fear.
Loss.

Sometimes, it's hard to get out of our own heads. How do we escape? How do we find peace, contentment, and joy in the midst of hardship?

It begins with renewal. 

"Opening the hand to receive the moments. Trusting what is received to be grace. Taking it as bread. Recount how we laughed today. How we cried today and it too was grace. How He fed us. We ate. We filled. We swept up the crumbs. So He lays us down to sleep. Trust tucks in. He has blessed today. Will He not bless again tomorrow?" - Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts

Ten Church Choir Anthems for Lent

Ten Church Choir Anthems for Lent

Lent. A time of reflection, sacrifice, prayer, and grace - our own journey through the wilderness. It's a time of stripping away, going without (for example, the practice of "burying the alleluia" during Lent) to draw closer to God. More of Him, less of us.

There are six Sundays during Lent, plus any services that take place during Holy Week (between Palm Sunday and Easter).

As a church musician, this means several opportunities for reflective, contemplative anthems with themes of mercy, surrender, prayer, communion, love, grace, and redemption. I also love the theme of God as our Shepherd during Lent.

Looking for a few new Lenten anthems to add to your library? Here are a few of my favorites:

10 Favorite Anthems for Lent

God So Loved the World (John Stainer)
SATB Choir, a cappella

A classic. This setting of John 3:16 is particularly effective as part of a Good Friday service.

Top 50 Favorite Anthems for Children's Choir

Top 50 Favorite Anthems for Children's Choir

Ever since I wrote this post with my top 50 favorite anthems for small church choirs, I knew I wanted to create a similar list for children's choirs. This list includes only unison and two-part music. There are some tried-and-true favorites and some newer publications, so I'm sure you'll see some titles that you recognize! Choosing anthems is an individual process and everyone has their own approach. When searching for children's choir music, I tend to look for the following:

- singable melody + good range
- good text (rich meaning, age-appropriate, good declamation)
- accessible two-part writing
- interesting, but supportive accompaniment
- teachable moments! (musical form, minor mode, new meters, etc.)

Now that you know a little more about my process, here is my Top 50 list!

Within the security of grace

Earlier this year, I shared my goals for 2012. Among "make more decisions" and "pursue excellence," I wrote:

- Keep the faith. Think positively even when surrounded by negativity, stay strong even in the midst of frustration and weakness, find new ways to actively build my faith throughout the year, commit to worry less.

As such, I thought I'd share an expression of faith that's been on my heart lately. This year, the season of Lent spans the entire month of March. It is a solemn time in the church year, a time of self-reflection and sacrifice (giving things up). A few weeks ago, our pastor shared this thought with the congregation: "Lent is a time to examine ourselves as God sees us, within the security of grace." It resonated with me. "The security of grace" is a thought so comforting, so freeing. It's not an excuse not to do my best, it's motivation to try again, to forgive again, to move forward. It's a simple reminder that my whole life fits into the palm of His hand. We can choose to live in this security of grace every day. What will you choose?