“We Have Much to Sing”

26 05 2014
Excerpts reblogged from: Community of Christ Orange, CofChristorange.org and Young Adult blog, youngadultministries.wordpress.com

By Dustin Davis, Los Angeles, California, USA

New Community of Christ Sings hymnal

New Community of Christ Sings hymnal

Nothing stirs my spirit like the sound of organ song and many voices combined, spiraling upward through the swirling spire of the Temple in Independence, Missouri.

As I write, my ears and heart still ring with new and familiar texts and tunes that fill our recent hymnal, Community of Christ Sings. The annual Peace Colloquy in October made the connections between the songs we sing and the mission we claim, Christ’s mission.

“Peace Justice, and Song,” the Colloquy theme, boldly declared that what we sing matters, that words and music don’t just fill the gaps in worship but inspire us, challenge us, and compel us into mission.

As we will continue to discover in coming weeks, months, and years, the songs we sing will manifest themselves in our hearts, congregations, and communities as we seek to make real God’s kingdom and bring the peace and justice of Jesus Christ to all we encounter.

I eagerly began flipping through my personal copy of Community of Christ Sings as soon as I got it. My first instinct—and I’m sure I’m not alone—was to search for my favorite hymns, to see if they had been retained. But my curiosity couldn’t help itself as I also saw new hymns with titles like “Leftover People in Leftover Places,” “When Memory Fades,” “The Summons,” and “Friend of the Streetwalker.” There are even titles I wasn’t sure I could pronounce like “Kanisa Litajengwa” and “Nimwebo Ba Yahweh!”

The titles, however, only scratch the surface of new and provocative hymns. The texts are poetic, challenging, and in some cases heartbreaking. (Not just once did I see people moved to tears after reading through a new song.)

As one person on the Hymnal Steering Committee said, these aren’t just songs about the poor; these are songs of the poor. When we start to sing, “Till all the jails are empty and all the bellies filled…God has work for us to do” (CCS 303, Carl P. Daw Jr.), we will know and understand with little doubt the mission to which we are called.
But Community of Christ Sings is far more than a collection of songs that will confront us on Sunday morning. It holds songs that guide us into deep and quiet moments of stillness, where we find God dwelling. “Be Still,” “Calm to the Waves,” and “Spirit Fill Us” are just a few.

Songs of joy, praise, and thanksgiving also spill from its pages. Generosity and sorrow find expression, as well as commitment and interfaith respect. And what about all the songs that appear in multiple languages and will challenge us when we sing them as our brothers and sisters do around the world? These songs will change the sound and feel of our worship, infusing it with deep and profound joy!

Many songs are radically inclusive—“Draw the Circle Wide,” “All Are Welcome”—and will help us value the infinite worth of all persons. The new music—swelling, haunting, bright, soft, full, round—will bring these poems to life.

Melodies from places such as Zambia, India, and Korea soon will be familiar favorites in North America and other places. And the authors are just as diverse, coming from all centuries and cultures. There is even a hymn, “Is There One Who Feels Unworthy?” written by participants of the 2009 Community of Christ International Youth Forum.
It will seem overwhelming, I’m sure, as we start to incorporate these songs and melodies into our worship. But we can take comfort in knowing that many beloved hymns are still there.

Community of Christ Sings will challenge us musically, theologically, and missionally, but what a challenge! In the process we no doubt will discover much about ourselves, our God, and the sort of people we are called and created to be, a community of Christ.

Community of Christ Sings clearly is far more than just a songbook. “You hold in your hands a vital mission tool!” the foreword proclaims! Community of Christ Sings is versatile in ways no previous hymnal has been, just as encouraging and inspiring for personal devotion as for corporate worship.

We have much to sing about! And it’s a message our own hearts, congregations, communities, and the world need to hear!

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