Until recently, The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels carried a hefty cultural weight. With its humble fifth-century beginnings and subsequent popularization across Northern Europe, September 29 has played a prominent role in the calendars of the English-speaking world: Michaelmas, as it is also known, marked the start of the fall term in academic circles and jurisprudence practice, a notable temporal horizon in the lives of ordinary people. But times have changed, and observing it today may strike some as a relic from a bygone era, a celebration a bit out of step with the Christological thrust and focus of the modern liturgical calendar. But let’s not place our attention there. Instead, let us look at how this festival allows us to take an autumnal look at God’s marvelous works of grace in the history of salvation. This year, September 29 falls on a Friday, which allows for the possibility of a transfer to those who would like to mark this special occasion and have the whole assembly take in how God has acted on our behalf (through God’s special envoys).Read More > >
Planning and executing effective and enjoyable rehearsals is an art! Too often, I am tempted to do other work and not carve out time to thoughtfully plan each choir’s rehearsal. Experience is my friend but should not be an excuse for skipping this important work. When we only have one rehearsal per week, we have to make the most of every minute. It feels like so much to do and so little time to do it in. We have to prioritize and map out the allotted time. There is a rhythm to the rehearsal that allows the singers/ringers to warm up their brains/voices and move toward the most challenging pieces. Effective rehearsals model a beautiful musical phrase.Read More > >
The commemoration of John the Baptist falls, as it has since the fourth century, six months before Christmas Eve, on June 24. The annual remembrance, three days after the summer solstice, is a calendrical reflection of the relationship between the last Old Testament prophet and the Messiah, the Long-Awaited One.Read More > >
I’ve been a part of more than one conversation in the recent past that involves sadness about decline in the church. Many, perhaps most, of us are experiencing decreased numbers of singers, worshipers, and volunteers, and it’s easy to allow feelings of frustration and disappointment to spiral out of control. I’ve also noticed that some of us may feel as though we are somehow responsible for addressing or resolving this challenge.
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This year, the festival of Pentecost falls on a holiday weekend in the United States. Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of summer vacation, and many people choose to travel. As a church musician, I know that it is not wise to plan for a four-part anthem with brass quartet accompaniment on a Sunday like that. So how does one make a festival Sunday feel special when one has limited resources?Read More > >
Recipients of our appreciation are apt to express their own gratitude to others, lengthening the unending, golden chain of connections-in-goodness that stretches across the world. —Mary Ford-Grabowsky
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For the imaginatively inclined, the church calendar provides endless opportunities to delve into stories creatively. The upcoming Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord (February 2), falling precisely forty days after Christmas, is no exception. As a pedagogical strategy, projecting ourselves into the story gives us a chance to playfully engage with the material, increasing the likelihood of making unexpected connections. Moreover, full immersion in the biblical narratives seems to be the starting point for many of our hymns, making our hymnody fertile ground for meditation or personal devotion.Read More > >
Hospitality is defined as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”Read More > >
There are certain seasons that are inherently stressful, and we are currently in one of them. There were Christmases past in which it was difficult for me to keep the proper perspective. I felt overworked and underappreciated, and the added pressures I put on myself to have a beautifully decorated home and provide a “perfect” holiday for my family only produced feelings of personal failure and silent resentment toward others whom I believed had it easier than I. Does this sound vaguely familiar to anyone?
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If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is thank you, it will be enough.
— Meister Eckhart.
Gratitude, the condition of being thankful or the readiness to show appreciation, is both a feeling and a disposition. In the last few decades, science and popular culture have rediscovered what our hymns have long taught us: science has ascertained its health benefits, and self-help books remind us that it is one of the habits we need to develop to achieve peace of mind.Read More > >