Prelude Blog

Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Recent Posts

Devotions for the Church Choir

Posted on Apr 10, 2017 10:33:02 AM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Music Ministry, in Potpourri

To you, God the Singer, our voices we raise,
to you, Song Incarnate, we give all our praise,
to you Holy Spirit, our life and our breath,
be glory forever, through life and through death.
~ When Long Before Time, ELW #861

When a choir sings together, it is united in breath, rhythm, and melody or harmony. When this choir’s primary function is to lead the song of the church, unity claims a spiritual dimension, an understanding of breath as the Holy Spirit at work among them.

Much of this understanding of God’s Sprit at work happens without comment; it is simply present in the texts of the hymns, psalms, and anthems the choir rehearses. At other times, you as choir director might feel led to unpack the texts the choir is singing, to root them into the biblical stories that have inspired them and to ground their ministry in a more intentional way.

This leads to the matter of choir devotions. Do you have them? What form do they take? When and by whom? What issues inform your decisions?

Why a devotion?

The benefits of including devotions at rehearsal are many:

  • preparation and reflection on the time of the church year.
  • creating an awareness of the themes present in the hymns and anthems you are singing.
  • providing a prompt for regular prayer, especially for those not able to sing with you.
  • establishing a reminder that the choir’s work is service done in and through the work of God’s abiding presence.

Possible formats

Including choir devotions can mean different things depending on your context and traditions. You may have noticed that Prelude offers a written devotion based on the Revised Common Lectionary each week under the Soli Deo Gloria section in the bottom right after you log-in. These are easily accessible for regular use to members of Prelude Music Planner.

You might consider a devotion based on a hymn you are singing that week. The Center for Church Music based at Concordia University Chicago has published devotions based on a number of hymns of the day.

Perhaps a devotion could be as simple as reading a hymn that you will not sing in worship because it is unfamiliar to the congregation. For example, O Blessed Spring includes the poetic and inspirational hymns of Susan Palo Cherwien.

Other resources from Augsburg Fortress include the devotional book, Bread for the Day and Gail Ramshaw’s collection of short writings for the church’s commemorations, More Days for Praise.

 

Of course, a devotion could be written each week by the choir director or a choir member. This practice would be the most time intensive, but it would be a very contextual discipline that would regularly engage you in spiritual reflection for your particular community.

When and Where? By Whom?

Some choirs have the practice of setting the tone for rehearsal with a devotion before or after the vocal warm-up. Others prefer to end rehearsal with the devotion as a way to send the choir out for rest of their week. If you have a tradition of extended prayers following the reading of a devotion, you may wish to schedule devotions after rehearsal to preserve the flow. If choir devotions are newer to you, you may decide to read a devotion on Sunday morning before the worship service.

It makes sense that choir directors lead these devotions, as they have often spent the time with texts in their preparation. They also have knowledge of the background information of the hymns and service music. Yet it would also be a way to encourage the choir’s understanding and sharing of their role as liturgical leaders by having members of the choir prepare or read a devotion.

Other Issues to Consider

Finally, as you continue or begin a practice of praying or reading devotions with the choir, pay attention to your community and their needs. In some circumstances, you may have folks of different faiths singing with you. You may have people that sing in the choir but are loosely connected to the faith community otherwise. Some may find that praying together is a rewarding midweek boost; others might prefer music alone to be their prayer. Yet even in varied circumstances, this is a church choir, and as the director, you are invited to remind those who sing that it is a gift of God to unite our voices in thanksgiving. Soli deo Gloria!

For Further Reading: Preaching to the Choir: The Care and Nature of the Church Choir by Wayne Wold (Augsburg Fortress, 2003) 

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Free Downloads? You Bet! — Maximizing Your Prelude Membership

Posted on Oct 19, 2016 5:03:53 PM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Assembly Song, in Hymnody, in Instruments and Ensembles, in Music Ministry, in Planning

It’s Wednesday at 5 p.m., two hours before choir rehearsal. You’ve just found out that an excellent soprano will be joining the choir for the following Sunday. Descants, something not often possible with a limited choir, would be a wonderful enhancement to the day’s hymnody, and with Prelude Music Planner, you have access to rich, soaring descants from Vocal Descants for the Church Year. Your Prelude membership to the rescue! Simply search by hymn name or tune in the title/theme/keywords search area, and filter “hymn/song” and “descant.” You can view and download the descants you need without using any of your Prelude points! Two possibilities for Christ the King are “Beautiful Savior” (ELW 838) and “Jesus Shall Reign” (ELW 434).

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Five Tips For Children’s Choir Planning

Posted on Sep 21, 2016 2:30:17 PM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Music Ministry, in Choral Techniques and Repertoire

As a church musician heading into October, you may be fortunate to have your entire choir year mapped out. For children’s choirs, advanced planning is key to a successful year. If you haven’t yet charted the course for your choir year or want some guidelines for future planning, consider these five tips.

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Singing on September 11

Posted on Aug 17, 2016 2:34:22 PM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Assembly Song

As worship planners, you consider multiple threads when weaving together assembly song: scripture, season of the church year, congregational life, world events, and more. A hymn might be especially relevant to the lectionary texts, but is unfamiliar to the congregation. A celebratory hymn might have been planned, but then unexpected disaster shakes the community. It takes clarity, wisdom, and sensitivity to make the best choices in each circumstance for each context.

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The Splendor of the Earth: Worship Planning and Ecological Stewardship

Posted on Jun 2, 2016 2:13:26 PM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Assembly Song, in Hymnody, in Music Ministry, in Planning

On the fifth Sunday of Easter in our congregation, we, in company with many other lectionary-based Christian churches, sang Psalm 148. In this cosmic song of praise, all ages are invited to join the earth with its sea monsters, fire, hail, snow, fog, wind, mountains, hills, trees, wild beasts, and birds. “The splendor of the LORD is over earth and heaven,” we sang as a refrain. What a marvelous testimony to the fullness of God in all things!

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Singing in Summer

Posted on May 26, 2016 9:28:42 AM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Instruments and Ensembles, in Music Ministry, in Planning

In one practical way, the call of a church musician resembles that of a teacher. Summers mean a little less activity, or at the very least, a different pace to your work. It would not be fair to say that church musicians have summers “off”—plenty of important work gets accomplished during the summer, especially looking ahead to the next year. Yet in many congregations, choirs and other ensembles do not keep a regular rehearsal schedule during the summer.

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Finding Your Rhythm in Holy Week

Posted on Mar 18, 2016 3:45:47 PM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Music Ministry, in Planning, in Potpourri

Let’s face it. Holy Week is plain hard for church musicians, pastors, church administrators, cleaning personnel, and more. Even with careful preparation, the demands of the worship schedule itself leave many craving a nice long Easter nap or a vacation.

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Sharing Song with the Homebound

Posted on Feb 17, 2016 10:11:31 AM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Music Ministry, in Planning, in Potpourri

His name was Paul, and he was crying. His wife assured us that they were tears of joy, but they took us by surprise. He sat in his wheelchair in the kitchen, hands folded on a narrow table as we sang. With each song, he cried more intensely, visibly moved by our presence, possibly reminded of time and people no longer with him.

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Strategies for Supporting the Small Choir

Posted on Feb 1, 2016 3:12:21 PM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Choral Techniques and Repertoire, in Planning

Suppose you have spent the summer planning for the upcoming choir year. You have selected anthems, new hymns to teach, and a collection of psalm settings. Then you discover that a soprano with a new grandchild has elected to take a hiatus from choir. An alto has a daughter that plays every sport. A bass has been ill. A tenor is not reliable. Before long, your choir could now be classified as a small ensemble.

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All Hymns Were Once New: New Hymns for This Church Year

Posted on Dec 9, 2015 4:43:23 PM by Jennifer Baker-Trinity in Assembly Song, in Hymnody, in Planning

The radio program Composer’s Datebook regularly signs off with the phrase, “Reminding you that all music was once new.”

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