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A Time to Keep Silence and a Time to Sing

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a series on the Sarasota Statement, which we unveiled a year ago and continue to promote for use in our congregations and communities, along with the accompanying study guide. You will hear from a variety of voices and contexts throughout March, reacting to phrases in the statement, and sharing ways it is being used. How have you used the Sarasota Statement? What is your reaction to these phrases? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter

by Felipe Martinez

In our silence, we listen for the stories of those whose cries for justice we have disregarded and whose expressions of faith we have refused to hear. We grieve the ways our silence indulges cowardice, justifies irresponsibility, and promotes fear in the face of injustice.
– The Sarasota Statement, Part III

I have sung in a choir, on and off, since I was in elementary school. Whether it was a church, college or community choir, singing has been for me such a great avenue to enjoy music together with friends and develop a sense of community. Unfortunately, for as much as I like to sing, I am a terrible sight-reader. The best way for me to learn my part is to rely on repetition and on being next to someone who knows our part well. I sing and sometimes sing the wrong note, but I am always listening to my singing partner, working to learn the piece.

Photo credit: Colorful people, Allstate choir 2007, by Becka Spence via flickr.com. Creative Commons

At that point in the learning process, I actually try not to hear what the other voices in the choir are doing, because my little musical brain can only handle so much input. And so I am in awe of my choir directors through the years, because they can hear every part at the same time. Not only that, they can tell when things are not working well, and they can pinpoint which section is not all on the same note (and I suspect sometimes the director knows I’m the one singing notes of my own creation!). At times the director would stop rehearsal and ask us tenors to sing our part alone. It was not a matter of shaming us, but of helping us get on the same tune. Listening to each other, listening to the accompanist, we learned together, those leading the group and those of us bringing up the rear. The beautiful part then comes when we each know our part well, and then singing as a full choir I depend on listening to the other parts, because now we’ve gone from learning to making music together. We sing cooperatively, letting our voices weave in and out in the melody and harmony as the composer would have us do.

As a Church, through the centuries, we have been at our worst when we’ve demanded that only a unison song of our own making will be our song; that no other notes, no harmony could enter our performance. We have been at our worst when we’ve silenced the voices which would have woken up our theology from its oppressive droning on, or challenged prophetically its monotone which we had been indoctrinated to think was the only note which would please God. Nothing could be farther from the truth!

To our shame, when we knew the Church was not singing God’s song, when in our discomfort we silently went along with a harsh tune of judgement and condemnation, of injustice disguised as purity, we unfaithfully let our ears be stopped up and we let God down.

Yet God is steadfast. God has always heard all the voices and has relentlessly invited all into God’s song. As a gracious director, God grants us pauses when we get to listen to voices other than our own, and offers us time to listen to ourselves alone for a moment so we can find our way back to our part in God’s song.

The poet writes there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) — which I could paraphrase “and a time to sing.” What is crucial is that in that ancient rhythm, the Church faithfully sings God’s song of love and mercy, so that in our pauses we will truly hear those voices God knew were being drowned out, so that in our time of silence we will truly hear the divine melody as it is meant to be heard, so that as we draw the necessary breath of the Spirit we will to jump back into the song when we’re cued.


Felipe N. Martinez has been a solo pastor of a small and a medium sized congregation, as well as an Associate Executive Presbyter and Interim Executive Presbyter. He is currently the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Indiana.

Blending the Old and New

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Kate Morrison is curating a series featuring reflections on Advent and Christmas from our 2018 National Gathering workshop and post-Gathering seminar leaders. Over the course of the month, we’ll hear what this season means to them through stories, memories, and favorite traditions – and how they see the themes of Advent connecting with the work of NEXT Church. We invite you to share your own memories and stories on Facebook and Twitter!

Editor’s note: MaryAnn is co-leading a post-Gathering seminar (a 24-hour opportunity to dig deeper into a topic, new this year!) called “Manna for the People: Cultivating Creative Resources for Worship in the Wilderness.” It will take place from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning following the 2018 National Gathering. Learn more and register

by MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Some holiday traditions, you’re born into.
Others, you stumble your way towards.
And some, you marry into.

My most steadfast Advent tradition falls in the last category. When Robert and I were dating, I visited his family one Christmas. On Christmas Eve morning, we all gathered in the dining room, with sticky rolls on the table and the stereo tuned to NPR, for the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast from Kings College, Cambridge, England.

I was no stranger to choral music, having sung in various ensembles while at Rice University. And for many people, a service of lessons and carols is nothing particularly novel. But I grew up Southern Baptist, and our family had also dabbled in non-denominational services, so the formal simplicity of the service’s liturgy was unfamiliar to me — scripture and song, scripture and song, beginning with Genesis 3 and concluding with John 1, interspersed with music, and capped with a single bidding prayer.

From the first notes of a single chorister singing “Once in Royal David’s City,” I knew I was in for something special. I would later learn that the boys in the choir don’t know ahead of time who will receive the honor of singing that first solo verse, which is heard by millions of people around the world. When the time comes to begin the service, the director lets the congregational chatter subside into a hush, gives the pitch, and points to one child: You.

Years later in seminary I would learn the idea, attributed to Kierkegaard, that the congregation is not the audience of worship, but an active participant; the audience is God. Choosing a chorister on the spur of the moment seems to enflesh this idea that worship is not a performance—not the result of a series of auditions for the “best” voice — but an offering to God.

Now, some twenty-five years later, that boyfriend whose family included me in their Christmas tradition has become my husband, and we have three children of our own. They hang in there pretty well with the broadcast, or at least the first 30-45 minutes, until their attention drifts to books, comics, or other quiet (!) pursuits.

We have continued to celebrate Christmas Eve with Kings College — except when Christmas Eve is on a Sunday, as it is this year. (Our family may still gather around the dining-room table that morning, however — one of the advantages of being a free-range pastor. We’ll see you that night for the candles.)

Like many traditions, the broadcast of the service of lessons and carols is a blend of old and new. The liturgy and choice of readings remain the same, and after more than two decades of tuning in, I am starting to recognize choral pieces that have made multiple appearances. The choir continues to hew to tradition in not allowing female singers, though there is usually at least one female reader of scripture. This traditionalism rankles, of course. But like many things in the church, I make my peace with it for the sake of the deep gifts I receive from it, while still hoping and yearning for change.

Other elements of the listening experience have changed — we now stream the broadcast online, and have been known to text other family members as we listen “together.” It was particularly special to tune in two years ago, when members of Robert’s family were in the congregation in Cambridge, a longtime dream made real.

Many of us who listen each year know the bidding prayer by heart, and feel a special stirring at this line:

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but on another shore and in a greater light… that number which no man [sic] can number, with whom, in this Lord Jesus, we forevermore are one.

When I first heard those words, I appreciate the line as poetry. Now, I know countless beloved people who have journeyed to that shore, and I remember and give thanks for all of them. The line takes on new resonance year by year.

The blending of old and new feels like the embodiment of NEXT Church. At our best, NEXT Church seeks to translate an old, old story and timeless truth for a new context and culture. The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, stodgy in its own way, has nonetheless stood the test of time for many people. Next year will be the 100th anniversary of its first broadcast. I think about a world still reeling from a global war in 1918, listening for strains of hope in the words from Isaiah and Luke, Genesis and John. The broadcast persisted even during another world war, when the location of the service was omitted for security reasons. It persists still, in a world yearning for the promise of Christ’s incarnation to be real once again.


MaryAnn McKibben is a writer, speaker, ministry/leadership coach, and outgoing member of NEXT Church’s strategy team. She has been listening to Christmas music since the week before Thanksgiving without apology.

A Community Knit Through Song

This month, our blog series is actually a vlog series – a video blog, that is! We’re calling it “The NEXT Few Minutes.” Over the next several weeks, we’ll share with you short, 2-3 minute videos from a variety of folks around the country with the hopes they spark your own imagination. We hope you’ll learn about some trends, ask questions, and think deeply about the practice of ministry in your own setting.

Eric Wall, assistant professor of sacred music and dean of chapel at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, reflects on the role of music in church. What do you believe God is doing through song? Join the conversation by commenting on this blog post or on our Facebook/Twitter pages!

To see all of our videos in our “The NEXT Few Minutes” series, check out our playlist on Youtube.

Music from 2013 National Gathering

Corey Nelson, part of the worship team for the 2013 National Gathering, sends along this list of music featured in worship in Charlotte. He also offered to be a resource for people who have questions about the music. Contact him at: Corey Nelson First Presbyterian Church Lake Forest, Illinois cnelson@firstchurchlf.org ~

NEXT 2013 Worship Songs

Songs marked with an * are in the new hymnal!

MONDAY AM – ADVENT

Ashe, AsheTraditional West African Chant One tradition says that this song was used by traveling tribes upon entering new villages.  When a visiting tribe was approaching a village they would sing Fanga-Alafiya to indicate that they come in peace. If the villagers welcome them, they reply: Ashe-Ashe. Then, the travelers and villagers reverse the lines.  The fanga song was often the common denominator between tribes that otherwise spoke different languages.  The lyrics we used for verses at NEXT were written by Adam Fischer specifically for the conference and are easily adaptable to a variety of settings and themes:

God is here and welcomes you – ashe, ashe Prepare the way and worship too – ashe, ashe Dance & sing, come join the crowd – ashe, ashe God is with us, shout out loud – ashe, ashe Ashe, ashe, ashe, ashe        Ashe, ashe, ashe, ashe  (repeat)   Celebrate with joy today – ashe, ashe With love & grace prepare the way – ashe, ashe Come from places far and near – ashe, ashe Our new journey starts from here – ashe, ashe  — chorus   On this journey we will go – ashe, ashe God travels with us on the road – ashe, ashe Guide us through our darkest night – ashe, ashe Grant us vision, shine your light – ashe, ashe

*Canticle Of The Turning – USA/Northern Ireland (tune) Words by Rory Cooney © GIA Publications, Inc.

My soul cries out with a joyful shout; That the God of my heart is great, And my spirit sings of the wondrous things; That you bring to the ones who wait. You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight And my weakness you did not spurn So from east to west shall my name be blest. Could the world be about to turn? My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, And the world is about to turn!   Though I am small, my God my all, You work great things in me, And your mercy will last from the depths of the past To the end of the age to be. Your very name puts the proud to shame, And to those who would for you yearn, You will show your might, put the strong to flight, For the world is about to turn.

From the halls of power to the fortress tower, Not a stone will be left on stone. Let the king beware for your justice tears Ev’ry tyrant from his throne. The hungry poor shall weep no more, For the food they can never earn; There are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed, For the world is about to turn.

Though the nations rage from age to age, We remember who holds us fast: God’s mercy must deliver us From the conqueror’s crushing grasp. This saving word that our forbears heard Is the promise which holds us bound, ‘Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God, Who is turning the world around.

*He Came Down – Cameroon/Iona Trad. Cameroon; trans. and arr. by John Bell (published in several Iona resources)

He came down that we may have hope

He came down that we may have hope

He came down that we may have hope

Hallelujah, forever more.

He came down that we may have peace…joy…love…hope

Light of the Stable (lyrics adapted) Elizabeth & Steve Rhymer, © 1975. Renewed 2003 Tessa Publishing Company (Admin. by Conexion Media Group, Inc.)

Hail, Hail to the coming king Let our voices sing out our praises Hail, Hail to the guiding light That brings us tonight to our savior Halle—Hallelujah  (4X)

Come now let’s prepare the way For the happy day of his coming Bow down to messiah near Cast aside your fear and be thankful Halle—Hallelujah  (4X)

MONDAY PM – BAPTISM

Come Thou Fount

Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

All Who Are Thirsty Words and music: Brenton Brown and Glenn Robertson © 1998 Vineyard Songs

All who are thirsty, all who are weak, come to the fountain, dip your heart in the steams of life. Let your pain and your sorrows be washed away in the waves of God’s mercy, as deep cries out to deep, we sing: Come, Lord Jesus, come. (repeat) Holy Spirit, come. (repeat)

Wade in the Water Words and music: African-American spiritual

Refrain: Wade in the water, wade in the water, children. Wade in the water. God’s gonna trouble the water.   Well, who are these children all dressed in red? God’s a-gonna trouble the water Must be the children that Moses led God’s a-gonna trouble the water.   

Chorus   If you don’t believe I’ve been redeemed, God’s gonna trouble the water. Follow me down to Jordan’s stream. God’s a-gonna trouble the water. 

Chorus   Jordan’s water is chilly and cold. God’s gonna trouble the water. It chills the body, but not the soul. God’s a-gonna trouble the water. 

Chorus   Look over yonder, what do I see? God’s gonna trouble the water. Holy Ghost a fallin’ on me. God’s a-gonna trouble the water.  Chorus

TUESDAY AM – LENT

Come, Let Us Worship God Text & tune: Tay Makeever © 1983 Ray Makeever, admin. Augsburg Fortress

Come, let us worship God…Come, Let us worship God Come, let us worship God…Come, Let us worship God Welcome, everyone…Welcome, everyone To the love of God…To the love of God …   Rest for the weary … Food for the hungry… Peace for the nations… Come, let us worship God…

Kyrie Music ©2002 Chip Andrus

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison God, have mercy, Christ have mercy, grant us peace.

God Be the Love to Search and Keep Me (we sang three of the five original verses) Richard Bruxvoort Colligan © 2004 worldmaking.net & This Here Music

God be the love to search and keep me God, be the prayer to move my voice God, be the strength to now uphold me O Christ, surround me O Christ, surround me   Walking behind to hem my journey Going ahead to light my way And from beneath, above and always O Christ, surround me O Christ, surround me   Christ in the eyes of all who see me Christ in the ears that hear my voice Christ in the hearts of all who know me O Christ, surround me O Christ, surround me

*The Servant Song Richard Gillard © 1977 Scripture in Song

Will you let me be your servant Let me be as Christ to you Pray that I might have the grace To let you be my servant too   We are pilgrims on a journey We are travelers on the road We are here to help each other Walk the mile and bear the load   I will hold the Christ-light for you In the night time of your fear I will hold my hand out to you Speak the peace you long to hear   I will weep when you are weeping When you laugh I’ll laugh with you I will share your joy and sorrow Till we’ve seen this journey through   Brother sister let me serve you Let me be as Christ to you Pray that I may have the grace To let you be my servant too

*Take, O Take Me as I Am (Iona – John Bell)

Take, o take me as I am Summon out what I shall be Set your seal upon my heart And live in me.

TUESDAY PM – PENTECOST

Kuna Kucheza (Kenya/Swahili) Traditional © Church of All Nations

Kuna kucheza, kucheza … Halleluia (There is dancing, dancing) Kuna kucheza, kwa ajabu … Halleluia Kucheza, Kucheza … Halleluia Kuna Kucheza, kwa ajabu … Halleluia (There is dancing, for it’s amazing)   Kuna kuimba, kuimba … Halleluia… (There is singing, singing)   Kuna kuomba, kuomba … Halleluia… (There is praying, praying)   Kuna kusifu, kusifu … Halleluia…(There is praising, praising)

*Somos El Cuerpo de Cristo words & music by Jaime Cortez & Bob Hurd Somos el cuerpo de Cristo.

We are the body of Christ. Hemos oído el llamado; we’ve answered “yes” to the call of the Lord. Somos el cuerpo de Cristo. We are the body of Christ. Traemos su santo mensaje. We come to bring the good news to the world. (1) Dios viene al mundo a través de nosotros. Somos el cuerpo de Cristo. God is revealed when we love one another. We are the body of Christ. Al mundo a cumplir la misión de la Iglesia, somos el cuerpo de Cristo. Bringing the light of God’s mercy to others, we are the body of Christ. (2) Cada persona es parte del reino; somos el cuerpo de Cristo. Putting a stop to all discrimination, we are the body of Christ. Todas las razas que habitan la tierra, somos el cuerpo de Cristo. All are invited to feast in the banquet. We are the body of Christ. (3) Que nuestras acciones reflejen justicia; somos el cuerpo de Cristo. Stopping abuse and relieving the hungry, we are the body of Christ. Vamos al mundo a cuidar su rebaño. somos el cuerpo de Cristo. Serving each other we build up the kingdom; we are the body of Christ.

*Si Tuvieras Fe (If You Only Had Faith) Spanish Caribbean Pentecostal Chorus/trans. Jorge Lockward

“If you only had faith just like a little grain of mustard,” this is what Jesus declares. (repeat) “You would be able to tell the mountain, ‘Move away. Move away.’”(repeat) And then the mountain would move away, would move away, would move away.  (repeat four times) Spanish Caribbean chorus, public domain.  The arrangement we used was published in For Everyone Born: Global Songs for an Emerging Church © 2008 GBGMusik, The United Methodist Church

Today we all are called to be disciples of the Lord Arr & Harm Ralph Vaughn Williams ©1906 Oxford University Press , textH. Kenn Carmichael©1989; rearr: Troy Bronsink

Chorus Lead us       Onward     Shape Us    Inwardly Help us follow you       Outward lead us on Lead us on

Verse 1 Today we all are called to be disciples of the Lord To help to set the captives free, Make plowshare out of sword, To feed the hungry, quench their thirst, Make love and peace our fast To serve the poor and homeless first, Our ease and comfort last  

Verse 2 God made the world and at its birth ordained our human race To live as stewards of the earth, responding to God’s grace. But we are vain and sadly proud. We sow not peace but strife Our discord spreads a deadly cloud that threatens all of life…chorus

Verse 3 Pray justice may come rolling down as in a mighty stream With righteousness in field and town to cleanse us and redeem For God is longing to restore an earth where conflicts cease A world that was created for a harmony of peace…chorus

Verse 4 May we in service to our God act out the living word And walk the road the saints have trod till all have seen and heard As stewards of the earth may we give thanks in one accord To God who calls us all to be Disciples of the Lord…chorus