STLT#33, Sovereign and Transforming Grace

A post that is hardly about this hymn at all, but it’s fine.

Sovereign and transforming Grace,
we invoke your quickening power;
reign the spirit of this place,
bless the purpose of this hour.

Holy and creative Light,
we invoke your kindling ray;
draw upon our spirit’s night,
as the darkness turns to day.

To the anxious soul impart hope,
all other hopes above;
stir the dull and hardened heart
with a longing and a love.

I feel like I’ve been on a tune rant – one of the consequences of singing while clergy, I suppose, is that part of my mind is always thinking about how a congregation receives and participates in the music. And I wonder, more so lately, if we should be thinking about our collections of music differently.

My hunch is that there are hymns in STLT, and maybe even in STJ, that we want to keep, want to remember, believe are a crucial part of our theology, our tradition, our body of work. And yet, they aren’t necessarily songs a congregation would sing on even a remotely regular basis. What happens if we create a worship professionals’ guide to the hymnals, a commentary of sorts, that not only talks about the origins of the hymns (like we have in Between the Lines), but also comments about tempo, style, choral v. solo v. congregational choices, tips for teaching, etc.? Surely we have enough musicians in the UUMN, along with musical clergy, who could shed some light onto these hymns. Surely we could help those in small congregations without music professionals, or without musical clergy, so that good choices could be made AND hymns that get flipped past regularly find new life through different means of presentation in worship.

Am I asking too much? I mean, I look at a hymn like this – the lyrics are really good. It’s got a fairly square meter (7.7.7.7.). But the tune requires some teaching so that the lyrics shine and not get lost – as they did originally for me – in favor of figuring out how to sing it.

And yes, the musical among us will say “we already do that – we know what should be sung by a soloist or choir and what will work for group singing.” But I am realizing many don’t – or wish they had a clue.

Is this a crazy idea? Or one that just might work?

3 Comments

      • Great idea! (Spoken by a non-musical occasional lay preacher former board chair tiny congregation 🙂 ) Would it be too kooky to have an electronic hymnal program that would make it easy to print or project any hymn with any matching tune? 200 years ago some of the books just gave the meter and let the minister or organist or whoever pick a tune they knew, or they congregation knew. I do it myself when i want to sing a hymn but don{t know the tune (no piano or sight reading ability here), but it’s kind of hard to say We’ll now sing #54 to the tune of #145, or whatever. Some of the hymns were written for their tunes or vice versa, but some have been swapped around with each new hymnal (including this one, I think).

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