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Telling the Story with Music

The image features a clergy member in a church setting, selecting hymns from an open hymnal on an ornate stand. Musical notes float upwards around him, suggesting a divine connection in the music selection process. A purple cloth, indicative of Lent, and a simple wooden cross are subtly included. The interior of the church is dimly lit by candles, with stained glass windows in the background, adding to the serene and reflective mood. The atmosphere is one of sacredness and the merging of music with spirituality during the Lent season.

The choice of music for worship can be a challenge. Since St John’s is currently operating without a Director of Music, it falls to your friendly neighborhood priest to make music choices. So if you hate what we are doing musically, it is my fault; if you love it, well, God is good! 

However, even when we get a new director (how long, O Lord?!), the final responsibility for music choices resides with the clergy: 

It shall be the duty of every Member of the Clergy to see that music is used as an offering for the glory of God and as a help to the people in their worship in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer and as authorized by the rubrics or by the General Convention of this Church. To this end the Member of the Clergy shall have final authority in the administration of matters pertaining to music (Canon II.5).

So how does one go about choosing music?

Let us take this week’s service, the 4th Sunday of Lent as an example.

When considering music, I start with the Collect and texts for the day and search out key words, themes, and concepts. For example, this Sunday relates the story of the “Serpent on the Pole” in both Numbers and John Chapter 3. Paul talks about grace in Ephesians.

With these in mind, here are my picks for Sunday:

Opening Hymn – Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.

This standard picks up the theme of the Israelites in the wilderness as “pilgrims through this barren land.” It also includes a reference to the “bread of heaven” that is mentioned in the Collect for the day:

“Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him.”

The Trisagion takes the place of the Gloria in Excelsis in Lent. This ancient hymn pays tribute to the Holy Trinity as the “thrice holy.”

The Gospel Procession is As Moses Raised the Serpent Up,

a wonderful contemporary hymn based on the traditional melody O Waly Waly. The text connects the story in Numbers with the Gospel of John:

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14).

The Offertory Hymn, Come, Thou Fount,

relates to Paul’s theme of grace from Ephesians:

“Oh, to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.” 

Our closing hymn, Lift High the Cross,

was selected to connect with the theme of the cross found throughout our worship. This week it includes a modified verse not found in our hymnal:

“O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, your death has brought us life eternally.” This hymn will have a reprise a week when we hear Jesus say, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). 

These are just some of the connections between our scriptures, prayer book, and music. How many can you find?

Grace and peace,


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Paul Hinson
Paul Hinson

Appreciate the explanation, and even more the prayerful and thoughtful deliberation that goes into the choosing. Thank you.


Scotty King
Scotty King

I love this glimpse behind the curtain. More please! Descriptions like this help us understand that our worship services both follow the Book of Common Prayer, but also are tailored to the message of the week and the spirit of our community. Thank you Fr Jerry for your consistently excellent work


Thought-provoking and insightful commentary on how music is intended to support and enhance the service. Most appreciated Father Jerry!