On Tuesday evening, I played for a charismatic "Healing and Hope" mass for the Archdiocese of Hartford. For those unfamiliar with such liturgies, it is an opportunity to incorporate the dynamic elements in an informal prayer gathering with a formal Catholic liturgy, oftentimes with tremendous results. It's always thrilling for me to play these masses, because it gives me the freedom to do what I love to do best--lead congregations with a mixture of contemporary and traditional worship songs.
I believe wholeheartedly that the elements from these types of songs complement each other--a traditional liturgy has solemnity and reverence, whereas the music from contemporary praise choruses have a personal, vibrant quality. The former emphasizes God is Holy, and the latter emphasizes God is closer than your best friend. Both are needed.
Being the season of Advent, I focussed my song selection with laser-like precision to focus on Advent themes: particularly the expectancy of Jesus' imminent return. Choosing songs that stayed true to the Advent season, while being appropriate for a healing liturgy (singable, congregation-friendly, God-centered, and beautiful). Having the original "Holy Is the Lord" (Steubenville Press) and a CCLI license at my disposal, I worked hard to get a plan in order.
First off, was the prelude before the liturgy. Charismatic healing liturgies sometimes allow for a few up-tempo songs to be played before the actual formal liturgy begins. My job was to find those songs that people knew, or people could easily pick up, so that they could join in singing. The songs I chose were:
- Soon And Very Soon / Come And Go With Me to that Land medley
- Jesus is Coming Again (Vineyard, from Winds of Worship 11-Australia)
- Prepare the Way (Passion, from Charlie Hall and Louie Giglio)
Only "Jesus is Coming Again" did I print out on the page, the rest were simple enough that people could pick them up without using a songsheet.
Then came the songs for the liturgy. The entrance hymn was:O Come O Come Emmanuel (verses 1, 5 and 6).I knew that the verses correllated with specific weeks in the Advent calendar, but for here I guessed that verses 5 and 6 were meant for week 3 of Advent.
The responsorial psalm was sung, by an original melody that I tried to keep as simple as possible.
Homily: Obviously, I don't play any songs during the homily--but the priest was a singing priest, and he insisted in getting the congregation to sing at certain points, particularly an original, lovely "Alleluia" setting, as well as the classic songs "Spirit of the Living God" and "There's Just Something About that Name." I wish more priests did this.
Offeratory: At the Name of Jesus (Jim Cowan's rendering). Personally, I could have gone after any number of melodies for this hymn, but Jim Cowan's rendering is the most familiar for this crowd, and is the simplest to pick up for neophytes. It also sounds pretty good. Very strong Advent themes, particularly with the last verse.
Communion. The antiphon text was Matthew 1:23 (His name will be called Emmanuel, which means God is with us). This was great, because there were a number of songs that used this very text, including the very popularly used Emmanuel by Bob McKee. But McKee's rendering wasn't long enough, so I searched for a complementary song that can flow together. To my surprise, the solution was already in the "Holy is the Lord" resource at my disposal, a simple song His Name Shall Be Called, which borrows a melody from classical music. The songs can be forced in the same key, and they play right off of each other. Of all the musical achievements last night, this I was most proud of.
Recessional: Come Holy Ghost. At a healing mass, as the prayer teams are lined up, this sort of song is mandatory. This, to me, was the only derivation from the Advent season.
After this, I was free to sing whatever song I wanted, in a muted tone, keeping a worshipful flow. I created special resources that allowed me to keep the focus specifically tailored to both Advent and the ministry of healing. The songs I chose (to the best of my memory) were the following (and not in this order):
- Lord of All (Jim Cowan)
- Jesus, Come to Us (David Haas)
- Even So Come (Kevin Prosch)
- Even So (Terry MacAlmon)
- Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending (chanted a cappella with Tantum Ergo melody)
- To You O Lord (Graham Kendrick)
- Let Us Adore (Hillsong)
- Emmanuel (Hillsong)
- Christ Circle Round Us (chanted a cappella)
- Wonderful Maker (Chris Tomlin/Matt Redman)
- Help Us Our God (underused classic Vineyard)
The evening was real incredible, and I am just blessed to have been a part of it.