The choir recently gathered in Concan at the Capt’s beautiful river home for a retreat. Our leader for the next two days was Matt Wise, Associate Rector for Liturgy, Adult Formation, and Family Ministry at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio. At Matt’s direction and teaching, we embarked on a musical journey which focused on learning a new form of sacred music. After a period of reflection on our personal experiences with music and the church, Matt taught us the importance of how the musical setting, context, and liturgical meaning was to worship.
For example, at St. Mark’s, the music is almost exclusively hymns and large choir chorale productions with their beautiful pipe organ providing accompaniment – high church, big choir, with accomplished musicianship. While that works fine for an urban, cathedral setting, it is much more difficult to achieve in smaller churches where the access to musicianship and talent is much more limited.
What Matt proposed to us was to experience another form of music that he framed as being somewhere in between “camp music” and “Taize.” Much of this rather new style of worship music is sung either acapella or with minimal accompaniment (often guitar) and it does not require a person to have to read music to learn it. Some of the music is based on familiar tunes/hymns but has been repurposed using new lyrics. The music also includes service music, prayer and responses. It is designed in a way that makes it easier for folks sitting in the pews to participate in singing and worship.
Upon learning about the style and purpose of the music, with Matt’s direction, the choir then began learning and singing new songs and service music. Instantly, we fell in love with the simplicity and sacredness of the music and we all felt like it had the potential to invigorate and engage St. Philip’s in a new and exciting way – allowing more folks to participate in the joy of singing!
As St. Philip’s does so well, we also engaged in rich fellowship, food and drink. During the course of the retreat, we told our stories, laughed a lot, ate amazing food, and simply enjoyed being together. Our hope is to begin slowly infusing our services and events with these new songs. If you were at the 10:30 service on Sunday, you got to experience how this will work. It’s easy and more importantly, it is richly rewarding.
Thanks to Matt Wise for opening our eyes, ears, voices, and hearts to an exciting and joyful noise! We feel that it will be an important element in the growth and spiritual life of St. Philip’s. — Blaine Bennett
Photo: Two photos attached. Collage and 1 individual Photo – use what you feel works best.