Episco-Fact #37
March 12, 2017

How is music chosen for each Sunday's services, including the "S" music for the Gloria, the "Lord have mercy," the "Holy, holy, holy," and the music after the "breaking of the bread?"

If the Canons (church laws) are to be taken seriously, and I certainly take them seriously, the music is governed by the following statement in The Book of Common Prayer and the Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and the Ceremonies of the Church According to the use of the Episcopal Church (BCP):

Hymns referred to in the rubrics of this Book are to be understood as those authorized by this Church. The words of anthems are to be from Holy Scripture, or from this Book, or from texts congruent with them. BCP Page 13

The Hymns authorized for this Church are included in The Hymnal 1982; Wonder, Love, and Praise: A Supplement to the Hymnal 1982 (Its status as a supplement is seen in the hymn numbering which begins where the Hymnal 1982 left off); Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African American Hymnal; and Voices Found. These hymnals also include service music, the music and vocal settings for "service" music, or music like the Glory to God, the Lord Have Mercy, and other music found in our services.

Our Choir, when convened to lead the congregation in music, often sings at least one anthem at some point in the worship service. Larry and Jeanne Vote work hard to sift through a lot of sacred music to finds works that are theologically sound and musically profound. One such example of all of this is this week's anthem. Though not from one of our hymnals, it is a metrical setting of a reflection on Jesus' calling of the fishermen disciples like Andrew, Peter, James, and John at the Lake of Galilee. It qualifies as acceptable under the third rubric as being from a text congruent with Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; and John 1:35-51.

Why is the Episcopal Church more rigorous about musical selection than other traditions, where of the pastor's or music director's own accord, music is chosen and sung within the service? Just to be honest about this Episco-fact, there are churches, some under the supervision of the Bishop and some not, who use music from outside our approved Hymnals and not from approved or congruent texts. But, my exposure to some wonderfully fun, vital, and enthusiastic music is that it is sometimes theologically unsound or superficial, and it does not wear well over time. Most of the hymns in our hymnals have withstood some test of time. Some Christian music though fine for singers, may not be fine for choirs, and some music has the shelf life of the American Bandstand hits of the week: "it has a good beat and the congregation can sway to it," but it is ephemeral and disappears soon after it becomes popular.

Listen carefully week to week. The music supports both the liturgical prayers and Biblical texts, and this parish works under the church disciplines with energy and care.


The Rev. David Lucey