About This Issue

I will start this note by stating the obvious: music, and singing in particular, draws people into churches like little else can. Most of us probably know several people who go to church primarily to sing or to listen to singers. Church singing can also evoke unpleasant feelings—anxiety, embarrassment, confusion, inadequacy. At one time or another, we’ve all been part of a mumbling, sheepish crowd dragging out the meter of hymns whose melodies dampen our spirits and whose words bore or vex us.

There are so many ways to think about and talk about and critique and just plain do church singing. And at St. Gregory’s, the birthplace of this journal, congregational singing is central to our worship: most of our liturgy is sung without accompaniment. Thus, after a decent interval, we decided to dedicate another issue of God’s Friends to singing—there’s just so much more to say. (To read articles from our November 1997 music issue, go to our website, www.godsfriends.org.)

We are delighted to welcome two new voices to these pages. Singing with her fellow congregants anchors Joan Kenerson King in her centuries-old Mennonite community in ways she limns beautifully here. Marilyn Haskel uses her experience as an editor of the hymn book Wonder, Love, and Praise to illuminate her sense of what works for congregational singing, and why. Two of the voices that anchor St. Gregory’s sung liturgy are here, too. Anyone who’s ever seen music director Sanford Dole in liturgical action knows how good he is at getting a whole congregation to sing with gusto; here he tells how he does it. And Scott King, composer, cantor, and baritone, shares his process of writing a hymn people will (and do) actually sing.

Finally, the art in this issue, by Gary Blum and Chris Graefensteiner, evokes the best of our experiences of singing together. These pieces are lyrical and exquisitely layered, both ethereal and deeply grounded. The duotones reproduced in the printed edition of this journal give a hint of their loveliness, but if you can, check them out in color online at www.godsfriends.org.

—Clancy Drake, Editor

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