Singing Our Prayer

        Rick Fabian's 1977 Plan for the Mission of St. Gregory of Nyssa Church explicitly states musical goals: "We will develop the maximum potential of music for common prayer, using music of high quality drawn from various new and traditional sources, exploring new functions of music in congregational worship. Unaccompanied chants and hymns will be our daily norm, and we will commission new compositions in congregational style."

        The mission statement which the congregation created for the church also expresses the fundamental place of music, particularly singing, in our worship practice: "[W]e sing and dance to Jesus' lead." We do this every Sunday as we sing the Eucharist and dance the final carol. We do this when we clean up the dishes after a potluck supper as we sing Alleluia's in response to the cantor's sung Psalms.

        In our liturgy book, which guides the congregation through the service, music and text composed and written by St. Gregory's composers sits side by side with that of early worshipers and theologians, the words of St. Clement of Alexandria, spirituals, plainchant and Brahms. We welcome new members with a hymn composed for the occasion, celebrate marriages with joyful music, and bury our dead with Troparia. And as we do this, worship and music meld.

        The morning after my husband's funeral service I awoke at four a.m. We had been living in Florida when he died and I had returned to San Francisco to bury him at St. Gregory's. I lay in my bed in a prettily appointed guest room, listening. I had been awakened by sound, a noise. I don't know what. But in the quiet, listening, I could hear so many songs from our life together at St. Gregory's: the minor strains of a Byzantine Good Friday chant sung in Greek, Arabic and English; the repetitions of Easter Troparia; Michael Barger's "I Am Risen" (Michael had made a tape of it for us, to which I had listened unceasingly during the last three days of Art's life); the rollicking noise of "Oh Mary, Don't You Weep;" and the carol calling the faithful to dance. As my entire being filled with song it filled also with joy, and I lay there . . . listening . . . hearing.


Norma Harrington
Editorial Board



"AT CERTAIN TIMES IN HISTORY MUSIC HAS FLOODED THE CHURCH THROUGH GREAT COMPOSERS, POETS AND MELODISTS. SUCH INFUSIONS INSPIRE NEW GROWTH. "

"I'M CERTAIN THAT A NEW GENERATION OF GREAT COMPOSERS WILL ARISE NOT SO MUCH AS A RESULT OF OUR TECHNICAL TEACHING BUT FROM THE NOURISHING OF CHURCHES THAT SING WELL, THAT UNDERSTAND THAT MUSIC MUST FEED OUR HEARTS AND OUR SOULS AS WELL AS OUR MINDS."


--Alice Parker



       

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