We are doing new things these days. If you need a little evidence, take a peek out of one of the windows in Rooms 307, 309 or 311 to see that big hole in the dirt where the gym used to be.
I have been an Episcopalian long enough now (a former Methodist with a little moderate/liberal Baptist on the side) to know that we do not often like change.
You know the old Episcopal joke:
“Change that lightbulb?! My grandfather served on the Vestry, and my grandmother donated that lightbulb.”
This summer, per our usual, the congregational hymns did not change. We sang many of the oldie-goldies favorites such as The Church’s one foundation, O for a thousand tongues, God of our Fathers, Take my life and let it be, How firm a foundation, Amazing grace, Love divine all loves excelling, Come thou fount, Savior like a shepherd lead us, I come with joy to meet my Lord, I am the Bread of Life, God of grace and God of glory, just to name a dozen or so.
This fall in the 10:30 service, in place of the Gloria in excelsis, we are singing what has become an oldie-goldie favorite, indeed, a local parish favorite. In the Book of Common Prayer, the Benedictus es Domine (Glory to you) is an approved option for the Song of Praise at the Gloria spot. This John Rutter setting (Hymn S-236) that we sing from The Hymnal 1982 really has teeth, so dig in and sing with vigor. Listen for the dueling choir sopranos and organ Trompette Harmonique in the closing section. (I am not certain who actually wins.)
Another new thing, which we actually began last choir season, is the choir’s Choral Introits, which are being sung to begin the 10:30 liturgy each Sunday. We are using this moment in the liturgy to try a number of new things.
From the Latin introitus ("entrance"), the Introit is the opening part of a Eucharistic celebration. Its most complete form would consist of an antiphon (refrain or response), a Psalm verse, and the Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father).
The Introit of the Mass is one of those liturgical, musical elements that changes week to week, as do the lectionary readings. These changeable elements are called the Propers because they are "proper to the specific day." Introit, Gradual, Sequence or Tract, Offertory and Communion are proper to the day. Some Anglo-Catholic ("high church") Episcopal parishes sing these various parts each Sunday.
The Ordinary of the Mass are those parts of the liturgy for which the texts do not change weekly: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Most Episcopal churches sing these parts each Sunday. In our parish, we do not normally sing the Creed, and the Book of Common Prayer gives the choice of using either the Kyrie or Gloria. Indeed, we regularly sing these three: Kyrie or Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.
In many places, the Choral Introit has morphed into either a short sung sentence or verse sung by the choir. Some parish choirs will sing a short anthem or responsorial Psalm.
This choir season, you will hear just about everything represented in Choral Introits sung by our choirs: canticles, spirituals, brief hymns and anthems, specifically composed Introits, Latin plainsong chants and even a verse or two written by yours truly. Some of these Choral Introits are designed to grab God's attention immediately, while others will hopefully set a quiet, thoughtful tone for the beginning of worship.
Featuring the choirs in this way by no means takes away from the responsibility and privilege of congregational singing, which is the truest form of liturgical music. The worshipers still lift their voices in song in the processional hymn, Sequence hymn, two Communion hymns and departing procession hymn, along with the responsorial Psalm, presentation hymn and Kyrie or Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei as mentioned above.
We sing quite a lot of music on a weekly basis. We love doing it, and I believe God loves hearing it.
The choirs will back you up with all of these parts, along with the Choral Introit, Offertory and Communion anthems, and an occasional handbell piece.
And God will be mightily praised. See you in church.