I usually try not to think of hymnody that way; I'm responsible for worship planning for a congregation, and try hard to be faithful to my mandate...that hymns should be:
- theologically Lutheran
- well-constructed and singable by a congregation
- illuminative of the day's texts
and, to a lesser degree:
- beloved by some in the congregation (and which "some" must vary); "heart hymns" for elderly worshipers, child-friendly, ethnically diverse, etc.
- representative of a variety of musical styles/traditions within a worship service (but still theologically Lutheran)
- representative of a variety of angles of approach from a theological or textual perspective
- danceable (Yes, Kat, sometimes!)
What I like shouldn't really enter into it. I know I have biases, but I try hard to be aware of them.
I hold sacred the idea that corporate worship isn't a place where we order from a menu of what we like, but is instead an experience pointed at God and made of experiences that reflect and speak to the whole body of the assembly. A counter-cultural opportunity to sometimes say, "Well, that's not really my thing, but this isn't just about me..."
So, given that massive caveat, today I'm thinking of the music that has shaped me, that touches me, that makes me cry or makes me want to sing it. I've tried to keep mostly to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (my denomination's current "cranberry" hymnal)...and failed just spectacularly. Because my experience as a person of faith is not solely Lutheran, and because I just love too many hymns.
All my cards are on the table now, so here we go, mostly in the order I thought of them:
- Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service--my all-time number one: I like the tune BEACH SPRING and I love the vision of Christian mission
- O Day Full of Grace--just covers the freakin' Lutheran waterfront
- Children of the Heavenly Father--it always puts me in my Grandma Vale's lap, ear pressed against her sternum, listening to her sing
- Silent Night--the only Christmas carol I never tire of hearing or singing
- The Summons--changed my life; opened my heart in a very difficult time
- Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery--love the tonality and the imagery
- By Your Hand You Feed Your People--brilliant text (big fan of Susan Briehl), perfectly married to its tune and well-harmonized; particularly love the part that goes "we become what we receive: Christ's own body, blest and broken..."
- Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds--ascending, ascending, ascending...BOOM!
- I Want Jesus To Walk with Me--perfect "walking around" hymn, in terms of tempo and simple text; it becomes what it aspires to
- Of the Father's Love Begotten--we come from love...a really vast, deep, timeless love
- O Sacred Head, Now Wounded--mournful, penitent, beautifully crafted text/tune/harmony
- Hallelujah! We Sing Your Praises!--FUN, and has several off-book versions that were written for me/Ro and for some other members of our congregation on particular celebratory occasions
- Draw Us In the Spirit's Tether--wonderful text, and "touch we now your garment's hem" is an allusion to my personally most vibrant gospel story
- Veni Sancte Spiritus (Taizé, with the descant)--easy to slip into, invocative, soaring descant
- Praise to the Lord, the Almighty--great, crashing gloriousness
- Go, My Children, with My Blessing--such sweetness, AR HYD Y NOS in four-part a cappella by my congregation; it's truly a benediction
- Now Thank We All Our God--because sometimes you need to holler your thanks
- Away in a Manger--childhood sweetness and trust
- This Little Light of Mine--childhood faith and commitment
- What Wondrous Love Is This--simple and mysterious; just lovely
- We Know that Christ Is Raised--that last "alleluia!"
- God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens--HOLY MANNA is a cheerful perpetual-motion machine; text--well, "spangled heavens?" Come on, how great is that?
- Thy Holy Wings--female imagery for God (which, let's face it, is kinda rare in hymnody) and a reminder of a dear friend and mentor
- It Came upon a Midnight Clear--absolute stunner of a text, especially the later stanzas--but not the tune that everyone knows; instead, the one that Russell Schulz Widmar wrote. I really dislike the ELW tune, and since this is my party...
Other Sources (source or hymnal cited, if known)
- Simple Gifts (Shaker tradition)--sunny serenity
- Come to the Table (by my friend Daniel Pederson)--another friend describes it as "musical candy"--it's gorgeously singable and I really love watching the people of all ages in my congregation sing this in four parts on their way to Communion each Sunday. We commissioned a liturgy around it.
- Before the Marvel of This Night (With One Voice)--stunner of a text, beautifully set
- I Wonder As I Wander (With One Voice)--see "What Wondrous Love Is This"
- Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (trad. Spiritual)--as laments go, this is a hard one to top
- Magnificat from Holden Evening Prayer--I love Mary's courage and faithfulness. This seems like the sort of tune she might have sung if this were all unfolding today.
- "Watch, O Lord..." from That You May Have Life--beautiful tune, sensitive to the text, and love the call-and-response nature of the verses
- I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy (trad. Spiritual)--my favorite tune from my own VBS experience (where? down in my heart! where?)
- Digo Sí, Señor (Gather)--also a call-and-response one, with a beautiful melody, affirming of faith and mission
- Send Us Your Spirit (Gather)--just love the tune, esp. the canonical chorus and the leap into the verses
- We Have Been Told (Gather)--lovely tune, lovely harmony
- Behold the Wood (Gather)--solemn, reflective Good Friday piece
Needless to say, I could go on nearly forever. Stopping because I'm curious. What are YOUR favorites, and why?