The choir anthem will be Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, by Sam Pottle (1934-1978). The lyrics and music of this piece complement each other very well, and they ask God to "breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm." This expresses the idea that when we are totally absorbed by our own ambition, there is no room for peace, faith, or healing. The verse continues, "let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire." The Quaker theology of the author, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), is on full display. The idea of emptying one's self and enjoying the beauty of a simple life is expressed in the final words of the verse, "O still, small voice of calm." In these trying times in our world, what could be a more appropriate prayer or meditation than those words and the text of a different verse, "Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease." The ideas of openness, quietness, order, peace, and stillness are all great meditations on the readings for this week.
During communion, you will hear a new version of the familiar hymn, O Master, let me walk with thee. The familiar tune is replaced this week with a newer one, by Calvin Hampton (1938-1984), who paid homage to his teacher by writing it. This newer tune, de Tar, is named after Vernon de Tar (1905-1999) who was one of the foremost figures in American organ and church music of the 20th century. Vernon de Tar was not only the professor of organ and church music at The Juilliard School from 1947 until 1982, but he also taught at Union Theological Seminary and Yale University. Throughout all this, Vernon de Tar was also Organist/Choirmaster at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Greenwich Village for nearly half a century. Sometimes it is off putting to sing a new tune to familiar words, but listen to how it changes the way we hear this familiar text. Given some time, I believe you will come to enjoy this new tune as much as I do.
This week we are fortunate to have our staff violinist, Gosia Leska with us. She will play Bach's famous Air on the G string as our prelude as well as a piece by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) during Communion. The intention behind these occasional instrumental pieces during Communion is to allow time for deeper meditation, prayer, or reflection during this holy time. Also, it is important to have variety in the types of experiences we have in our liturgy. I hope Gounod's Méditation for violin and piano/organ will be an enhancement to your worship experience this week. Come to Christ Church this Sunday, and perhaps hear a "still, small voice of calm" amid the chaos that is 21st century life!