Friday, April 3, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

If you're at all involved in church music, you probably know what I'm talking about -- Holy Week is coming!

Nearly every Christian church probably adds at least one service to the upcoming week, and some seem to add as many as possible. Palm Sunday is followed by Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday (or the Great Vigil of Easter) and then Easter Sunday itself. It's a busy time, but it can also be a meaningful and mysterious one. Church musicians (and, ok, the clergy too) spend a lot of time in preparation before they even get to the added time commitment and pressure of the next several days.

In my own church, we will have two Palm Sunday services (up from one), services on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and three on Sunday (including sung compline at 9:00 pm). Could be worse; for a few years we did compline on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday too. The music always encompasses a wide emotional spectrum, and a broad musical range as well.

In preparation for the rigors of Holy Week (which we sometimes complain about but wouldn't miss for anything) here is a little hymn for serenity.

’Mid all the traffic of the ways,
Turmoils without, within,
Make in my heart a quiet place,
And come and dwell therein.

A little shrine of quietness,
All sacred to thyself,
Where thou shalt all my soul possess,
And I may find myself.

A little shelter from life’s stress,
Where I may pray alone,
And bare my soul in peacefulness,
And know as I am known.

A little place of mystic grace,
Of self and sin swept bare,
Where I may look into thy face,
And talk with thee in prayer.

John Oxenham, 1917; alt.
Tune: ST. AGNES (C.M.)
John Bacchus Dykes, 1866

John Oxenham was the pen-name of English writer William Dunkerley. He was a journalist who also published several novels and collections of poetry, and some of his poems have become good hymns.

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