You can do this!

Congregations conduct surveys in preparation for Schools of Worship Enrichment (SoWE). Three items from these surveys regularly receive the lowest scores - no matter the type of congregation, no matter how rich their musical resources.

  • My congregation’s singing is strong and enthusiastic.
  • We use enough musical variety for the psalms, hymns, and liturgical songs.
  • Our congregation seems to carry out its part of the liturgy (order of service) with enthusiasm.

With firm conviction that progress on the second point can help the first and third, we model good variety in SoWE worship and encourage greater variety when musicians and pastors plan worship. SoWE presentations include audio and print samples of music that can bring meaningful and creative variety to Lutheran worship. One example I’ve used over the years is:

Psalm and Gospel Acclamation for Advent (Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel). Click here for the audio sample. Can you name the various instruments? Piano, guitar, bass, flute. At 1:12 in the track you hear a windchime; a bit later a suspended cymbal.

How difficult is the music? Excellence doesn’t have to be difficult! At SoWEs we make the point that average high school instrumentalists can play this music without much rehearsal. This has the side advantage of involving teens in a way that both they and others will appreciate.

You don’t have anyone who plays bass or a wind instrument? Okay, use any pleasant sound from an electronic keyboard (or even organ) along with acoustic piano. With a “split keyboard” option, one person can play both bass and flute.

MIDI folks, you have it even easier. Order the music here: GIA G-5259- or via NPH.

But Lent is coming up, not Advent. Here’s another example. Psalm and Gospel Acclamation for Lent (Psalm 51, with refrain tune for What Wondrous Love): GIA G-4707 Order here. This one is even easier, with piano, flute, bass - and an instantly singable refrain for the congregation.

It may take a bit more advance planning and recruiting to use such music. But it’s worth the effort - for our Lord, for his people; for worship and outreach!

BTW: these samples work with just a soloist/cantor; you don’t need a full choir.

Further reading:

Audio samples are shared with permission of the publisher.

Rev. Bryan Gerlach

Bryan Gerlach serves as the Director of the WELS Commission on Worship. His parish ministry experience includes congregations in Texas and California. Gerlach has a Master of Church Music degree and continues to serve as a regular pianist and organist at two WELS churches in the Milwaukee area.

Full biography »