Because International Baptist College and Seminary is part of our local church, our services are impacted by the college calendar. This Sunday the college Chamber Singers and Handbell Ensemble traveled to Berean Baptist Church and ministered there. The absence of those 30 students impacted the service. Numbers-wise, it is not that many actual bodies from the pews. But our students are in Bible college to train for the Christian service, so they tend to be involved heavily in the ministry.
How do we run to Christ?
Before we sang our first hymn, I asked the congregation to reference their bulletins. I had noticed that one of the questions in this week’s Small Group guide was “How do we run to Christ?” So the first hymn we sang was “I Run to Christ.” I debated opening the service with that hymn all week. It is more devotional. And I worried it would not be a good opener because it might be unfamiliar to some. But I did it anyway.
Then we sang all the stanzas of Charles Wesley’s “Rejoice the Lord Is King.” Joe Pluth and Luc Teachout played a trumpet descant on the last stanza. I’m not sure how many in the congregation were aware of that, but I enjoyed it!
After Pastor’s prayer, the choir sang an unusual anthem. Well, unusual for us. It is a modern choir setting by the living composer Craig Courtney. But it is written to sound like a Baroque anthem. So it had a long introduction and a long “outroduction” at the end. We sang it with organ and trumpet duet, giving it a Handelian feel. The choir has sung it before, so they sang confidently. The piece followed typical ABA structure and incorporated the hymn “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart.” The softer, smoother middle section of the song quoted Philippians 4. We even got an “Amen” from Pastor.
Rejoice in the Lord Always
I debated with myself all week about our next song, too. I wanted to sing something more straightforward for the folks who would be put off by the choir song. So we sang the chorus “Rejoice in the Lord Always.” We sang it once together, once as a two-part round, and once as a four-part round. The congregation seemed to enjoy the different style of singing. I couldn’t resist telling the congregation that American churches fought over the use of polyphony in worship—different parts singing different melodies at the same time. And then I assured them that the next hymn was homophonic—hymn style, that is, everyone singing the same rhythms.
Our final hymn was “Rejoice in the Lord.” Pastor Mike came to the pulpit before the final stanza and told a bit of the story of that hymn. He told the congregation that Dr. Hamilton is currently struggling with dementia. And Pastor didn’t know that next week the choir is singing a hymn about our struggles with aging and specifically dementia and Alzheimer’s. The text for the next week’s choir song is below.
Tricia Brown’s lovely piano offertory was a perfect cap to the service. It was an unusual setting of “Are You Washed in the Blood?”.
When memory fades and recognition falters,
When eyes we love grow dim, and minds confused,
Speak to our souls of love that never alters;
Speak to our hearts by pain and fear abused.
O God of life and healing peace, empower us
With patient courage, by your grace infused.
As frailness grows, and youthful strengths diminish,
In weary arms, which worked their earnest fill.
Your aging servants labor now to finish
Their earthly tasks as fits Your mystery’s will.
We grieve their waning, yet rejoice, believing,
Your arms, unwearied, shall uphold us still.
Within your Spirit, goodness lives unfading.
The past and future mingle into one.
All joys remain, unshadowed light pervading.
No valued deed will ever be undone.
Your mind enfolds all finite acts and offerings.
Held in your heart, our deathless life is won.
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