This project is a collection of short liturgical refrains for Christian worship. The words of these songs have been sung by countless Christians in every century and on every continent. They have etched themselves into the deepest contours of Christian worship. The hills and valleys of our lives, the sorrow of our death with Christ and the joy of our rising with him are captured in the simple refrains that Christians have been singing for millennia.
As these songs have taken root in different times and places, they have evolved to fit the musical cultures of each local church. Joining in the Holy Spirit’s global and local work, we have composed new settings of these ancient refrains in new musical languages, stretching the musical boundaries of what counts as a Sanctus, an Agnus Dei, or a Nunc Dimittis.
It’s been a blast writing, arranging, and recording these songs, but our deepest joy has been singing them in worship with the people of God. Some of these songs are songs we sing at Pillar Church, others are new settings we hope to introduce into our worship life. We hope you enjoy them all!
Music sustains our memory in powerful ways. Over time, short liturgical refrains like these become signposts along the road of life, documentary evidence of where we were when God spoke. We say to ourselves, This is the Alleluia we sang when my family went through that dark time; That’s the Lord, have mercy we sang when I decided to find someone to whom I could confess my addiction. What started as a simple refrain blossoms into a musical journal entry, a remembrance of where we’ve been with God.
The stark simplicity of the short refrains of Christian worship can be frustratingly repetitive. Compared to the dense, wordy theologizing of many classic hymns, an Alleluia or a Kyrie can seem vacuous, exhausted of meaning after singing it once. But consider that the words of these refrains are really old, older than any hymn. They find their roots in places like Psalm 106 (“Alleluia! O give thanks to the Lord”) or Luke 18 (“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”) Over time, these central actions of Christian faith — praise, confession, receiving forgiveness, praying petitions, being sent in mission — were distilled into short refrains that preserved their essence in concentrated form. When we sing "Alleluia!", when we cry "Lord, have mercy", when we ask "Lord, hear our prayer", we are tapping into our deepest identity, we are following the deepest rhythms of the Christian life. We are experiencing what it is to be human beings created, reconciled and brought to completion by God. These are powerful words to sing, if we have the patience to meditate on their infinitely deep meanings.
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This project is the first of what we hope will be many recorded expressions of worship from among the Pillar Church community. It is both a musical record of a part of our story, and a vision of where we are headed in our worship life together. We offer it to the church, as a gift, with the hope that it will enrich your life with God, and perhaps inspire other churches to explore what locally indigenous worship art can look like.
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We hope that this project can contribute in a small way to fulfilling our shared vision statement. By reaching deep into the Christian tradition, we hope to push past tired old dichotomies between “traditional” and “contemporary”, instead pursuing musical reconciliation across our genre preferences. By writing new music from among our own congregation, we hope to enliven and renew our church’s worship life together. By inviting young and emerging musicians from Hope College and Western Theological Seminary to play in our worship, we hope to raise up leaders who will lead the church in worshipping God faithfully. And by creating art in the middle of the city of Holland, we hope to play a small part in helping Holland be a place of beauty that gives glory to God, witnessing to the redeeming work of Christ over all creation.
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A Short Glossary of Liturgical Refrains
Agnus Dei - Agnus Dei is Latin for “Lamb of God.” The words of this song are both proclamation and prayer. We echo John the Baptist in our proclamation that Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and we pray for God to be merciful to us.
Alleluia - Alleluia is one of the most fundamental words of praise in the Christian liturgy. This word is borrowed straight from Hebrew and simply means “Praise the Lord!"
Kyrie Eleison - This is an ancient prayer that has been on the lips of Christians for ages. It is used in the part of the liturgy where we confess our sins to God. We pray “Lord, Have Mercy, Christ have mercy."
Nunc Dimittis - The Nunc Dimittis is a canticle (scripture song) that comes from Luke 2:29-32. It is typically sung at the very end of a worship service as a way of sending worshipers out with the peace and light of Jesus Christ.
Sanctus - This Latin hymn is drawn from the words of Isaiah 6:3 and Matthew 21:9. It is sung during the Communion prayer in praise for what God in Christ has done in the world.
released 27 August 2015
A big thank you to everyone who contributed to this album! We are so grateful for your offerings.
Recording and mixing by Ben Oegema
Mastering by Levi Seitz (BlackBelt Mastering)
Album artwork by Sam Kadzban
You may download these for free at http://pillarchurch1847.bandcamp.com/album/songs-of-liturgy
The good R. Garret of Lynnwood Reformed in New York and his director of education and sometime worship leader, Jason White have taken to Andy Bast's Nunc Dimittis. Apparently it was a howling success during Advent this year.