Music is one of the chief ways we communicate theology, set the tone for worship, praise God, and connect with one another. While our church has a rich store of familiar hymns and worship songs, maybe it's time to widen the frame, listening to ecumenical neighbors and other voices in our own tradition. These resources should help to get you moving.

Have you written music for worship that you'd like to share? Is there an artist or music resource you think others ought to know about? Has your community created its own collection of hymns and worship songs? Click here to submit.

What's New: Musical Resources

There's more to evening prayer than Evensong and Taize! In Creative Ideas for Evening Prayer, Jan Brind and Tessa Wilkinson offer dozens of simple outlines adaptable for seasons and special occasions, as well as suggestions for visual imagery, music, light, and other symbols to inspire memorable and beautiful worship.

If you are open to borrowing Roman Catholic music in your services, the National Pastoral Musicians have just posted their planning calendar for 2005-06, complete with suggested hymns, psalm settings, and service music.

Another fun bit from the folks at Anglicans Online: What ONE hymn would you take with you to the proverbial desert island? See what got the top 20 votes!

Acclaimed pianist Bradley Sowash has long crafted and performed settings of beloved hymns for solo jazz piano. At his site, he sells CDs and sheet music of his work. They would be suitable for many occasions, especially meditations and retreats. He works in both the club and church worlds equally and brings jazz worship to audiences and congregations alike. Explore his site to learn more about how to use jazz well in liturgy.

If you'd like to try more chant in your services but don't feel confident enough in your music skills, J. Malton of the Senior Choir of the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Kitchener, Ontario, is here to help out with his "Learn the Psalm" Chant Wizard. Using mostly the Anglican and Canadian psalters, he chooses psalms and breaks out the parts for you to hear and teach, week by week. He has completed a set for each lectionary cycle.

Yes, you can "gig for Jesus" by day and still rock by night! For young adult-friendly music to include in a contemporary liturgy or perhaps even a retreat, check out Sound Theology. Singer-songwriter Jonathan Rundman describes his soulful two-disc set as "perspectives on faith and rock & roll from a Finnish-American Midwestern Generation X Lutheran at the turn of the millennium." Listen to sound clips (and buy it, if you wish) at his website.

Fresh Musical Resources

If you have a musicological bent, check out the Cantica Nova is a Catholic site that provides "traditional music for the contemporary Church." They offer planning helps - including music suggestions - by season and by lectionary year.

The Diocese of Massachusetts' Liturgy and Music Committee has compiled this annotated bibliography of liturgy-planning resources, including choral music and resources for use in multiethnic communities and with young people.

Check out these selections from the Renewing Worship Songbook, a resource from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Liturgy ain't just for grownups-or big parishes, for that matter! My Heart Sings Out is a new hymnal designed for all-age worship, aimed at engaging children fully into the worship life of the congregation. This collection includes music written from 1980 onwards and is organized by theme and season. Many of the pieces are simple and repetitive, to suit non-reading children, and to introduce adults to the joys of unaccompanied a capella singing. This is an excellent resource for smaller churches with limited musical resources and for those planning church school, children's chapel, and children's vacation programs.

Get down with G-O-D! If you thought hip-hop and Anglican liturgy mixed like oil and water, think again. "Poppa T," AKA Tim Holder, rector of Trinity Church-Morrisania in the Bronx, has worked with the youth of his parish over the past few years to create the HipHopE Mass. They gather for a special Eucharist once a month, and they have been enthusiastically received on the road at both at neighboring churches and at events as far afield as this summer's EYE (Episcopal Youth Event). From start to finish the liturgy is highly interactive and encourages participation at multiple levels, so youth do invest themselves in the ritual. Sample the sounds, the language, the beats, and the prayers at their website...and stayed tuned for the book and the CD.

The music of Enter the Worship Circle is one of the centerpieces of the alternative Sunday service at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Kokomo, Indiana. The rector, Richard Lightsey, says this contemporary Christian group's simple, evocative music works especially well in the context of sacramental liturgical worship. Their website includes a listening station, chord charts, lyric sheets, and licensing information.

The Pacific Northwest Harp Singers have made several of their arrangements and compositions available for downloading, including a shape-note selection from David Wright (his arrangement of a Thomas Tallis Christmas tune recalling the annunciation), and other Christmas music.

Looking for liturgical resources related to peace?

  • Several denominations have joined forces to create this set of worship resources for peace.
  • The Episcopal Peace Fellowship has created a Peace Packet with suggestions on how your congregation can work for peace in Israel/Palestine. It features these Worship Suggestions for Peace including a song by the Rev. Ernest Cockrell.

Episcopal Hymnals, Songbooks, and More

Perhaps you're familiar with the Hymnal 1982, but what about Wonder, Love and Praise, Voices Found, Lift Every Voice and Sing II, or Enriching Our Music? Browse these Episcopal resources and get ideas for branching out within the church's musical scene.

Online Music Resources is "an exploration of arts, music, and the Christian worldview." There are lots of timely articles primarily on music, but also on film, literature, and architecture. The site also provides links to relevant organizations and resources.

Sermons and Sermon-Lectionary Resources is far more than text. It's an exhaustive collection of liturgical resources of all sorts -- music, images, skits, etc. -- geared to the Revised Common Lectionary.

The Oremus Hymnal is an index to the 52 Anglican hymnals published in the last 140 years. The public domain texts of six of the most popular hymnals - The English Hymnal, 1906 and The New English Hymnal, 1985 (England); Book of Common Praise, 1938 (Canada); The Hymnal, 1940 and 1982 (USA); Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1950 - are completely uploaded. You may also download or listen to music from several more recent hymnals representing churches throughout the Anglican Communion.

Hymns International's Hymn Index features hundreds of hymns, each with sound files and translation into several other languages, including Spanish, Korean, French, Tagalog, Portuguese, Kiswahili, and more.

The Hymn Site is just what it says: a site that offers a hymn index, search functions and even a hymn jukebox, and includes an extensive sound-file library and downloadable sheet music and lyrics for songs that are public domain. Special focus on Methodist resources.

The Cyber Hymnal features nearly 5,000 songs from a variety of traditions. You can search by title, scriptural reference, tune, or composer. You'll find not only lyrics, scores, and sound files, but also pictures, history and more information about church music and composers. Note: To use the site effectively, you'll need speakers, a sound card, and a browser that supports JavaScript and XHTML, and can play MIDI files.

Resetting tunes in Finale or doing the old cut-and-paste can be a time-consuming drag. If you use music published by GIA on a regular basis and need to print music inserts for your bulletins, is a lifesaver. For a modest annual fee, you can download image files (TIFF, JPG, and GIF) and PDFs of the congregational version of any song or mass setting from their hymn collections as well as many octavos. Sound clips are also available.

St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco has made its popular Music for Liturgy book available for listening and downloading. The congregation's music is known for its unique blend of cultural voices - Eastern Orthodox, Taize, African-American, Greek, European folk, Shaker, and more.

The fruits of the St. Gregory's Hymn Writing Symposium are also available for listening and downloading, with commentary from the composers.

Other Hymnals and Songbooks

Oregon Catholic Press has just released One Faith, Una Voz, the first bilingual Catholic hymnal ever. Designed especially for culturally diverse parishes, ONE FAITH, UNA VOZ offers a carefully prepared repertoire of more than 800 English, Spanish and bilingual hymns and songs. Features include: the most-used traditional and contemporary songs for the seasons, solemnities and feasts of the entire liturgical year ; a text-only Order of Mass, with English and Spanish in double columns on the same page ; 14 Mass settings (5 English, 4 Spanish, 4 bilingual, and 1 Latin); newly composed bilingual songs for the Easter Triduum and for morning and evening prayer ; songs with Latin text; and an extensive psalter with English, Spanish and bilingual common and seasonal psalms. The contents fill a 23-CD recording library, and keyboard and guitar accompaniments are now also available.

Want to introduce hymns from around the world? The United Methodist Church offers Global Praise, an excellent series of songbooks. Three volumes have been released so far, and many songs are printed both in the original language and in English translation.

Flor y Canto This popular Spanish-language hymnal offers more than 700 hymns and songs in a variety of styles, representing music from the Americas, the Caribbean, and Spain.

Spirit & Song: A Seeker's Guide for Liturgy and Prayer Designed especially for youth and young adults, with liturgical texts and songs in English and Spanish, this contemporary Catholic songbook is bound to have even broader appeal for worship, retreats, and other gatherings.

This Far by Faith: An African-American Resource for Worship This rich Lutheran resource features liturgies and music in the African-American tradition.

Halle, Halle: We Sing the World 'Round Arranged and edited by Michael Hawn, this multicultural, youth-friendly songbook contains 36 selections from Africa, Latin America, and Asia, over half of which have never been published before in America. It also offers musical performance tips, background on writers and countries, liturgical contexts, and ideas for use in worship.

The Institute of Liturgical Studies, Valparaiso University aims to renew the church's worship by nurturing and forming those who lead liturgy and song. Rooted in the Lutheran tradition but embracing the wider evangelical catholic tradition, the institute gathers pastors, church musicians, liturgical artists, and lay worship leaders, together with scholars of worship and liturgy, for study and reflection on the renewal of the church's worship. Browse their website for general resources.

Renewing Worship is the Lutheran Church's effort to develop new music and liturgies for use throughout the church. They have posted a large number of musical resources online for public use in worship, and welcome use by Episcopalian friends. Below, you'll find links to the Renewing Worship website, where you may listen to and download songs, including music formatted for service bulletins.

The United Methodist Church's Worship website has collected song lists, song files, sheet music, resource lists, and articles about all kinds of worship music, whatever the style, culture, or occasion. In particular, the site features a great resource list for music from various cultures.