Why don't we have more familiar music for all to sing?

That’s an interesting question but equally a hard one to address without more information such as which specific hymns are being referenced. What one person considers a song that they love to sing in joy may be very different than another person’s song to sing in joy. This is outside of the normal purview of the Board. However after conferring with Martha let us try and to provide a little context for the rational for the music chosen for our services.

The first criteria for how the music is chosen is to reinforce the specific sermon message/theme and scriptures being read. Secondly it is chosen to fit the style of service and the musicians for that weekend. We have been amazingly blessed to be so rich in musical talent and a willingness to share those gifts with us to enrich our worship. There has been a concerted effort recently to be true to these criteria but to also have a balance between traditional and contemporary music and service styles. The current split is about 50% organ/traditional based services, 25% Praise services and 25% acoustic/blended services. A worksheet of every song we sing and when we sing it is maintained.

In the traditional/organ based services, Martha uses the Lutheran Service Book which includes over 600 hymns. Of those her guesstimate is that about half of them are somewhat familiar to the congregation. Of those 300 there are probably 10-20, not including Christmas carols, that may describe the “songs that some love to sing so much in joy!” (i.e. Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, etc.). With 26 weekends of traditionally based services, if she leaned heavily on those relatively few songs, then we will be neglecting a large portion of the familiar repertoire that God inspired over the ages and regrettably neglect many that reflect ideal lyrics to support the bible readings for the day and the sermon message.

Frequently Martha tries to choose hymns/songs that she thinks the congregation will know. Nevertheless she has found that when she scheduled what she thought would be an 'old favorite' based on her experience in her other congregations she soon learned that it was relatively unknown here at POP.

An additional observation is that some of our contemporary songs have or are becoming congregational favorites. As an example on a recent 'praise-style' weekend, she chose to end the service with the song “How Can I Keep From Singing.” That particular song was chosen because it was somewhat familiar in that we had sung it before but only during the past two years. The response she observes each time though is an increase in hearing people singing out louder and more joyfully. It fostered ending that service on a very high note. So perhaps is this song becoming a new congregational favorite or "a song that some love to sing with so much in joy”?

Finally Martha's door is always open and she is always open to “taking requests.” She can’t guarantee that a hymn/song will be chosen, but she does make notes when she hears that someone would love to hear a particular hymn/song. If she can accommodate the request while staying true to the theme, she is open to that. Praise God that He has richly given us such a vast variety of music that is a pleasant offering to Him. That is the central point of our worship - Him!