Communications Manager (and worship leader) Paul Huxley gives some suggestions for songs that may be particularly encouraging as many churches begin singing again.
Although singing has been legally allowed for most churches in the UK, on most Sundays since the Covid pandemic started, most churches have limited themselves to singing quietly or outside.
Now that all government guidance in England allows full congregational singing, what kind of songs might churches want to prioritise?
I’ve grouped songs below by the particular ways they may help congregations engage with God as they sing together again. There are songs in different genres and from different ages – but it’s naturally going to be skewed towards the music I’m more familiar with.
So please let me know what great songs, hymns and psalms I’m missing in the form at the bottom.
And whatever church looks like for you, let’s encourage other church members as wholeheartedly as we are able, this Freedom Sunday. Because every Sunday is Freedom Sunday – we celebrate and worship our King Jesus, who on a Sunday morning 2000 years ago rose again, was vindicated and showed that the wages of sin, death, are paid in full for all who believe in Christ.
Calling to worship
Lots of churches intentionally start their Sunday gatherings with a call to worship. This is always helpful for Christians, by calling them to bring the successes, failures and distractions of their week to God and praise God together. When re-introducing sung worship this is likely to be even more powerful, as Christians hear the voices of their church family praising God together.
The Psalms provide a great starting point and have inspired many settings and hymns throughout church history.
All People that on Earth do Dwell is one example, based on Psalm 100. It calls the congregation to praise God with joy, while recognising the Lord’s care, mercy and faithfulness towards his people.
O Worship the King takes its inspiration from Psalm 104, again calling God’s people to praise him, but also saying that we are ‘frail children of dust’ – an unavoidable truth when we’ve seen a virus taking many lives. Here’s a contemporary version with a new tune by Chris Tomlin:
But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the old tune – here’s Emu Music’s recording from last year’s virtual Keswick conference:
Come Praise and Glorify is a more recent call to worship written by Tim Chester and Bob Kauflin which explicitly praises God as Father, Son and Spirit and reminds us of what God has done, is doing and will do as our redemption is completed.
Dating back to St Francis of Assisi, All Creatures of our God and King calls all of God’s creation, including each other to praise God. It works well with just about any musical setup and if you want, you can include Jonathan and Ryan Baird’s extra lyrics which remind us why we’re praising God, and that one day every knee will bow before our King.
Addressing fear and brokenness
Covid, along with our response to it, has left many people fearful or discouraged. This isn’t unique to people on any side of the ongoing debates – some are afraid of the virus, others are more afraid of some kinds of governmental intervention.
Many have lost loved ones or jobs – I believe it’s right to recognise this and point to the hope of the gospel.
The first song sung at this year’s Keswick convention was reportedly Great is Thy Faithfulness – a brilliant choice to remind us that God’s love and compassion for his people do not fail. This is an orchestral version with lyrics:
One song many introduced during the pandemic is Jesus, Strong and Kind. It’s simple enough for young children to understand but expresses both God’s power and love and is as relevant now as ever.
We Are Not Overcome is a gentle, less well-known song that will minister to many who are feeling fear or burdens. Its simple chorus, “Because of his great love, we are not overcome”, reminds us that even in difficult times, God is with us, and the end of our stories will be glorious.
Phil Wickham’s Living Hope praises God for dealing with something much bigger than Covid – our sin and shame. But Jesus, our Living Hope, helps to put our fears, whatever they are, in perspective.
Adoration and praise
Sometimes, though, we simply need to forget ourselves and put all the focus on God. Some songs simply work – people love them, sing them loudly and minister to each other through the words.
After all, why leave the resurrection until Easter? But it must be said that singing this last hymn comes with a warning – one vicar is in trouble for singing it while leaving church on Easter Sunday.
And a few more…
My Christian Concern friends are insisting that I put some songs they like in this list. I can’t know for sure how well they might work for your church but I’m sure they’ll encourage you: