An insight from our Worship Leader Claire Jackson on the new 5:30 service:
It’s been 8weeks since we began a fresh approach to our evening service at All Souls. But it’s not just been about changing the time, lighting or moving musicians around on the chancel – it’s been so much more than that. The aim of the 5.30 has been to give space to worship together, know one another, care for each other and rest together. For a large London church in a culture of busyness and burdened hearts, this is important if we are to live out being a loving and living community. The music team’s job is to serve the congregation, in helping them to sing God’s praises and guide the service effectively.
So, what have we been doing?
1. Remembering ‘every beginning says something’
We have often begun a service with ‘a call to worship’ - this is usually scripture that’s read aloud by a leader or said together as a church, it could be a song or even ‘call and response’ where the church can share aknowledging verses in turn. The Psalms are a perfect go-to for this – I found this article from Bob Kauflin really helpful when thinking this through. Nothing could emphazise the importance of God’s word more than beginning with it.
2. Choosing all songs carefully
All Souls has always been thoughtful when choosing the songs for sunday services, and that hasn’t changed. Just because a song is current or ‘new’ doesn’t mean we should be singing it. Our Rector, Hugh Palmer, recently reminded us that ‘bad’ theology goes in very easily with a ‘good’ melody, it’s really important we look at the lyrics carefully before choosing the songs we sing together. But, we also can’t choose songs just because they have good content – a singable tune will enable to congregation to sing well; a difficult melody may leave people struggling to follow (and then they probably won’t be paying attention to the lyrics anyway!)
3. Celebrating great hymns
Again, this isn’t something new to All Souls, a church that has always been known for pioneering hymns and using interesting harmonies (especially in the last verses!) we have been looking at how we can use wonderful hymns creatively with the band. We’ve connected the Call to Worship into songs like ‘Come O fount’ or ‘All Creatures of our God and King’ and we’ve tagged chorus’ such as ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand’ onto songs like ‘Cornerstone.’ These hymns will feel familiar to most of the congregation and remind us of our connection with our brothers and sisters who’ve gone before us. There is a great joy in singing hymns and many creative ways it can be done.
4. Encouraging our Musicians
We have a wealth of talented musicians in All Souls and it has been amazing to encourage them in stepping out in new ways. We have had the joy of adding a string quartet, a brass trio and a choir on different weeks. Sometimes they have had new parts written especially for the band setting and other times they’ve been encouraged to improvise from just chords; it’s been great to see them developing their art and leaving their comfort zone. We’re looking forward to seeing musicians grow in their faith and skills as we build a 5.30 team – and welcome more students into the group as well.
5. Allowing time to reflect
Listening to God’s word should always be at the heart of the service, and we always want to respond to it well – whether its to celebrate, be silent, listen or cry out in a song of lament. We have been meeting with the preachers to connect the talk with the response song or prayers and trying a variety of things from having songs sung to us, reflective singing whilst staying seated and confessing through songs like ‘Lord I need you’.
So, what’s next?
This has been an exciting few months at All Souls and there’ll be more things we will try and learn from in the coming weeks. One of the greatest joys has been to step back from the microphone and listen the sound of God’s people singing together. The sound of voices has been quite overwhelming. Something unique happens when we sing together (Colossians 3:16) – yes, we know we want the music to be excellent, fresh, enjoyable… but we are more interested in whether singing these truths is shaping us as a people! You can find the new 5.30 page on facebook here – hope to see you there.