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What is a Hymn Festival?

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What, exactly, is a hymn festival? In a word, it is community. This may not be the word you’d expect from the Music Minister. You’d probably expect words like “singing,” “music,” “instruments,” and the like. And while these are important in our times of worship together, they are means toward a greater end of reminding us that we are in community — with those around us and with those who have come before us. In this sacred setting, the congregation offers its voice as the greater choir, led by the choir on the platform.

I attended my first hymn festival as a seminary student. I anticipated that Saturday evening to be an opportunity to foster community among the participating churches and to join together our love for musical expressions of faith. Sure, I liked hymns, but my expectations weren’t too high for an evening dedicated solely to the singing of them. And yet, in that event came an invigorating surprise. That evening, we engaged in something transformative and transcendent, at times causing tears to well up. The musical settings of so-familiar hymns pushed a new vitality into the texts and, in many ways, gave them new life and meaning for me. The act of singing together, listening, and sharing our faith was so life-giving that I have wanted to make it part of the experience of fellow pilgrims on the journey as often as I possibly can.

Benjie Harlan, who will be joining us Sunday evening as our guest pianist, has an abiding love for congregational singing and for reimagining hymns in a way that allows people to express these texts of our faith in new and meaningful ways. The NC Brass Quintet, along with other instrumentalists, will also lead us in these sacred moments. We’ll reflect on the spoken word and listen to prayers created in beautiful, musical arrangements of hymn texts. Our theme for the evening is To Tell Your Ways. As we strive to see and know God, our hymns remind us to find God in the beauty of creation, in the person of Jesus Christ, and in the work and witness of the church.

On Sunday, I invite you to the sanctuary at 6pm to join your voice with singers representing churches around our area. Come ready to sing!

I hope to see you there.

Mike Eller