As I grow deeper in kinship with Bruce Benedict of Cardiphonia, one of the preeminent gifts I recognize in him is hospitality. Over a year ago, I enjoyed room and board in his home and an inordinate amount of time out of a busy week in the life of a worship pastor in a growing young church. His hospitality extends to the way he administrates Cardiphonia, an outfit dedicated resourcing the Church’s hymn revitalization and liturgical renewal. Benedict draws artists, songwriters, and liturgical misfits into a holy heap, and Cardiphonia continues to resource the Church with faithful words to sing to our Maker.
Why the Album Exists
Songs for Liturgy, out last week, is an exciting move forward for Cardiphonia, and it probably represents a pivot-point for those of us on the path of theological depth, historical connectivity, biblical fidelity, and gospel centrality in worship. Our journey on this path led us to fall in love with the rich, forgotten treasure chest of historic hymnody. But, unbeknownst to many of us, heading down this road took us into the theological contexts which shaped these hymns, and the theologians who shaped these contexts. We discovered that the Reformation–from whence many of our Protestant heroes came–was equally a reformation of worship as it was of doctrine…but this reformation wasn’t a doxological overhaul as much as an attempt at refining by getting back to the sources of the early church and her fathers (this was most notably the quest of John Calvin). As soon as the mystique of pre-Reformational worship practices was brought to more clarity, we found much value in understanding how the Church worshiped between the time of Christ and the time of the Reformation. And we, in turn, fell in love with liturgy.
Philip Majorins, Co-Director of Liturgical Arts at Christ Church in Davis, CA, describes this journey in much the same way in his great introduction to the album’s accompanying songbook:
This album is evidence that many Protestant church musicians have been reawakening to the deep and simple truths of the gospel that have been a part of Christian worship (in the East and the West) for centuries. It may sound odd for some of us to admit, but the shape of the gospel is tied up in the form of the historic Mass. Even more puzzling is that many of us steeped in the charisms of the Reformed tradition are “re” discovering that the historic mass was shaped by Scripture. The truth is, the Reformed tradition has never really rejected the shape of historic Christian worship. It has just been neglected. Consider these tunes a basic primer for those of us interested in going back to the sources from which faithful worship is apt to spring. The earlier rediscovery of hymnary, by these same musicians, has naturally lead to an uncovering of church music with even deeper roots in Holy Scripture and historic catholic faith.
Okay, so some of you are wincing right now. The Zac of five years ago probably would have done the same. But before your five-sola-vaccination starts preventing the invasion of the “catholic” virus, consider reading a book like Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Worship. For me, it gave me a new appreciation for my (small “c”) catholic (which means “universal”) Christian faith when it came to the gospel-shaped worship practices that characterized the Church for centuries.
How Can Non-Liturgical Modern Worship Contexts Use this Resource?
The Doxology & Theology conference a few weeks ago has convinced me that a rising generation of young worship leaders is hungry for the gospel to be embedded more deeply into the life of the worship service. The irony is that the historic Christian liturgy from which many of us modern worship leaders have departed is deeply Trinitarian and (therefore) gospel-saturated, and I’m convinced that many of these short songs could be quite effortlessly woven into a block-of-songs-style worship set, amplifying the gospel-story:
- McKenna’s “The Brightness of God’s Glory” (one of my favorite songs) works great as both a soft opening to worship, focusing us on the majesty of Christ or as a set-ending, helping us revel in the gospel
- The several versions of the Kyrie, which is in its essence a confession, work well in the middle of a worship set to provide people, after encountering the greatness and holiness of God, some space to say with Isaiah, “woe is me.”
- The “Glorias” and Doxologies work to round off a time of singing about the gospel of Christ
- Many of the songs, like versions of the Sanctus, work well during communion and actually put ancient worship words into the mouths of modern worshipers.
- Many of the benedictions can be used at the end of a service (especially if the sermon went long and you need a short song :))
Our Contributions to the Project
For those of us on the journey, Songs for Liturgy is evidence of our attempts to give voice to the broad, historic Christian liturgy in our local contexts. I was blessed to contribute two songs. The first is a version of the Lord’s Prayer, which contains echoes of Malotte’s famous version, sans the huge operatic vocal range. The melodic line is comparatively flattened out for ease of singing, but I preserved the values of held notes and phrasing, because I find them prayerful and meditative. You can grab my lead sheet for it here.
The second contribution is what I call a “Benedixie.” It represents a bit of a journey in worship pastoring for me. Every worship leader feels the pressure to squeeze their church’s musical style into whatever the majority like best. For many evangelical churches, this means a pretty set rock sound. I love that sound, personally, but I find God always pushing my boundaries wider with the musicians He brings my way. How am I supposed to fit a trombone and clarinet into an arena-worship rock ensemble? Well, I can’t. But I can respond to God’s providence by connecting what we do to styles that are both gripping for congregational music and fitting for the instruments provided. Hence, New Orleans Dixie. We’ll see if it takes off in Denver. 🙂 So here’s our clap-happy benediction, “Lord Dismiss Us With Your Blessing,” by John Fawcett. Here’s the lead sheet, and here’s the clarinet and trombone score.
And, I must give credit where credit is due. This was very fun to record.
Austin Hogan – clarinet
Dave Strunk – trombone
Connor DeFehr – tuba
Cathie Detwiler, Paige Wilson, & Strunk – vocals