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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

May 2011

Dear Friends,

            Some years ago, I attended a fledgling “church plant,” a contemporary new congregation for young Mennonites who left the Pennsylvania countryside to seek opportunities in Pittsburgh.  They were students and professionals who had grown up in those long, narrow farming valleys in the center of the state.  It was a hard transition from their native homes, where church and community were central, to the freedom and anonymity of urban life.  Living in two worlds is always hard; it makes you a stranger in both.  And though the little congregation spoke effectively to the issues facing these young Mennonites, one question that it couldn’t resolve was music. They were a whole new breed of Mennonite: urban, educated, and landless. Could they still sing the lilting old gospel songs that their ancestors sang since colonial times in clapboard meetinghouses from Belleville to Strasburg?  Should they adopt the unfamiliar but modern music of the megachurches?  Or should they create their own unique music to express their own unique experiences of faith? 

            This last possibility would be the ideal option for any church, but few congregations have the time and talent to write all new music.  In the end, they decided to worship entirely without music. It made their otherwise meaningful worship service seem strangely like a Sunday school class.  The new congregation was innovative and creative, and it spoke to real needs in the lives of its members…but to me, the absence of music was nearly tragic.  Think for a moment: What part does music have in your life of faith?  What would worship look like without it?  When you sing in the shower (and I know you do), do you ever croon a hymn? Maybe even one of these?

            Music is intrinsically human, a celebrated part of every culture.  On those occasions when our lives brush up against the Sacred, the human bent toward music is even intensified.  The songs of the hymnal give expression to our longings for God, but they also transmit the faith in simple, memorable ways.  Music is a teacher and a catalyst.  Music touches a part of the soul that words alone can never reach.  We are blessed that Bower Hill Church is endowed with an array of musical talent.  As our congregation grows, there is increased interest in retaining our musical heritage while also expanding upon it to include a greater variety of musical forms.  In the tradition of Casey Kasem, here are the Top Twenty Favorite Hymns from a recent poll of Bower Hill attendees.  I found some of them surprising!

            In Christ’s peace,

            ~Brian

~A Singing Faith~


1. Amazing Grace

2. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

3. Morning Has Broken

4. How Great Thou Art

5. Here I Am, Lord

6. Open My Eyes that I May See

7. I Danced in the Morning

8. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

9. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty

10. Be Thou My Vision

11. Abide with Me

12. In Christ There Is No East or West

13. In the Garden (not in our hymnal)

14. This Is My Father’s World

15. Great Is Thy Faithfulness

16. For the Beauty of the Earth

17. O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee

18. Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

19. To God Be the Glory

20. Eternal Father, Strong to Save