"...a memorable, melody-based composition which is musically accessible without being simplistic; it has a fresh sound incorporating less-traditional rhythms and harmonization. Praise music makes one “feel” something with a goal of establishing a deeper relationship with God. It can move one to thought, action, and reflection based on the text or theme. The language of praise music is inclusive and accessible. It encompasses traditional religious vocabulary; explores non-traditional, contemporary images of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit; and draws from the rich imagery found within sacred Scripture. Praise music seeks to embody the covenantal values of the United Church of Christ: Justice and Peace, Multiracial/Multicultural, Open and Affirming, Accessible to All – as we seek unity; celebrate diversity; honor inclusion; hope for relational, loving communities; and explore multiple images and understandings of God.” ~Adopted by the Praise Song Advisory Team, Sunday, July 22, 2007
Brief History of Sing! Prayer and Praise
The long process to create Sing! Prayer and Praise began in the fall of 2006 when The Worship and Education Team of Local Church Ministries began the "Praise and Worship Music Project," which included the Praise Song Songwriting Competition, as means of developing new musical content, and the creation of the Praise Song Advisory Team (PSAT), a diverse group of musicians, theologians and worship leaders from around the UCC.
On March 10, 2007, the PSAT members gathered for their first meeting at the church house in Cleveland, Ohio. The members came from as far away as Hawai'i and California, and as close as 700 Prospect Avenue in Cleveland. They came from a wide-range of settings and backgrounds, each hoping to bring to the team valuable experience and unique perspectives. As they gathered at their first meeting they wondered what this praise and worship music project was all about and how God would work in their midst. Through their journey, they had many great surprises!
Those surprises centered on a great outpouring of support from all over the church and the submission of hundreds of new and previously recorded praise and worship songs, many written by UCC musicians. Throughout the rest of 2007 and all of 2008, the 11 members of PSAT came together for numerous meetings and defined what praise music would be and mean to the UCC, and what purpose the new song book would serve. These meetings would prove vital to team members as the submitted songs had to be sorted, reviewed, evaluated and approved before the actual construction of the song book could begin, which was a responsibility that the PSAT members took very seriously.
Thankfully, each member of PSAT has an impressive and detailed musical or theological background, lending their talents and expertise in music education and performance to private schools, higher education institutions, choruses, orchestras and UCC churches around the world, so their ability to understand both the musical and spiritual content of each song was essential to the development and construction of the songbook.
As the song book's creative process increased, the UCC Musicians National Network, Inc. (UCCMNN), along with four other UCC ministries, hosted a four-day national workshop in August 2008, in preparation for Sing! Prayer and Praise. This workshop invited musicians, worship leaders and planners, liturgical artists and pastors to come and worship together, learn from their peers, attend plenary sessions and experience the art of praise music. Attendees left the workshop refreshed, excited and inspired to incorporate what they learned about Sing! Prayer and Praise into their congregations and worship services.
By October 2008, the final songs were selected, and the composers whose songs would be included in Sing! Prayer and Praise were contacted. The process to work with publishers and composers, to edit and organize the song book, a detail-rich undertaking that took nearly seven months, fell to Rev. Scott Ressman, minister for worship, music and liturgical arts.
The first boxes of Sing! Prayer and Praise were delivered to Grand Rapids, Michigan for its debut at General Synod 27 in June 2009. It was greeted enthusiatically and has since been embraced by churches throughout the UCC. As its popularity grows, new resources are being considered to meet the needs of local congregations.