Written by J. Bennett Guess
|The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president, sings at dedication service for the UCC's new 'Sing! Prayer and Praise' song book. The service concluded with a community service day for national staff in Cleveland. (Photo: J. Bennett Guess)|
Celebrating the culmination of four years of work, the UCC's national staff dedicated the denomination's new expansive-language "Sing! Prayer and Praise" song book at its fall all-staff day in Cleveland. The morning service marked the beginning of a day of volunteering at work sites throughout the city as a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the UCC national setting's 1989 move to Cleveland.
"We send it into the world!" said the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president, as he presided over a litany of dedication for the song book with about 200 staff members crowded into the first-floor Amistad Chapel. "We pray in hopes that 'Sing!' will be a continued source of inspiration to many."
"A true labor of love is a true labor in community," said the Rev. Kimberly Whitney, minister for community life at the UCC's Church House, after recognizing staff who had shared various roles in the planning, production, publication and promotion of the book. Whitney paid special tribute to the leadership of the Rev. Scott A. Ressman, the UCC's minister for worship, music and liturgical arts, who edited the project and convened its advisory team.
The 217-song collection includes music of praise that encompasses traditional religious vocabulary but also explore non-traditional, contemporary religious images, said the Rev. Susan A. Blain, minister for worship and spiritual formation and a member of song book's advisory team.
"Praise music is a memorable, melody-based composition that is musically accessible without being simplistic," Blain said, reading from the advisory team's 2007 statement that guided their work. Singing at the dedication was led by Amanda Powell, music director for the contemporary Alive360 worship service at Federated UCC in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
Created in response to a 2005 General Synod resolution calling for a church-wide praise song book, a diverse group of musicians, pastors and theologians were given the task of bringing the project to life. Initially, a contest was held to generate interest in the song book, with two songs -- "Hush" by James F.D. Martin and "You Are" by Mark Unbehagen -- selected as winners. Over a two-year period, hundreds of songs were evaluated, both from previously published sources and new submissions. More than 100 of the songs have not been published previously.
"These are praise and worship songs that speak to the covenantal values of the United Church of Christ, along with attention to expansive language and theological challenge and depth," Ressman said at the time of the song book's unveiling at General Synod 2009 in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"Sing! Prayer and Praise" is not intended to replace The New Century Hymnal, or any hymnal used by UCC congregations, Ressman said, but has been produced to supplement and strengthen music already being used in worship.
Individual copies of "Sing! Prayer and Praise" are available for $15. An accompaniment edition for $75 will be available and shipped in mid-November.Order both online.