This series is for you, the musician at the parish who is just starting out. Perhaps you were just asked by your pastor, or music director to take on leading a weekend or weekday liturgy. This is the first in a series of posts to get you prepared and running down the path of leading worship (music at liturgy).
Right now we are focused on the plan. I believe it was Benjamin Franklin that coined the phrase “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. In this post, I give you the basic ingredients you need for a solid liturgy plan. You will need these ingredients each time you create your monthly plan as discussed here.
What you need for every mass…
A Gathering Song – Everyone just packed their family (or themselves) into a car and rushed across town to make mass on time. The gathering song is the first musical moment of the mass, and it is a big one. Remember that in liturgy, as the procession begins, time and space cease to exist and heaven meets earth. We literally step into the timeless. On the practical side, this is a great time to give the congregation something that is very familiar, mid to moderate tempo, and, dare I say it, welcoming and joyful. Hymns are fantastic here. Holy Holy Holy, Holy God We Praise Thy Name, All Creatures Of Our God And King. There are modern selections that work fantastic here as well providing they are well established in your parish… “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)”, “Blessed Be The Name”, “Open My Eyes”, “Come, Now Is The Time To Worship”. In my experience, this is NOT the place to introduce a new song, ever. I have learned that if I give the congregation something unfamiliar at Gathering, they shut down for the rest of the mass.
Kyrie & Gloria – I am assuming that mass parts are consistent for you every week. You’re not changing mass settings every week, right? Your ingredients list for mass should include your Kyrie (depending on which form of the penitential rite your priest and deacon want to use) and Gloria (all seasons except Lent and Advent).
Responsorial Psalm – The psalm follows the first reading and precedes the second reading. A few things on the psalm… The first is that it should be sung. The second is that it should, as often as possible, stay true to the prescribed psalm in the lectionary. The psalm is usually a reflection of all the readings from the day. There are many resources available for psalmody. In situations where the prescribed psalm doesn’t have a workable setting, you can use (depending on your parish and liturgy team preferences) a seasonal psalm such as Psalm 103 (ordinary time) “The Lord is Kind and Merciful”. There are seasonal psalms prescribed for each season. If you are building a music program from the ground up, I believe there is merit in using a seasonal psalm to get the congregation and your team familiar with a melody and singing confidently. You may not substitute a hymn or song in place of the Psalm. The lectionary does prescribe responses from other places in Scripture depending on the season, but you may not substitute a hymn here.
Gospel Acclamation – Alleluia, or Lenten Gospel Acclamation. Again, I try to keep these consistent over a season or period of time.
Offertory, or Presentation of Gifts – Hymn and song selection here is very important. This song needs to be long enough to allow the celebrant to prepare the gifts, but needs to be conclude after He is finished. Be careful about choosing songs that have long turns between the verse and chorus. “Here I Am, Lord”, is a great example of a song that cannot be ended quickly. I often choose this place in the mass to introduce new material, as sometimes just singing the chorus a few times is a great way to introduce a new song to the congregation.
Holy, Holy, Holy/Sanctus – Back to mass parts. We tend to keep our mass setting very consistent. Currently we are using the “Mass of Saint Ann” composed by Ed Bolduc and published through World Library.
Memorial Acclamation – Through Ordinary Time I prefer “When We Eat This Bread”, through lent “We Proclaim Your Death”, and through Easter “Save Us, Savior Of The World”. No rules here, just preference.
Amen – Our parish culture likes shorter arrangements of the Amen. Make it big, make it beautiful. Choose a setting that works for your parish!
Our Father – Some great settings to be sung or chanted. We recite it or chant it, led by celebrant.
Lamb of God/Agnus Dei – Again, mass setting that we keep consistent.
Communion Hymn – Remember that as you choose communion hymns, that unless you are using projection technology, the people in line for Eucharist do not have the words. Sometimes I’ll use psalms, or reprise the psalm of the day if it is prayerful to encourage people to sing and participate. Sometimes we choose very familiar communion hymns, “One Bread, One Body”, etc.
Communion Reflection/Song Of Praise – After the communion hymn, a song of praise may be sung. This can also be a great place to introduce newer music.
Song of Sending – Hymns and songs here tend to be uplifting and joyful, but they don’t have to be. At times, we will use a theme song through lent or advent, and at times will end with a more reflective song.
Other things to include in your plan…
Rehearsal Times, Notes for musicians and vocalists on songs (who is going to sing what), arrangement ideas, etc!
These are the ingredients for every mass plan. Share this post if you know someone working and planning on the front lines of music ministry!
What works for your music ministry teams?