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Congregational Singing by David Fulk

When I was asked to write a blog article, I decided my topic immediately: congregational singing. It is, without question, my favorite thing about church.

I’ve always been singing. My first memories of singing are with my mom who also loved to sing. We sang together with mom playing an old upright piano. We had a hymnal but sang mostly out of paperback songbooks which I still have. We seemed to sing the same ones a lot, “The Cattle on a Thousand Hills” (appropriate since we raised cattle!), “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “His Name is Wonderful.” Mom and I would always give each other knowing looks when we sang these at church.  

At six or seven, I decided I wanted to play the hymns, not just sing them. At home by myself I sat at the piano singing from the hymnal, pounding out a jumble of notes, moving my hands and arms over the keyboard like I was doing calisthenics. I sang loudly. The dog howled. Instead of hearing the awful sounds coming from the piano, I heard a congregation singing to wonderful accompaniment. In my high school years, I really got connected to congregational singing…not as a singer, but as the worship pianist. (By this time I could play the notes!) 

I fell deeply in love with congregational singing when I first came to Second…people who sang in harmony, embellished accompaniments, and, of course, last stanza descants!

So this congregational singing love affair has been going on now for nearly 33 years. What’s your story on congregational singing? How did you come to love it? (I know I’m making an assumption.) Regardless of how little or much you love congregational singing, here are some components I think make a big difference when we sing together.

Text: Hymn texts are often as important to us as biblical texts. They’re as familiar, and they’ve helped shape our faith, particularly in times of challenge and joy.

Accompaniment: The accompaniment of a hymn can make a big difference in how we sing and get absorbed into the singing. The added instruments and their embellishments, thanks to our capable accompanists, lift our singing heavenward.

Harmony: Hymns can be sung in unison on the melody note, or in harmony. Most all of our hymns are printed with chords so harmony can be sung if the singer chooses. Harmony, like many things in life, can give us a broader perspective on something extremely familiar. This can be as nice as a soft breeze in a stuffy room. Harmony provides texture and color to the text.

Shared Experience: Whether you think you’re a good singer or not, there really is something to the scriptural phrase of “making a joyful noise.” Each of us has a voice bringing an individual component to the singing. But as a congregation, something wonderful happens. We are sharing in something together. Our collective singing illustrates working together and support for each other as we lift praise God.

A cappella Singing: Singing a grand hymn with lots of instrumentation can make spirits soar. Singing without accompaniment can create a deeply personal moment connecting us to God. It takes a lot of confidence to sing a cappella because we’re on our own. This is where harmony makes the difference. I love that we’re unafraid to sing a cappella.

In my recent perspective as the interim worship leader, I’ve had confirmed how important the song leader is in helping the congregation feel comfortable and confident in singing, especially when singing something new or difficult.

Planning is equally important. For each hymn, Ann Posey usually finds different accompaniments for herself, the pianist and instrumentalists to use on each stanza of a hymn. We decide in advance if it’s men or women only,  when it's sung a cappella, when the setting should be played and sung softer or louder. This combined thought greatly enriches our singing experience.

Congregational singing is the highlight of worship for me. When this interim ends I’ll miss leading our singing. We do it well. Let’s never take for granted we are a singing church!

Is anyone else craving a hymn sing?

at Wednesday, October 18, 2017 | 0 comments
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Snakes and Whales, Gardens and Beaches by Charles Smith

Student Ministry by Charles Smith

“I have a theological question for the group.”

I scooch my chair a bit closer to the table, wrap my hands around the slowly-cooling mug of caramel-flavored coffee, and wait for the student to ask her question. She glances around at the seven other people sitting at a table in the back room of Hammerhand Coffee, pausing to ensure her question would be given the appropriate level of deference and esteem.

Satisfied, she pulls out a spiral notebook and turns to a page that has several drawings scattered across it. The sketches, doodles really, depict snakes coiled in a multitude of shapes and positions. One shows a snake curled into the shape of a circle. Another shows one arched like an upside-down U with a shoe attached to each end.

After we look at these a moment, exchanging questioning glances, the student says, “In Social Studies today we were talking about the creation story in the Bible and about the punishments each one gets. The man has to work hard, the woman will have painful childbirth, and the snake has to slither on the ground. That’s why snakes slither.”

I nod and say, “Sure,” mentally preparing myself for possible questions about divine judgment or Biblical literalism. “That’s what the story says.”

“Well,” she says, clearly ramping up to her central question, “We were wondering in class, how did the snake get around in the garden before? If it didn’t slither until it was punished, how did it move? Did it walk? Did it roll? We drew pictures of some possibilities, what do you all think?”

Small Groups are an incredibly important part of relational student ministry. They are a chance to come together and talk about the ways our individual perspectives, motivations, and experiences shape us and help us learn who we are and what we believe. They are an opportunity for personal growth and community bonding. And they are also a time for asking questions, any questions, especially questions that students feel like they can’t, or shouldn’t, ask anywhere else.

One of the things I love most about ministering with students is getting the chance to see how their minds work. Our small group leaders do an excellent job of planning effective ways to lead a conversation on a given subject. But they also know that at any point a student might steer the discussion in a new direction, and sometimes this takes the conversation to a whole new level. One of the deepest conversations I’ve experienced in small groups started with the question, “Why do whales sometimes beach themselves?”

The question about snakes walking around in the Garden of Eden didn’t really lead us to a deep, ontological truth or spur us to make a life-altering perspective change. It did get us thinking, though, and helped us ponder in new ways a story we’d all heard many times before. That’s what small groups are about. They’re about snakes and whales, gardens and beaches, social studies and doodles, asking questions with no answers, and understanding ancient stories in new ways.

Posted by Charles Smith at Friday, October 13, 2017 | 0 comments
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Called to Share Hospitality by Ryan Dickson











In Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapter 12), he wrote about love in action.  A part of showing love is practicing hospitality. In Romans 12:13, he urged the Romans, “share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”

The Hospitality Ministry coordinates key church-wide fellowship receptions and special events. 
Church-wide events are a unique time for members to come together and share in celebrations.  Church events are a way of sharing with the Lord’s people, as Paul wrote to the Romans.  Whether it’s an anniversary celebration or food-truck days, events that the committee coordinates brings a sense of community within the church outside of the regular church services that the congregation takes part in every Sunday.

The ministry serves guests and new members by providing a level of comfort in what can be an unfamiliar place for some.  Speaking as a new member, I appreciated the events as a way to meet new people and families at 2BC.  The need to provide comfort and love to anyone — whether the person is a guest, new member, or a member that has been a part of the church for many years — is precisely what Paul urged in his letter to the Romans.  Catering to the needs of others can create the feeling of love shared among everyone involved.

The Hospitality Ministry at 2BC performs an important function of the church and serving its members and guests.  It acts as an open door to all of those that attend church and various functions throughout the year.  Those on the committee are a smiling face, a warm embrace, or whatever is needed on a given day.  Thank you to those who serve on the committee and help provide the fellowship that God wants for a church family.

Submitted by Ryan Dickson

If you are interested in joining the Hospitality Team, please contact Kim Halfhill, head of our equipping ministry.

at Wednesday, October 11, 2017 | 0 comments
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