Most of us begin our day with the ritual of caffeination. We rehearse these acts literally half asleep. We grind beans, we pour water, and we begin to sense hope as we wash in the olfactory rush. We sugar and cream with scientific precision and we drink. There’s actually a whole host of actions, thoughts, feelings, and ritual in our coffee preparation yet we do it largely unconscious because we have done it a thousand times.
Repeated actions like this are an essential part of how we are formed and form ourselves in life (and liturgy). A number of years ago I wanted to explore this kind of early introductory ritual in the servies that I led. While at Redeemer we introduced a musical version of the Sursum Corda (You can hear us singing it HERE). We sang this as the first song in worship for almost 2 years. At first people thought it was strange but over time I heard more and more comments about how much people loved that they could enter into worship with a short musical piece they had memorized (often unwittingly). Kids began singing it around the house. Families began to use it as a way to signal worship in their homes. People would sing it on their way to church. It was a musical, and communal procession of our hearts into worship.
Now almost 8 years later I am still using this liturgical strategy as one way of providing a consistent and familiar welcome to worship. At CTK we call it our “Song of Ascents” and the practice riffs off of our worship grant a few years back in the Psalms of Ascents (Songs of pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the ancient Israelites) These are songs that help us take first steps to God as we gather for corporate worship each Sunday.
Here is a master list of all the songs I have used over the years. Do you have any songs that you have used in a similar way? Post them below in the comments!
This is the Day that the Lord Has Made – traditional
mp3 | leadsheet
Lord, Send Out Your Spirit (for Pentecost)
mp3 | leadsheet