Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Te decet hymnus

October 1, 2007, marked my 11th anniversary as music pastor at College Church in Wheaton (IL). This follows an 11-year tenure as music pastor at a very different church in another state. Music ministry was an unexpected vocation for me, a surprise calling just before my 30th birthday. 22 years later, I am still very much a learner.

But I do know that in the words of Psalm 65:1 – “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion.” That is the common translation of the Latin phrase that I have taken for the name of this blog. A more musical translation might be “To you, O God, a hymn is fitting.”

Te decet hymnus will explore the themes of worship, church music as practiced in the local church, hymns, hymnists, and hymn-singing.
Worship services: commenting on choices, challenges, successes and failures, experiences elsewhere, models, mentors, etc.
Church music: what a world there is to explore through my own lenses, my experience and preferences, and the position I currently occupy.
Hymns, hymnists, and hymn-singing: as a hymnal project develops, devotional, liturgical, historical, theological, and musical reflections will be worked out in this space.

The words “te decet hymnus” first entered my head during my first collegiate music history course. I recklessly took as a subject for my term paper, Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem,” listening to that classic first recording. It is the stunning first entrance of the boys’ choir in the first movement (requiem aeternam) – and all these many years later, that is the beautiful, arching, aching melody I associate with the phrase. No words I will ever write will stick like that simple line. But I’ll keep writing, if only to help myself on to some clarity.

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