Singing with the Spirit

One congregation provides opportunity for learning about music and worship

Donna Schulz | Saskatchewan Correspondent

“I will sing with the Spirit, but I will sing with understanding.” These words, from I Corinthians 14:15, formed the basis of Marilyn Houser Hamm’s recent music workshop at Nutana Park Mennonite Church in Saskatoon.

Houser Hamm, who hails from Manitoba, is well known within Mennonite Church Canada as a musician, music educator, composer and workshop leader, and has served on the music committees for Hymnal: A Worship Book, Sing the Journey and Sing the Story.

Worship happens when people gather together in Christ, she told the more-than 40 music lovers from a number of Mennonite Church Saskatchewan congregations gathered for “Singing with the Spirit” from Oct. 2 to 4, 2015. Often it happens when God’s people sing together. Citing Ephesians 5, she said that “all of these things—psalming, singing, making melody in your heart—are the imperative of the Spirit.” Through these activities, believers open themselves to the fullness of God. She added, “Being filled with the Spirit is not an individualistic experience,” but happens as believers sing and worship in community.


About the video: Marilyn Houser Hamm leads singing during a plenary session at the ‘Singing in the Spirit’ music and worship event held recently at Nutana Park Mennonite Church.

Worship, according to Houser Hamm, requires participation. “The Greek word for worship means ‘the work of the people,’ ” she said. It is active, not passive in nature. During worship, believers praise, confess, proclaim, affirm, offer, witness and send. These are all actions. “We tend to interiorize worship,” she said. “I experience something that moves me.” While such experiences are valid, they are not the main reason believers gather to worship, according to her.

“Worship is for God,” said Houser Hamm. Believers gather to worship “because of who God is. Why would we not gather to bless God’s name?”

Love for God and gratitude for what God has done motivate the believing community to gather around the Lord’s Table. Christian worship has always revolved around the Lord’s Supper, but “the table is not ours,” she said. “Jesus invites us to that table, and the crazy thing is, he’s invited a few other people we’d rather not sit at table with.”

As challenging as worshipping together may be, “the worship of the gathered community is incomplete until it takes us out into our world,” said Houser Hamm. “How can we keep from singing? How can we keep from proclaiming that Jesus is Lord?” The gratitude of that gathered community moves believers to action beyond the sanctuary walls; in proclaiming Christ, the songs sung in worship find their meaning.

In addition to plenary sessions delving into the fundamental precepts of worship, Houser Hamm led a workshop for song leaders and another for accompanists.

She advised song leaders to know the text of hymns they are conducting and to “let your body communicate what the text conveys.” She asked participants, “How are you going to not look like a choral conductor?” Her answer: “Have a little joy in your face!” She advised accompanists to listen to the music, rather than read it, because they may tend to forget the human voice in their efforts to play a hymn well.

In addition to these workshops, Darrell Bueckert of Mount Royal Mennonite Church in Saskatoon led two percussion workshops in which participants found their rhythms with an assortment of shakers and drums.

Along with the workshops, the weekend also included an evening hymn-sing on Oct. 2 led by Houser Hamm, an evening coffee house featuring the talents of local musicians on Oct. 3, and a morning worship service on Oct. 4.


About the video: Darrell Bueckert leads a percussion workshop at the ‘Singing in the Spirit’ music and worship event held recently at Nutana Park Mennonite Church.

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