FREE Download – My Eucharistic Setting

Eucharistic Setting graphic

For a while I’ve wanted to create my own setting of Eucharistic liturgy music for use in worship. I wanted something that could be used in a contemporary/post-modern service with a guitar or band. I also wanted to use fresh language and imagine some of these well-known texts in a different way.

I ain’t gonna lie – this recording is a little rough. I recorded it at my home studio with a couple of mics. I played and sang all the parts. So there are some exposed edges – which is kind of how I like it anyway.

This music was meant for the church. We have been singing them at Faith Lutheran. Please use them if you think they’ll work in your context. Permission is granted for use in worship. The mp3s are free to download. If you’d like the lead sheets they are available at the PayPal link below for $5.

Eucharistic Setting (2014) – Click here for all mp3s

Let me hear from you if you find these songs useful.

Weekly Worship Thought – Sung Prayer

clayton guitar smallAll of our worship is prayer. All the music we offer in worship can best be understood as sung prayer. This gives me hope, because I suck at prayer. Most of the time I feel self sufficient in my life and not needful of God’s assistance. My problem is pride, the sneakiest, most original sin of all. I am encouraged when I think about singing my prayer to God. All my prayers of praise, confession, lament, and intercession can be carried on a tune from our heart to God’s ear. Jesus told a story in Luke 18 about a pesky widow who would not leave a judge alone. She pestered the judge day after day, and he finally bent to her pleading to avoid the insanity. So may our songs never stop ringing in God’s ears.

Weekly Worship Thought – Eye Communication

Our eyes communicate a lot. Even though our mouth is often obscured by a microphone, our smile can be generated through our eyes just as much. Connecting our eyes to those in the assembly can be an encouraging gesture of invitation, to join us in worship, especially during songs with horizontal lyrics like, “we will glorify” and “we worship you.” Try not to focus on those people sitting closest to the front of the room. Make visual eye contact with everyone by looking toward the back of the room. I occasionally look at the front of the balcony on the back wall, so that my sight is inclusive of the whole assembly. Our eyes also can communicate focus and attention. If someone is speaking, turn your body and look directly at them. Doing this will be a visual cue for anyone looking at you that their attention should instead be focused on the person speaking.

Weekly Worship Thought – Leading the People’s Song

474910_381360428576470_143418169037365_1103926_791013435_oYour chief role is to lead the people’s song. You can do this from any instrument in the band: drums, bass, keyboard, guitar, or vocalist. Being a leader includes knowing the skills of the people and preparing well. Leading also means being a steward of the beat and breathe of the assembly’s song. Maintaining a good, steady tempo is most essential for effective leadership. Successful musical leadership does not need to be complicated and fancy, but it needs to be steady and take into account that people need to breathe together in order to sing together.

(excerpt adapted from “Musician and Cantor Overview” in Leading Worship Matters: a Sourcebook for Preparing Worship Leaders (Augsburg Fortress, 2013), by Jennifer Baker-Trinity, p. 177.)

The Future of ELCA Worship

The Future of ELCA WorshipOn October 19-21 I will be in Chicago for a trip to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s churchwide offices. It is an honor to be asked by Rev. Kevin Strickland, Director of Worship for the ELCA, to participate in the Consultation on the Ongoing Renewal of Worship in the Church. We will be discerning what the continually unfolding renewal of worship in our churches might look like in the years ahead. As I prepare, I have been reflecting on what I long for in my own life and in my own ministry context. Where do I need to experience growth in my pilgrimage as a disciple following along the Jesus path? In what ways do I want to see the worship I design and lead stretched and deepened? Here are three areas I want to discover and grow into the future – both personally and corporately:

  1. Learn to Worship – I realize that stating a desire to learn to worship can sound bizarre coming from a professional church musician. Perhaps a better proposition would be that I desire for all my assumptions about worship to be challenged. Asking the right questions can peck away at our engrained assumptions about worship. Where is my understanding of worship one-dimensional when in reality it is three-dimensional? When am I distracted from truly worshiping in the midst of the assembly? Why don’t I make room for quiet and stillness? Where is God present when I assume God’s absence? How do I faithfully prepare my heart for worship before every assembly? Why do I suppose the living, breathing, moving God of heaven and earth is restricted to my preferences and tastes? What would a Sunday without music or speech look like? Where have adiaphora taken place of the central things? Renewing worship means asking critical questions about why our worship is the way it is.
  1. Learn to Feast – I have long felt that communion is more feast than funeral. Yet we more often than not connect the weekly Eucharist to Jesus’ last supper, betrayal, and subsequent execution. What about every other meal Jesus ate? What about the food with tax collectors, and the miraculously expanding fish and loaves, and the meal with two disciples at Emmaus, and the post-resurrection fish breakfast tacos? Jesus was doing something significant in reconstituting the Passover, no doubt. Christ is our Paschal Victim/Victor. But I think there is something important beneath it all: Jesus ate with people. Our celebrations around God’s table are connected to every meal Jesus ever ate – including the everlasting meal to come in God’s eternal Kingdom. What does the ritual action of feasting look like? How can communion become more feast than funeral?
  2. Learn to Converge – We are trapped by the need to clearly label and categorize our worship. Using worship as a tool to target a specific group of people produces consumers, not disciples. Instead of being preoccupied with the copyright date of the songs we sing (as if church music had an expiration date), we should be singing the best and broadest types of music from God’s people in all places and times. In doing so our worship becomes countercultural (perhaps counter to the surrounding culture, perhaps counter to the prevailing church culture). Liturgical action teaches us self-denial and humility, where the surrounding culture may teach us to get ahead and have it our way. Through singing broad types of music we also become cross-cultural and can see God through the artistic offerings of cultures besides our own. This is the heart of convergent worship. Convergent worship is not a style. It is a mindset. Convergent worship is the coming together of the historic and the contemporary at every level of worship (not just the music) to create maximum opportunities for engaging worshipers with the presence of God. Convergent worship expresses a willingness to reopen all questions about worship and to learn from the entire worshipping community. Convergent worship has a healthy respect for the past while maintaining an absolute commitment to contemporary relevance.

These are the areas where I see a need for growth in my own personal and corporate worship. What about you – what does the future of worship look like to you?

Recap from ELCA Worship Jubilee #LivingVoice2015

11700944_10153110673898790_1916380162575013721_nFrom July 19-24 I was in Atlanta for the ELCA’s Worship Jubilee. The Worship Jubilee is a conference hosted approximately every seven years and this year it coincided with the Association of Lutheran Church Musician’s biannual conference. It was a tremendous experience and I was honored to be involved in several of the stages of planning.

We began dreaming about the event a year ago via a think tank conference call. I was on the design team with David Cherwien, Susan Briehl, and Scott Weidler for the Wednesday evening event, “The Church’s Journey in Art and Song.” “The Church’s Journey” was a musical/artistic experience that explored some of the themes of the Reformation. Our work will be included in a resource published by Augsburg Fortress to help church’s commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. I curated the art for the event and created video loops of each piece of art to accompany each song. I also led two workshops on video projection in worship; I was pleased to help over 60 participants think about how they use video technology in their church.

11731610_10153110673543790_8176050235742137676_oThe highlight of the event for me was on Tuesday evening. On that evening, conference participants got to choose between three different churches for evening prayer. I served as the liaison to one of these churches: the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. The day before evening prayer at Ebenezer I learned that the Bishop Elizabeth Eaton would be attending the service, and that I would be offering words of welcome from the pulpit of the church Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored! Here are the words I offered:

“The Lord be with you. It is an honor to welcome you here to Ebenezer Baptist Church this evening. My name is Clayton Faulkner and I’ve been serving as the liaison for our evening prayer tonight. In the early days of planning for this Worship Jubilee, several local churches had been identified as hosts for our evening prayer. And it just so happens that one of my colleagues is Dr. Tony McNeil, the Director of Worship and the Arts here at Ebenezer. I asked Tony if they would be willing to lead us in worship and he, and the people of Ebenezer, have graciously agreed.

We are worshiping on holy ground this evening. We are on the home turf, ground zero of the most significant saint of the Christian church in the 20th Century. I don’t need to remind you of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If there is holy land in the United States, we are surely on it.

One note about tonight’s worship. The offering that is received tonight stays right here to further the ministry of Ebenezer as they continue the legacy of social justice for all people. Your generosity and thankfulness will be a blessing.

So, Tony, Pastor Wortham, Minister Harris, the choir and all the other worship leaders and technical crew, on behalf of the ALCM and the ELCA I want to sincerely thank you for welcoming us to your church this evening.”

1497816_952658403500_1042155404_nWhat followed was one of the most beautiful worship services I have ever attended. There were several points throughout the service that were emotionally overwhelming for me. Between the racial injustices that have bubbled to the surface in our country, and having a bi-racial family, I was moved and healed by the presence of God in this worship. The choir lifted their voices and hands in praise, singing the songs of freedom that have united generations. The assembly sang with vigor the words, “Rid the earth of torture’s terror, you whose hands were nailed to wood.” We were led into a time of corporate lament and confession where we mourned black and brown men and women who are killed extrajudicially every 28 hours, followed by a commemoration honoring the Charleston Nine in which we spoke aloud their names. The assembly sang with sorrow the hymn, “They Met to Read the Bible:” “We grieve a wounded culture where fear and terror thrive, where some hate others for their race and guns are glorified.” One of the most moving offerings of that worship was the solo sang by Mary Harris Gurley, who was a contemporary of the Late Rev. Dr. Martine Luther King, Jr and sang a hymn at his funeral. She sang, “If I Can Help Somebody,” her elderly voice testifying to the truth found in her life.

2015-07-21 17.02.33-1Near the end of the service, we sang The Lord’s Prayer, the same version of the song played by Alberta Williams King on June 30, 1974 right before she was gunned down in worship, while sitting on the organ bench. It was a remarkable service, mixed with pain, lament, bittersweet joy, and hope in the resurrection. Dr. Tony McNeill crafted an excellent experience that brought us into the Lord’s presence and has left a mark on my soul.

Q&R: Which contemporary songs should we introduce to our church?

477039_381357365243443_143418169037365_1103810_100449478_oQuestion: 

We are in desperate need of introducing some contemporary music into our worship services. I do know contemporary music but have no clue about what works best in a room full of folks, many of whom do not know contemporary Christian music. We do a few songs:  As the Deer, Seek Ye First, Sanctuary, and a few others here and there.  My organist insists they can do the contemporary music, but the few times we have done it it has fallen flat. I can’t tell you why. So, here is my question: if we were to introduce maybe 10 new contemporary songs to our congregation to be used in worship, which 10 would you suggest?  Of course theology matters, but so does singability and teachability.
Response:
To start, I would definitely recommend you sign up your musician and any singers that are interested for the Tune Up worship band gathering: http://TuneUpGathering.org – they will learn some new songs, and rub shoulders with other church musicians who are doing this same thing.
I’ll say that successfully pulling off contemporary music is a challenge. Especially for a church organist. There are lots of reasons why: the rhythmic language of contemp. music is different than traditional hymnody. Also many contemp. songs are written and presented by guitar driven bands, and without that instrument (as well as drums) they can fall flat. 
But there are some “bridge” songs that can get you started in the right direction. Songs that work well with piano and are easy to learn for an assembly that is unfamiliar with the style. The ones you listed (especially As the Deer) are good. If you’re using Evangelical Lutheran Worship in the pews, take advantage of some of the music in there: 
857 Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
821 Shout to the Lord
483 Here Is Bread
And even some of the multicultural music works well and is “new” in a sense, if you’re not already using them:
817 You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore
491 Come, Let Us Eat
525 You Are Holy
Here are some other songs outside of ELW, found through a website: CCLI.com:
10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) – Matt Redman
How Great Is Our God – Chris Tomlin
Blessed Be Your Name – Matt Redman
Here I Am to Worship – Tim Hughes
Your Grace Is Enough – Matt Maher
Holy Is the Lord – Chris Tomlin
Jesus Messiah – Chris Tomlin
Hopefully that is something to get you started. Theologically, most contemp. songs are fine. A few are not. The biggest problem I run into is they can be less than gender inclusive (God = He) and put way too much emphasis on substitutionary atonement theory (as opposed to a Christus Victor theme). Some contemp. songs are engaging Biblical themes and images unexplored in traditional hymnody. However, a consistent diet of contemp. songs will not be as full, or rich a theological expression as hymnody would be. For example, if you’re looking for contemp. songs that mention the Trinity (a core doctrine of Christianity), you’ll have to look hard (but they are there). 

Called to Be a Living Voice 2015

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I’m very excited to be a part of this event happening in Atlanta in July 2015. I’m helping to design part of the event as well as presenting a workshop on video projection in worship. Worship and music practitioners (ordained and lay, professional or volunteer, anyone who cares and is curious about worship) are invited to Atlanta to listen to one another, to join our voices in worship and song, and to be renewed in our calling to be God’s living voice today.

http://www.livingvoice2015.org/

2014 TUNE UP Recap

_DSC6733On Saturday, August 9, 2014, the TUNE UP worship band gathering was held. Over 100 worship musicians, sound techs, and video techs assembled on the campus of Faith Lutheran Church in Bellaire, TX (Houston) for a multi-denominational training event. Hosting over 100 participants for the second year in a row, the event was organized by the Worship Excellence Team of the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod (ELCA) to improve the quality of band-led worship in smaller churches.

The assembled musicians and techs represented 20 congregations including Lutheran, Nazarene, Presbyterian, United Methodist, and Non-Denominational churches. Churches that participated were both from the Houston vicinity and rural parts of Texas.

_DSC6729The schedule included times of worship, instrumental/vocal/tech tracks, and conceptual tracks. A team of track leaders with main speaker DeAndre Johnson (Westbury United Methodist Church) led worship. The instrumental tracks were divided by specific area (worship leader, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals, sound tech, and video tech). Each group gathered together for training and instruction specific to that instrument. Conceptual track offerings included sessions on arranging hymns for worship band, multicultural worship, and renewing the arts in worship. Additionally, a “Coaching for Bands” track was offered in which two church bands received feedback and help with their music from a panel of track leaders.

_DSC6645One attendee commented, “Once again, my team and I have learned and grown through your gathering.” Another responded that the information they received in their track was, “Incredibly useful.”

After a second successful gathering, we will likely offer the event again in the future. Watch the event website for details: TuneUpGathering.org.

How was worship today?

1259089297665068165question mark clkerdotcomHave you ever thought about this question? Have you ever been asked this question? Have you ever asked someone this question?

It seems like such a simple, harmless question. But what does it mean? What are we really trying to get at by asking such a question? How do we judge whether worship is “good” or not? Are we even entitled to make such a judgment? If our worship is truly for God, then shouldn’t God alone be the one who passes judgment on whether worship is “good” or not? God sees our hearts and knows the motives behind our offerings of worship.

At the heart of this question, “How was worship today?” is the idea of evaluation. Worship is always being evaluated. Although it may be informal, everyone that leaves church on Sunday has evaluated that service in one way or another. The real question becomes what is driving our evaluations? Evaluations might be based on any number of things: the number of people in attendance, the length of the sermon, the pronunciation of the lector, or the number of flubbed notes by the musician.

Is it possible to move beyond these surface-level evaluations into the deeper substance of worship? The next time you’re leaving worship and you catch yourself evaluating how it went, try using these questions to consider the things that are essential to worship:

  • Was our worship Trinitarian? Did we name the Trinity and include Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our worship?
  • Was God’s epic narrative of salvation, from beginning to end, the centerpiece of our worship?
  • Were the primary symbols of baptismal font, communion table, and pulpit central to our space for worship?
  • Was there enough scripture reading in our worship for a full, rich telling of God’s story?
  • Was there time for prayer and reflection in our worship?
  • Did our worship engage all people assembled and invite them to participate with all their senses?
  • Were we connected to the death and resurrection of Jesus and pulled deeper into our baptismal journey through our worship?
  • Did our worship send us out following Jesus in joyful, loving service of the world?

So, how was worship today? Perhaps a better question is, “Who was worshiped today?”