Mar 04, 2018

By Mary Mortenson, Executive Director, PCA

I have recently returned from the semi-annual ELCA Domestic Mission Unit Congregational Leadership Conference through which we trained some new PCA pastors.  One of the things I appreciate about this event is that we had worship every day, and one of the things I love about worship is music.  In the four days that over 300 of us attended this conference, we sang a variety of songs together.  Some were standard hymns with lyrics like, “Take my life that I may be consecrated Lord to thee…;” “I the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.  All who dwell in dark and sin my hand will save;” and the beautiful, “Come, we that love the Lord and let our joys be known; join in a song of sweet accord, join in a song of sweet accord and thus surround the throne and thus surround the throne.  We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion: we’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.”

There were also newer songs that were sung with equal joy, many of them written by Phillips, Craig and Dean.  Most of these songs were new to me, and yet I joined the assembly in sharing lyrics like: “The praise of my heart, the worship I bring, the life that I live is the song that I sing;” “Lord, this is my desire, to pour my love on you like oil upon your feet, like wine for you to drink.  Life water from my heart, I pour my love on you, with praises like perfume, I lavish mine on you, ‘till every drop is gone.”

The music moved us as together in community, we shared notes and lyrics.  I was energized and renewed, and sometimes moved to tears.

This is precisely why congregations in prisons are so important.  People who are incarcerated can, in safe and loving community, connect with their forebears through the old sacred hymns, and they can learn that the church is ever changing – ever growing, as they taste new worship experiences through new music.  It’s a gift to them – to us all – as together we honor the songs that teach us our history, even as we write the songs of what the church is today and will be tomorrow.


Evangelical Lutheran Worship, hymn #s 583, 574, 625



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