A quiet meditative pause…
The term ‘offertory’ is late Middle English derived from ecclesiastical Latin ‘offertorium’ meaning offering.
It has a number of definitions which include:
– the eucharistic offering of bread and wine to God before they are consecrated.
– a verse from a Psalm said or sung at the beginning of the offertory.
– the period of collection and presentation of the offerings of the congregation at public worship.
– a musical composition played or sung during an offertory.
In the context of this project, I’m talking about the 4th definition – a musical composition played (or sung or recited) at some point in the service; perhaps as people settle themselves and prepare their hearts and minds for worship, during the uptake of a monetary offering, during Communion when the elements are being received or perhaps at the end of the service to underline what’s been learned. I sometimes think of it as a quiet meditative pause.
My personal choice is almost always a well-known Psalm or hymn, often something that has been or will be part of the service. The reason for this is that, rather than just listen to the music, if the lyrics are familiar, especially if it’s a Psalm, we can let the words seep into hour hearts and minds.
At home, in personal or family worship, an offertory serves a very similar function; it calms and directs our hearts and minds and may serve as an echo or refrain of one or more Bible verses that have been studied.
This is an example of an offertory played at a Service of Remembrance.
Author: Henry Francis LYTE (1793 – 1847)
Tune: EVENTIDE: William Henry MONK (1823 – 1889)
Arranged and performed by: Wyn Galpin – Trio Praise
Lyrics in English and French
For Tony – in loving memory
‘Abide with me’ is often regarded as a funeral hymn and, indeed, this particular version came about at the request of a very dear friend who knew he was dying and specifically requested it as part of his Service of Remembrance. It’s actually quite a lengthy hymn and most hymnals only include a selection of the original text which refer to the end of life but, in fact, we can see from some of the lesser known verses that its message is for every chapter of life’s journey.
Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
This hymn was played at my friend’s service of remembrance after the eulogies and the address and it offered a few moments of pause and quiet reflection. Many of those present knew the words and sang along quietly – which was very moving – and others simply read them from the Order of Service. This took place in France, hence the French lyrics, where this hymn isn’t particularly well-known and it was interesting to see the calming effect it had on many of the French attendees as they read and contemplated the prayer within the hymn.
Although the main focus of this project is congregational song, the point is that when we know a hymn well, a quiet and reflective version will often calm, soothe and touch our hearts. It may also serve to prepare our hearts and minds as we come before our great God. All the more reason to choose our repertoire, both at home and in Church, thoughtfully and intentionally.