By Jeff Brummel, associate minister of music / organist
During each Sunday in Lent, Wilshire extinguishes one additional candle on the Lenten wreath to signify the approaching darkness as Jesus moves toward the cross. We also keep our shutters closed, causing the Sanctuary to be more dimly lit as we contemplate and journey along with Jesus.
Musically, Wilshire also paints the picture of darkness, sacrifice and contemplation by making some subtle adjustments to our normal practices. First, you may notice that the brilliant brass Trompette en Chamades above the baptistry are most likely to be silent for six weeks. However, they may make a brief appearance on Palm/Passion Sunday for the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The postludes, you will notice, are more introspective than celebratory. This is to send us forth in contemplation into the dark wilderness of Lent.
As a congregation who sings, Wilshire normally omits the word “alleluia” from our worship services in Lent. This is a Christian practice that goes back many centuries. Historically, speaking or singing the word alleluia, which is translated, “God be praised,” was one of the primary ways congregants could participate in the worship service. All other music and chanting of Scriptures were reserved for the clergy. In a sense, by omitting the “alleluia” from the worship service, the song of the people was taken away and the body of Christ was void of verbal expression in worship.
This season of Lent at Wilshire, we are looking for times when the congregation may sing a cappella. Simply put, a cappella means “in the manner of the chapel.” The term was coined during a time in which all vocal music in worship was without instrumental accompaniment. Although instruments were present in worship, especially the organ, instruments actually had a more independent role than accompanying hymn singing. All this to say, that by singing together a cappella, we truly hear our voice as the body of Christ, singing our prayers to God.
And finally, you will notice that on most Sundays this Lent, the benediction offered will be a choral benediction, singing John Rutter’s setting of God Be in My Head to help us recall our theme and prayer for this season of Lent.
As we worship and go throughout our week, how will we sacrifice and omit from our daily lives, what will we add as a spiritual practice, and how will we pray and reflect during this season of Lent?