I was raised in churches where Praise and Worship was an important part of our Sunday morning service. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the congregation would spend the first part of the service singing, offering up-tempo praise choruses, hymns, and slower ballads that helped them focus their attention on God. At its best, Praise and Worship energized and united the congregation through a shared repertoire of song. Worship leaders might weave scripture and prayers throughout, giving it a relaxed, contemplative feel at times and an ecstatic, joyful quality at others.
My musical life in the church, and even my prayer life, was formed through these experiences of worship. Playing piano in the church's praise band or singing from the pew in several congregations (from Church of God to Assemblies of God to non-denominational), I became comfortable with a more improvisatory worship style and with cyclical patterns that helped worshippers deepen their emotional and spiritual connection. Like Taizé chants and some music from the Global Church, the beginning, middle, and end of songs weren't scripted; the music could ebb and flow depending on the context and the energy of the group.
Though the bulk of my professional work in the church has been as an organist and choir director, serving congregations that lean toward more formal liturgical patterns and repertoire, I still relish the opportunity to sit down at the piano and improvise, to play by ear and sing from the heart. But something has changed. While the language of intimacy with God, of personal relationship, is still vital to me, I have discovered and am finding new ways to speak to and name God. Not that earlier words are inadequate, but as I have come to different theological understandings and experienced the importance and power of inclusive language, I feel drawn to craft songs that honor this journey and that speak of God in broader and less boundaried ways.
Last month I wrote a new praise song, Holy One, We Welcome You, for Holy Ground, a spiritual community in Long Beach, CA that is full of folks much like me. Many grew up in evangelical or charismatic backgrounds and some in no church tradition at all. But they are seeking new paradigms and new language with which to name the Holy, holding old and new in a beautiful and sometimes challenging tension. They were close to my heart as I wrote this tune, which feels like a very personal expression of faith as well as an invitation into new, expansive language of praise that can be shared by individuals with varied spiritual backgrounds.
I invite you to listen to the track below and click here to download copy of the score. It will be available free of charge for the next few months and then I’ll add it to my online store, which I’m slowly populating with more sacred music that names God in creative, expansive, and inclusive ways.
Holy One, we welcome you.
Sing with us. Help us find a voice
to praise your endless Mystery and your unchanging Love
which is present now and with us evermore.
- Words and Music: ©2016, Paul M. Vasile