Music is integral to liturgy. Singing is basic to the way we pray, the way we show love, the way we worship. So—the Rite of Acceptance always includes singing, right?
For some parishes, this aspect of celebration is well in hand.
- The parish sings.
- The music ministry of the parish has acclamations ready to punctuate the ritual and engage everyone in its spirit.
- The music leaders are confident in leading processions of people singing.
- The singing assembly is undaunted by going outdoors or to the entrance of the church.
- You’ve figured out how to make the best of your liturgical spaces, so that they are musically effective.
If you haven’t got it all down yet, however, there’s no reason to despair. The musically challenged parish, with minimally sung celebrations, can nevertheless make a good showing at this. The event does call for music. And assemblies will sing. All you need is a well-prepared song leader, some simple acclamations, and the cooperation of your presider. He actually doesn’t need to sing (although he could), but he has to be ready to work with the musicians so that it all flows smoothly.
Start with the resources near at hand
Most worship aides offer a set of acclamations for the Rite of Acceptance. Popular and very sing-able settings can be found in David Haas’s Who Calls You By Name, and numerous choices are explained and offered in Christopher Walker’s Christ We Proclaim (OCP). Whatever you do, simplicity is key. It’s best to use music for which the assembly does not need a hymnal or worship aide in order to participate. What style suits your assembly? Classical? Gospel? Contemporary? Find music that will work for you.
Also remember that if you have more musical resources, oh fortunate ones, you can dress these occasions up without slowing them down. Choirs can be an asset. Don’t discount them! I fondly remember one Rite of Acceptance that we celebrated with full choir and hand bells at the main Sunday liturgy at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. Music director Michael Batcho used Lynn Trapp’s acclamations from MorningStar Music—some of which have cantor, choir, and assembly singing in a round.
Wow. Our voices bounced off the walls of the narthex of the church like pealing bells. It was glorious. Hand bells accompanied the singing procession into the body of the church, keeping alive the jubilation we experienced at the signing with the cross at the doors. Because the choir was accustomed to singing while walking, the assembly had a lot of support; the processions were a strong expression of our community.
Set high goals for your music
Maybe I’m asking a lot here, but I think that music for the Rite of Acceptance should be profound and memorable. If you’ve been doing this rite for a long time, think back. What music do you remember? Where are you musically with the Rite of Acceptance today? For your assembly, this rite may be experienced only once, twice, or maybe three times a year. Repetition and stability are helpful. But it’s also important not to let the music go stale.