Flowing or Floating? Ordering Music During the Lord's Supper

3/20 Pre-planning

Another communion service is coming up—just in time! We need all the grace we can get.

U To do: Confirm with Pastor Peter and elders from our supervising church to join us for planning and prayer.

3/27 Pre-planning

Pete and Molly brought up the issue of “flow” during communion—not just the physical flow of people, but the order of songs and a sense of spiritual or liturgical flow. When a thousand students come forward to just a handful of servers, it takes a long time for everyone to intinct, partake, and return to their seats. We need to prepare at least six or seven songs in addition to the rest of the service. How to select and order them?

An old image describes music as the river on which the church’s worship flows. If that’s so, what is this extended time of communion with God? Are we going somewhere? Is this a broad, quiet spot on the river? Rapids? A portage?

4/1 Planning

We asked, What music works best during communion? What has deepened the experience for you? (Not, which song do you like most?) Answers were all over the map. Some said the more upbeat stuff feels right for communion. Others said not upbeat but uplifiting. Some liked to chew on meditative songs. Jill mentioned the fittingness of hymns that concentrate on Jesus. Dean asked about “just listening” to songs; Julie prefers singing together. And what about theme of the service? We came up with a big list, but don’t know what to do with it now.


OK, maybe it makes sense that folks are all over the map. Eucharist is a pretty big thing—remembrance, communion, hope. Death, life, afterlife. Transgression, reconciliation, sanctification. Everyone’s in a different place.

So . . . if we’re on a worship river, maybe communion is an oxbow lake, everyone floating for a while together, but looking at a different part of the shore. . . .

U To do: Construct categories of songs to use: newer, older, faster, slower, and so on. U To do: Highlight songs in each category that fit best with service theme.

4/3 Rehearsal

Hit the first song in each category.

Explicit Service Music:
“Lift Up Your Hearts unto the Lord” PsH 309, SFL 63, TWC 771
“You Are Holy/Eres Santo” SNC 20
“Santo, santo, santo, mi corazon/Holy, Holy, Holy, My Heart” SNC 19

The “Latest Thing”—Earnest and Intimate:
“Precious Jesus/I Remember You” (City on a Hill songbook, p. 33)
“Holy and Anointed One” (More Songs for Praise & Worship 32)
“Amazing Love/You Are My King” (More Songs for Praise & Worship 82)

Simple and Meditative:
“Eat this Bread” PsH 312, SNC 254
“God Is Love” SNC 137
“Father, I Adore You” PsH 284, SFL 28, TWC 4

Classic Hymns:
“O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” TH 535, TWC 477
“Beautiful Savior” PsH 461
“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” PsH 568, PH 376, RL 464

Folk Songs:
“Vengo a ti, Jesús amado/Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness” (see Songs for the Season, p. 24) Duet: Molly and Hillary
“We Have Been Told” SNC 136
“Table of Plenty” SNC 247

Upbeat Songs:
“Taste and See” SNC 255
“The Feast is Ready (Worship & Praise Songbook 139)
“Let us Talents and Tongues Employ” SNC 258

4/5 Post-rehearsal

We’re floating around the lake—but something’s gotta bring us back to the river, where we move on. A setting of Psalm 103 is the traditional answer. Maybe something energetic? Something to connect with the theme and bring us back out into the world . . .

“His Banner Over Us” (Worship Songs of the Vineyard 3, p. 62)

“Bless the Lord, O My Soul” PsH 627, TWC 36

“Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” PsH 475, PH 478, RL 144, TH 76, TWC 26

4/7 Post-service

We were so intent on the flow thing that we forgot to think about transitions between each song. Rehearsing them at pre-service sound check we (re)discovered that we don’t always need to work so hard on fancy seamless transitions between songs. We just traded off leadership—guitar and violin one song, piano the next—and kept the sonic white space between songs to a minimum. That worked beautifully!

Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra has been a regular contributor to Reformed Worship over the years. He is the director of worship life and professor of preaching and worship arts at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. He is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America , author of Church at Church, and coauthor with his wife, Debra, of Worship Words: Discipling Language for Faithful Ministry. Together they have three grown children, a multiplicity of living-room instruments, and a tame backyard they are slowly rewilding.

Reformed Worship 66 © December 2002, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.