A Note From Our Director of Music:

Dear Community of Friends at FCCS

May is a special month of celebrating our 150 years at First Congregational Church of Stockton.  I have been pondering how the music at this wonderful church has been a help in living out our faith over all these years.  Music certainly will play a vital role this month as we proclaim our theme: Distinguished Past, Daring Present, Divine Future.

We will use music from the three centuries that our church has been in existence.  By singing hymns from the past we remember and are encouraged by the faith of those gone before us.  The text of Come, Thou Fount

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of Every Blessing was written by Robert Robinson, a Methodist preacher and was set to an anonymous American folk tune in 1813.  This rugged melody reminds us of the hearty spirit of those coming to this area of California in the 1800’s.  Their faith was anchored in hymns like this:  Come, O fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing your grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of endless praise.  Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount; I’m fixed upon it mount of God’s unfailing love.

     Great Is Your Faithfulness (1923) represents the hymn style from the early 20th century.  Thomas Chisolm wrote the text as a religious poem in Vineland, NJ and his Methodist minister friend William Runyan wrote the tune.  The mood of the verse is gentle and soothing reminding us of God’s loving care throughout all seasons of life. Great is your faithfulness, O God, Creator, with you no shadow of turning we see.  The Refrain turns to a more majestic mood as the theme of God’s faithfulness is boldly proclaimed.

Songs like This Is the Day of New Beginnings

(1978) helps us move boldly into the future knowing God will continue to be with us on our journey.  The text is written by the prolific contemporary hymn writer Brian Wren.  Let us boldly enter our future by proclaiming our hope in God through song.  This is the Day of New Beginnings, time to remember and move on.  This is the day of new beginnings, our God is making all things new.

Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)

Daryl Hollinger

Dear Community of Friends at FCCS

Great is your faithfulness, O God, Creator, with you no shadow of turning we see.  You do not change, your compassions they fail not; all of your goodness forever will be.  

Great is your faithfulness!  

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed your hand has provided.

This past Sunday I had the joy of playing a beautiful arrangement of this powerful hymn, Great Is Your Faithfulness as our prelude.  This old familiar tune was arranged together with Franz Liszt’s gorgeous piano piece, Lieberstraum.  As I played the lyrical melodies interwoven with the flowing accompaniment, I sensed a hushed peacefulness settle over the congregation.

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Joy overflowed inside me as I reflected on God’s comfort and faithfulness throughout my life.  I also thought of the many folks in our congregation who are experiencing God’s grace through tough times in their lives.  During our prayer time, I hear many of your requests for God’s healing and blessing to pour down on us all.  Time and time again I hear the stories of God’s presence and faithfulness during both good and difficult times.  Many of you tell me how the music we experience in worship help you on your journey.

My prayer continues to be that the hymns and songs we sing in worship “can enable us and our community to face unimaginable and inescapable pain, grief and loss with grace, courage, and dignity.  Ours is a resurrection faith. (from the book, From a Mustard Seed: Enlivening Worship and Music in the Small Church.)  May our songs help us proclaim our faith in a just, loving and compassionate God.

Please consider offering your gift of singing by joining the choir. We still can use more ladies and men.  This is

a blessed part of my ministry with you.  I try to pick choir pieces that are profoundly relevant to our faith and that are both easy to sing and musically gratifying.  You do not need to read music to join us.  You will be in good company.  Our choir members are loving, kind and generous of spirit.  We have a wonderful time together and I think there are more of you in the congregation who will find this to be a rewarding ministry.  We meet for practice before the service at 8:30 on Sunday mornings. We usually sing three times a month.  Prayerfully consider joining us, even if it is just for a season.  The rewards of singing in the choir are bountiful.

Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)

Daryl Hollinger

Dear Community of Friends at FCCS

He (Jesus) was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan;

and he was with the wild beasts;

and the angels waited on him.  Mark 1:12

We are in the season of Lent, a penitential season of the church year where Christians prepare for the journey to the cross and finally the triumphant day of resurrection. During this season of Lent, we remember Christ’s days leading up to his death on the cross.  For many, Lent is a reflection of the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness prior to his public ministry.  Traditionally Christians spend this preparation time in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Many churches take on a more somber tone in their worship services.  Some even refrain from singing “Alleluia.”

To help us remember and appreciate what Jesus life, death and resurrection means to us, our worship will take on a quieter, more reflective tone.  Times of contemplation in our spiritual journey help us carve out space in our lives to hear God’s still, small voice.  Our songs may sound softer and maybe even slower than usual.

Sometimes we will sing short, repetitive songs including those from the Taizé community in France.  In 1940 Brother Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche settled in the little village of Taizé in the heart of the Burgundy region of France to offer a safe haven for those in need of asylum.  Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, singing, Bible study, sharing, and communal work.  Their simple chants are prayers that encourage a life of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.  As we sing these meditative songs during Lent, my prayer is that we will allow God’s spirit to speak to us in new and fresh ways as we seek to live out our faith in our community. Blessings on your Lenten journey.

Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)

Daryl Hollinger

 

Sing to God. Sing praises to God. Tell of all God’s wonderful works.

Psalm 105:2

Several months ago the Wall Street Journal published an article on “How to stay healthy in cold and flu season.”  In

the article Beth Howard states that “meditation,

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singing and other novel steps may help you avoid illness or recover faster.”  Time magazine also featured an article about the benefits of singing with a group.

When you sing, musical vibrations move through you, altering your physical and emotional landscape. Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all. The benefits of singing regularly seem to be cumulative. In one study, singers were found to have lower levels of cortisol, indicating lower stress. A very preliminary investigation suggesting that our heart rates may sync upduring group singing could also explain why singing together sometimes feels like a guided group meditation. Study after study found that singing relieves anxiety and contributes to quality of life. Dr. Julene K. Johnson, a researcher who has focused on older singers, recently began a five year study to examine group singing as an affordable method to

improve the health and well-being of older adults.

As a Christian community singing together moves to an even deeper level than the scientific benefits

stated above.  When we sing together we proclaim God’s wonderful work in our lives, the lives of brothers and sisters throughout the world, and the lives of those who have gone before us.  In my book From a Mustard Seed: Enlivening Worship and Music in the Small Church, I give several reasons why we sing in church:

  • Singing builds community.
  • Singing has the power to connect us with the universal church.
  • Singing hymns of faith tells the story of God’s faithfulness in challenging times.

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  • Singing enhances the words we use in worship.
  • Singing hymns of faith can provide comfort.
  • Singing can bring us hope.
  • Singing can provide a prophetic voice.

So when we gather on a Sunday morning,

I encourage all of us to boldly participate in our communal singing.  This wonderful gift that God has given us has great potential to do all of the things mentioned above and even much more.

Please consider joining us at 8:30 on most Sunday mornings for choir rehearsal.  Come and try it out.  See if you like it.  I think you will.  I try to make the music easy to learn, fun to sing, and also relate it to our faith.  You may have noticed a slight decrease in membership in the choir.  Several members had to drop out or take a leave because of personal reasons.  They all assured me that they loved singing in the choir.  So we are looking for more singers to help us out.  Prayerfully consider this opportunity.

Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)

Daryl Hollinger

Dear Community of Friends at FCCS,

We are getting ready for the journey of Advent. It is a season of making room in our hearts and lives as we wait for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. For centuries Christians have celebrated Advent with various traditions that help recreate the incarnation. The first clear references to Advent date back to an ancient 8th century manuscript that outlines scriptures commemorating the coming of Christ.

We at First Congregational Church of Stockton will continue this tradition of waiting and preparation. We have designed worship that will hopefully give space to allow the peace of Christ to enter our lives in new and meaningful ways this season. We will begin each service in Advent with the ritual of lighting the Advent wreath.

Each service will begin with a processional by the choir bringing together two music traditions: ancient chant and African rhythms. You may think this to be an odd combination of styles. My hope is that as the choir

sings layers of different rhythmic patterns in the African tradition, you will remember our brothers and sisters all over the world who are preparing for Christmas. Coupled with the African patterns you will hear the ancient chant of the familiar Advent song, Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel. By singing this ancient song, we

will have the opportunity to remember the lives and faith of the saints who have gone before us.

The choir will sing an Anthem every Sunday in Advent that will help portray the meaning of the Advent scriptures. The third Sunday of Advent is often referred to as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. On December 14 the choir will help us celebrate and rejoice with a special time of music. The choir will sing several anthems including I Hear the Prophet Callin, Come, Emmanuel, and The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came. The handbell choir will also play a beautiful setting of In the Bleak Midwinter.

During the rush and demands of the holiday season it is easy to forget the true meaning of the incarnation. Emmanuel, which means “God with us,” is still present in our lives today if we just take the time to notice. May our worship time together this Advent give us pause in the hectic season to listen to God speak to us.

Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)

Daryl Hollinger

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A Note From Our Director Of Music:

Dear Community of Friends at FCCS

In our last worship meeting we started to ponder the question “why do we do certain things in worship?”  Is it out of tradition?  Is it because it is something we have always done?  Is it because we like it?  Is it something we really think about?  Or does it bring us closer to God and to each other?  Does it inspire us to go out into the world and proclaim God’s wonderful love?  Does it challenge us to walk a Godly life?

Sometimes I think it is good to step back for a moment and reflect about the meaning of certain aspects of our worship.  Take, for instance, the prelude.  Have you ever thought about the purpose of the prelude?  Is it just a nice way to bring people together?  Is it more or less just background music for something that is about to happen?  Is it like the music in a restaurant where we kind of hear it in the background while we enjoy chatting with our loved ones around the table?

I think the prelude is an important part of our worship service.  We all need a time to transition from our weekly activities and enter into this sacred place we designate on Sunday mornings as a worship service.  In the book The Work of the People: What We Do in Worship and Why, the co-authors Marlea Gilbert and Christopher Grundy describe the importance of the gathering rites of worship.

At the beginning of worship we open ourselves to the call of God’s voice and attend to the movement of God’s Spirit.  We leave the isolation of our individual lives and gather with our community as the body of Christ… Few of us give much thought to entering worship.  On most Sunday’s, we consider ourselves fortunate to get out of bed, locate suitable clothing, swallow some coffee,and glance at the newspaper before scrambling out the door, driving to church,and sliding into the pew in time for the prelude…  We will not be able to listen for God’s voice if we do not take time to make ourselves ready.

For me, this is the gift of the prelude.  It gives us all time to put away the cares and worries of the week and prepare for an encounter with God in the presence of our brothers and sisters.  Sometimes the prelude is based on one of the songs or hymns we will be singing.  Sometimes it is based on another hymn or song that reflects the theme of the day.  Other times it is music not based on a particular hymn or song.  In these cases the prelude sets the tone or mood for the theme of the worship service.

Think about using the prelude as a gift to get ready to meet the Holy One.  If it is a song/hymn in our worship books, you may choose to look it up and follow the words.  You may choose to close your eyes and offer a centering prayer while the prelude is playing.  You may choose to repeat a mantra in your head like, “Be Still and Know that I am God,” or if it is a livelier prelude you may choose a prayer like “This is the Day God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  However you choose to worship with the prelude is up to you.  Take these important few moments to let God meet you in this sacred moment we call the “prelude.”

Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)

Daryl Hollinger

 

 

Dear Community of Friends at FCCS:

As I begin this beautiful spring day I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” I am truly blessed by to be part of this community of faith in Stockton.  You open your hearts to God as we sing and worship together every week.  I am so grateful for your words of appreciation and encouragement.  They mean so much to me.

I was overwhelmed with joy this past Sunday as you entered so fully into our Palm Sunday Celebration.  Maybe some of you saw the posting of our Palm Parade on facebook.  It was fabulous.  As we loudly sang our Hosannas in parts and played the drums and various instruments, I sensed you were getting the joy and enthusiasm as it may have been felt the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem.  You didn’t let fear or anxiety hold you back.  It was an unleashing of your excitement about praising our Messiah.

Then as Pastor Jeff led us into a solemn reflection of how the people turned so quickly from the Palm Parade to the crucifixion, I sensed you were understanding how we all at times turn away from God.  You followed so beautifully my leading of the hymn, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus.”   I was moved to tears as we sang “I take, O cross, your shadow for my abiding place; I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of Christ’s face…”

Your worship on Palm to Passion Sunday reinforced my belief that following the seasons of the Church year helps us remember Jesus’ life and ministry.  It teaches us how to connect these ancient stories to our faith.   Over and over we hear stories of how Jesus gave us examples of how to have faith, how to love and give of ourselves.

Now we are entering the Season of Easter. It is finally here after those 40 pensive days of reflection during Lent.  Our celebration begins on Easter Sunday and goes the whole way to the day of Pentecost (June 8).  This is a season of singing “Alleluias.”  It is an expression of joy and resurrection.  May we all join in exuberant and joyful praise as we worship the risen Christ through our words, songs and all types of musical instruments.  Hallelujah!  He is Risen!

Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)

Daryl Hollinger, Music Director

 

A Note from our Director of Music:

Dear Community of Friends at FCCS:

Wow, how time flies when you are having fun…when you love what you are doing!  I can’t believe I have already been with you five Sundays as of the writing of this article.  Many people have asked me, “how are you doing… how is the commute? I respond with a vigorous “I Love it!  This is such an open and loving community.”  I eagerly anticipate our worship times together.  These are precious times when we as a gathered assembly meet together to express our love and devotion to God and each other.

I was impressed with my first meeting with the Worship Committee this past Sunday.  The whole tone of our meeting was set by a wonderful question asked by Carol Duns, our chairperson.  She asked each of us “why do you come to worship?”  Here are some of the answers I heard:  “to fortify ourselves for the coming week, to learn, to be comforted, to be enriched, to be grounded in God, to express our love for God.”

I added that I come to worship to have an encounter with the Holy One in the presence of God’s people.  It is true, I can meet God sitting alone on my deck in the forest singing or playing my Native American flute.  But something mystical and special happens when I come with this community of faith and hear all the different voices and gifts praising God in harmony.  My spirit soars when I hear you singing, playing instruments, sharing your prayer requests, and giving of your time and talents.  This is something I can only experience when I am in community with my brothers or sisters.

So I encourage us all to keep coming to worship with an openness to meet God in new and vibrant

ways.  As we journey through the final weeks in Lent in anticipation for Easter Sunday, my prayer is that all our hearts will be receptive to hear God’s voice so that we can better serve each other and the world.

Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone)

Daryl Hollinger

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