Changes in Music Ministry in the face of COVID-19

Updated: Jul 10

by Jesse Ratcliffe



Typically, by mid-July I’ve solidified most of the framework for the program year and begin to set the works into motion. Unavoidably, “life happens” so there’s a constant need for flexibility. Now, planning is done almost week-by-week, which goes against the grain for me. Instead of being frustrated, it has pushed me to rethink my role as a parish musician and to explore new resources.

Like so many of you, it is difficult for me to think of worship without hymns. So, how can we enjoy hymns without singing them in church? Over the next few weeks, I invite you to submit three favorite hymns regardless if they’re in the 1982 Hymnal or not (if you can’t remember the full title, plug a few key words into the search bar at hymnary.org) and send them to me (jratcliffe@heavenlyrestabilene.org). I will make a series of videos of those hymns to be published on YouTube and Facebook. Until we are able to sing again, I encourage you to prayerfully reflect on the hymn texts and let them guide you through this uncertain time.

I am most thankful for the wealth of soloists and instrumentalists in this parish that have offered their gifts to fill the gaps of congregational song. It has been a joy to collaborate and explore new repertoire. For the month of July, a soloist will sing on the 5th and 28th, we’ll have another “virtual choir” video for the 19th (if you’d like to participate, please contact me), and a small handbell ensemble for the 12th.

For the safety of everyone, any group singing must occur outdoors. Tentatively, we are planning on an outdoor Compline for the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6th utilizing a group of eight singers. Similar “small ensemble” opportunities are in the works for the fall.


One of my favorite hymns, When In Our Music God is Glorified was penned by Fred Pratt Green and set to the glorious C.V. Stanford tune, Engelberg (pg. 420 in the ‘82 Hymnal). I have let the last verse guide me as I continue to plan with flexibility.

Let ev’ry instrument be tuned for praise!

Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!

Any may God give us faith to sing always

Alleluia!

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