Church musicians have long found it almost impossible to provide solos or ensemble numbers which would be a proper medium of thought to immediately precede the morning sermon. This has been caused by the limited repertoire of soloists and choirs as a whole, and also the reticence of most ministers to commit themselves on sermon topics and materials very far in advance of actual delivery. Their well-planned programs are often interruped by visiting speakers.
For these reasons, actual sermon titles are usually announced too late for suitable accompanying music to be arranged. Furthermore, when attempts are made, the result is often embarrassing contrast between the music just rendered and sermon text which follows.
It is to overcome these difficulties that we have put into use in our church the hymn of meditation, just preceding the morning's sermon. It should be sung quietly, and with a spirit of meditation and consecration. Both choir and congregation remain seated. When this is followed by a short introductory prayer by the pastor, the setting is complete for the sermon message.
It is important, however, that hymns be selected which have a peculiar fitness for this place in the service. In general, use those hymns employing the first person (singular or plural), having a predominant theme of personal devotion. As examples, we list the following, all from The Church Hymnal:
"O, could I find, from day to day,
A nearness to my God." (No. 322.)
"Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our feverish ways." (No. x16.)
"Take my heart, O Father, take it !
Make and keep it all Thine own." (No. 269.)
"'We would see Jesus'; for the shadows lengthen
Across the little landscape of our life." (No. 29.)
Avoid the shallow and the sentimental in these songs. There are so many excellent hymns available in the new Church Hymnal that it is unforgivable to use an unworthy medium for this important place in the worship program.
There is great need for more careful study in the preparation of music suitable to the worship hour. The foregoing suggestion is submitted for trial, in the hope that it will provide a suitable answer to a difficult problem.