A Note to the Pastor
Pastors would do well to choose hymns and psalms for the service early in the worship preparation process. You can then announce the song choices to the musicians and the congregation well in advance (either in the bulletin a week or two prior to use or by posting the coming week’s bulletin on the church’s website), thus benefitting all who participate.
Music takes time and effort to learn and prepare properly. Early notice is of great value to service musicians, who should always be preparing in advance to lead these hymns and psalms. For amateur volunteer musicians, rudiments such as pitch accuracy, rhythmic fluency, and appropriate tempos for singing are greatly improved by a week or two of advance practice. These things should be expected as part of the service of those who lead the music in worship, since skilled playing is biblically commanded of them (Ps. 33:3).
Advance planning also helps trained musicians to help the congregation. These musicians can often follow the words of the different stanzas as they play, and can assist congregations with proper breathing (at punctuation points, for example), as well as performing the hymns in musical styles that support the general tone of the stanza. But even advanced musicians need preparation to do this well.
Finally, early notice of hymns can also be helpful to individual congregation members or families who seek to meditate on the texts to be sung, or, in the case of a new hymn or psalm, learn the tune or voice parts in advance of the worship service. This should always be encouraged, but especially for a new hymn or psalm tune.
Timothy and Lou Ann Shafer
Musicologist and Music Editor, Trinity Psalter Hymnal