Music Old and New: Message – Timeless

While I prepared for this Sunday’s service I noticed the wonderful range of music we had chosen to express ourselves. Stylistically: African tribal as in Marty Haugen’s “God is Still Speaking”, pop rock with Bruce Harding’s “Shine”, a contemporary ballad “Come Touch Our Hearts”  by Gordon Light and the rich heritage hymn “Come, Let Us Sing of a Wonderful Love” — each of these songs, in their diversity of language, poetry, melody and harmony and various rhythms will lift up and support a particular part of the message on Sunday. Woven together they each contribute to the message that:

We are beloved.
We are called to live with joy!

The choir will be singing a song written by Fred Kaan in 1967, with music by Ron Klusmeier which is very much focused on celebrating the here and now. I find these lyrics wonderfully relevant and contemporary even though they were written 45 years ago. … you might want to reflect on the author’s comments and lyrics below. I am looking forward to seeing many of you this Sunday.

Oak Bay United Church
1355 Mitchell St. Victoria








Gordon Miller
Music Minister


“the present tense” by Fred Kaan

Author’s Comments

• Author Fred Kaan, from his book The Only Earth We Know (Stainer & Bell / Hope Publishing Co., 1999, page 68): “Written in 1967-ish for the Plymouth Church in Plymouth [England], this hymn tries to spell out our priorities as far as our evaluation and use of time are concerned. One thing is for sure: tradition is dynamic rather than static; it means ‘remembering forward’. We cannot hand Christ back, so to speak. Handing Christ on — tradition! — is future orientated. Meanwhile, there is the here-and-now…”


Thank you, O god, for the time that is now,
for all the newness your minutes allow;
make us alert with your presence of mind
to fears and longings that move human kind.

Thank you, O God, for the time that is past,
for all the values and thoughts that will last.
May we all stagnant traditions ignore,
leaving behind things that matter no more.

Thank you for hopes of the day that will come,
for all the change that will happen in time;
God, for the future our spirits prepare,
hallow our doubts and redeem us from fear.

Make us afraid of the thoughts that delay,
faithful in all the affairs of today;
keep us, Creator, from playing it safe,
thank you that now is the time of our life!


’tis the Season

As we make final preparations for our Advent dress rehearsal (I am writing this to the accompaniment of Greg Davidson tuning the sanctuary piano) and organize music and shepherd the singers into place, encouraging their finest choral sounds, festooning the space with organza and candle, I am reminded of tensions in the air from special events past.

It seemed like such a good idea when the creative seed was planted … what if we — and we could also — and then before you know it you have signed on for a project that will consume hours of your precious time, draw heavily on your creative resources and exhaust many of the favours you have to call in.

“Why do we do this to ourselves?” a colleague once remarked to me right at that moment of … what is it, despair — not really — panic — maybe — uncertainty that it all wont work out — it usually does … that moment of, well … what’s it all for!?

The concert or event — what ever it was — went ahead. The songs were sung, the applause, the thank yous, and then the magic that was created in the performance bubbled over into the space where the community gathered.

They were laughing, smiling, greeting, sharing, eating squares, drinking punch, catching up, congratulating, hugging, hosting, being hosted, in a way that faith communities do particularly well.

This is why you do this, I was able to say to my colleague. Look at the opportunity you have created for this community to be community. This doesn’t happen after a Stuart McLean Christmas concert where everyone applauds and goes their separate ways and the Vinyl Cafe crew gets on the tour bus and does it all again two days later in another theatre in another town. The “virtual community” of radio or cyberspace is not a replacement for a date square made by your neighbour, served by a friend in an experience shared with a new soul you are just about to meet.

This season, as busy as I know you are, take in more than one musical or social event sponsored by the faith communities in your neighbourhood! It will be worth your effort too.

Light One Candle

Everything Possible

Carols By Candlelight

Blue Christmas 

Festival of Light: Chanukah


Amazing performance – discouraging or empowering

Sometimes amazing performances by others discourage us. … we might think that we can never aspire to this level or that quality.

Better I think that we experience the WOW, the AMAZING, the JOY of the moment. Let it settle and drip over us and through us and then … think about what bit of what we experienced could we include in our work. Some small thing or things that raises the bar for us.

Enjoy … let me know what you think.

Popular Songs at Church?

A few months ago for a church service, I was asked to play “Ordinary Miracle” (performed Sarah McLachlan).  It fit beautifully and I was pleased to have the opportunity. Got me thinking about other “pop” tunes that have made it into United Church worship services.

Ones that don’t have explicit God language like “It’s a Wonderful World” or “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. (got heck from some circles for playing that one) … This coming Sunday I am planning on singing with renowned tenor, Robyn Cathcart, the beautiful Placido Domingo / John Denver duet “Perhaps Love”.  Without much difficulty one could see it as a religious piece, even though the text’s original intention was of a more secular love. (LYRICS)

What do you think?

Supports a Sunday experience?

Sometimes a simple “amen” says it all;

… a very upbeat and bluesy AMEN is how we finished an amazing day of growing together.
The choirs of Cadboro Bay United and Oak Bay United churches joined forces for a full day of singing and sharing.

We worked hard and challenged our voices to sing a range of styles with and without printed music. We discussed our role in music ministry and workshopped several new anthems. My thanks to our Oak Bay UC choir, my colleague Christine Chepyha and the choir of Cadboro Bay UC for their enthusiastic participation.

My most memorable learning (among many) of the day was: community is something we create together, it comes from shared experiences, trust and a desire to grow … our ministry of music can be our vehicle for building community.