I posted recently about two issues that have made a connection for me: Singing as an Expression of Faith and my Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola. While on the pilgrimage at our stop in Avila, I encountered a group of pilgrims in the town square joyfully singing hymns and clapping their hands, a scene I have encountered before from groups of different ethnicities.
On the next bus ride, I lamented to my friend and colleague Tom McGrath that, up to that point, we had not done any singing as a group on the pilgrimage and that, in general, spontaneous singing is a lost art in Anglo culture. We decided to remedy that and so, from that point on, whenever our group gathered for Mass, Tom and I invited the group to sing some brief songs and refrains. Our first attempt was “Now Thank We All Our God,” but many of our younger pilgrims did not know the words from memory. At our next opportunity, we introduced a refrain that could be repeated Taize-like and learned spontaneously: “Take, O Take Me as I Am” and later, the popular “Halle, halle, halle-luia!” The response was enthusiastic. In fact, after Mass, as we dispersed and headed for the bus, I heard a small group of our younger colleagues spontaneously break into “Here I Am, Lord.” I made a mental note and pulled that one out for our next Mass, confident that they knew the lyrics.
This, of course, got me to thinking: what if every parish staff sat down with the music director and drew up a list of 10–12 “go-to” songs that folks either know or could learn easily, and committed to singing one of these at EVERY parish gathering? The songs should be short, repeatable, snappy, and uplifting. (You may want to have two or three that are more “sedate” such as “Jesus, Remember Me,” for occasions that are more solemn.) Every parish organization would be asked to appoint one person who is capable of carrying a melody to initiate singing at every parish gathering.
So, here’s my question to you: if you were to compile a list of 10–12 “go-to” songs for your parish to sing spontaneously at any parish gathering, what songs/refrains would you choose?