Tag Archives: music

Contemplation at The First

We recently had a service focused on music, art, and contemplative readings.  The theme was “Sitting with the Mystics”.  As part of the theme a beautiful interpretation of Andrei Rublev’s icon “The Trinity” was hung at the front of the sanctuary.  The painting is from the 15th century and is also called “The Hospitality of Abraham”. You can see the painting as follows:


There is a beckoning of the Spirit to the table to be one with God, and a sense of unity and respect among the three figures.  Colour plays a strong role with gold (left) indicating God the Absolute, blue (center) representing the Christ, and green (right) representing the Holy Spirit.

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Advent Choir 2013 – Hallelu

Friends – please enjoy this simple recording of a recent Christmas Choir performance at The First Mennonite.  We wish you good health and many blessings in the new year!

Hallelu (Christmas 2013)

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Join the chorus

A few weeks ago a bunch of shoppers at the Seaway Mall were having their lunch when a woman on her cellphone started singing the “Hallelujah Chorus”.  More and more shoppers stood up and started singing…  You can see the whole event on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE Chorus Niagara members planned this unannounced event.

There is something compelling about the video—I’ve watched it a bunch of times.   Maybe it’s the transition from the little keyboard playing “Jingle Bells” to the opening bars of Handel’s score.  Maybe it’s the lovely voices ringing out in front of the fast food outlets.  Maybe it’s the wide eyes and open mouths on the children’s faces.  Maybe it’s the confidence and joy in the voice of the singers, young and old.  Maybe it’s the way an ordinary every day can be transformed by beauty in an instant, beauty that flares up, then fades away, as everyone turns back to their French fries and newspapers.  But something has happened, you’ve turned back, but you’ve experienced something, and you are changed.  I think God breaks into our lives in ways like this. Join the 13, 195, 871 people who have seen this video.

This week’s prayer:  Help us join the chorus of the faithful this Christmas, singing praise to you with our whole hearts.

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Taize worship

My first experience of Taize style worship came when I was studying theology in Toronto. I remember the service because of its simplicity. The music was striking; simple beautiful melodies which sank into my soul. The gentle repetition of phrases in the music such as, “God is forgiveness, ” “Love, and do not fear”, anchored them deep within me. The reading of scripture punctuated the music, and because there were few words spoken, they seemed to be clearer. And there was light…candles and icons, a feast for the eyes. I came away feeling fed.

Since then I’ve learned more about the Taize community, and how it was founded in France in the 1950’s by Brother Roger. This intentional ecumenical community served the community, eventually evolving into a centre of worship, particularly for young people. I have never been to Taize but a number of people from our congregation have been there, and were profoundly moved by the experience. It is characterized by simple music, scripture, a visual focus and an international flavour. All designed to draw people together to worship God, who is love.

This Sunday our evening service will be a Taize service. Those who are able will be invited to sit on the floor for worship…I wonder how this will shape your experience. Perhaps it will remind us that we all come to God humbly, as children.

This week’s prayer: Prepare our hearts to come to worship you.

For more information about Taize, go to http://www.taize.fr

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Political troubles

When you read the words of the title to this blog, maybe you thought of a politician who is facing a scandal or an investigation. But that’s not the type of political troubles we’re talking about this Sunday. As we continue our series on “Our God in Troubled Times” we are talking about what happens when the government is hostile to you. Or maybe it’s not hostile, it just breaks down and becomes ineffective. Or maybe there’s a war, and your government is overthrown. Or maybe… Political troubles come in lots of variations.

At our Mennonite Central Committee Fundraising Dinner this Saturday we will be talking to four people who experienced political troubles. Different countries, different continents, different time periods, different situations. What links their stories is that their political troubles made their lives unbearable, and it prompted them to flee. What also links their stories is that people working in the name of Jesus, people working through Mennonite Central Committee, helped them in their relocation journey.

What are our prayers like when we do not feel safe in our society? What is the nature of our worship when we are filled with fear and uncertainty? We’ll be exploring this in our service this week. Here’s a hint: come prepared to sing!

This week’s prayer: Help us to listen to the voices of our brothers and sisters in countries torn apart by political instability.  Help us to hear your voice as we respond.


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Music in worship at First Mennonite

This week at church council, we heard a proposal from the music committee. For a number of years, we have had four or five pianists on a regular rotation for our worship services, but that is changing. I’ve also noticed that it’s been many years since we’ve had a men’s group sing, or a choir for Easter or Advent or Pentecost, or an orchestra of all our musicians. People are very busy and don’t have time to put into the organizing needed for this type of music ministry, and we’ve had some musically talented people move out of the congregation as well.

Once Katie Friesen leaves for Chad, the burden for accompaniment will fall on only two people, which is a very heavy load. Our musicians already spend many hours choosing and rehearsing the music that we enjoy, and we really appreciate it! Even with four pianists this past year, I read many emails as people scrambled to find a replacement for a Sunday they were planning to be away. We have some younger children who are studying piano, but it may be many years before they feel comfortable playing for a whole worship service.

Church council is inviting everyone to a meeting after church on July 5th to talk about the music committee’s proposal, which I am including here. We hope you can come and join the discussion!

Music Committee Proposal

There is no doubt that music is a powerful form of communal worship and that it is important in the eyes of the people of First Mennonite. We are at a crossroads. Harold Nigh has left off playing piano indefinitely. Katie Friesen is leaving us this summer for a year in Chad. Now is an opportunity perhaps to look for a musician who would not only help to replace these losses, but would help us co-ordinate and facilitate music and the musicians in our church. We are suggesting that the church consider paying a musician for this purpose. This would not mean replacing our volunteer musicians, but hiring someone to work with us and strengthen us in this ministry.

Music committee is proposing that we hire a musician on a six-month contract. Working several hours a week, we may need to budget $3000 for this expense. We could review how this is working at the end of six months. Katie Friesen and I would be happy to talk about this further with you, as to whether you think this is a good direction to take. Thanks for your consideration of this request.

Jane Nigh and Katie Friesen, Music Committee

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