“Lutherans Restoring Creation is a grass roots movement promoting care for creation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”
Last September LRC premiered a creation-centered worship service that 600 churches, including St. Mark’s, viewed as their Sunday morning worship service. It was an inspiring service of hymns, music, readings, prayers, and nature featuring photography.
Pastor Sarah Locke is on the board for LRC. When she told me they were preparing another virtual worship service and invited our St. Mark’s musicians to participate, I was happy to say “Yes!”
We were assigned a hymn that was completely new to me – “God Created Heaven and Earth” (ELW 738).
Immediately I saw a challenge of presenting this Taiwanese hymn in a way that didn’t westernize it.
music, including much of its hymnody, is different from what we are used to.
Western ears hear music vertically – each note of the melody has implied
harmonies. We expect certain sequences (cadences) at the end of musical
But Asian melodies do not imply harmonies in the same way. They are more about forward motion and the turn of musical phrases.
I noticed right away that the tune was based on a 5 – note pentatonic scale. (If you play the black notes on a piano in sequence, you have a pentatonic scale. You can play these notes in any combination and find a pleasing sound.) This meant our accompaniment could be randomly played notes that would add an ethereal quality and provide its own harmony.
I decided to do something that alternated instrumental verses (oboe and viola, of course!) with singing.
the very beginning a drone is struck, signifying the Spirit of God brooding
over the waters as we hear the instruments play the melody for the first time.
A simple drum rhythm leads us into the first stanza which is accompanied by
random handbells gently ringing notes from the pentatonic scale.
The instruments come back, this time playing the melody in canon – or in a round. This allows the melody to create its own harmonies.
The drum leads us into stanza two, accompanied by a few additional bells with gentle random ringing.
The instruments come back with a simple bicinium stanza – two independent voice parts. In this case the oboe takes the melody while the viola plays a counter melody that mirrors the activity of rain as it falls to the earth and evaporates back to the atmosphere.
The drum leads us back into the final sung stanza. We add more bells. Their ringing is still random, but it’s also faster and majestic so that “All earth’s creatures, small and great, praise God for that blessed state!” A final chord is struck and the sound is allowed to fade.”
See the full worship service here:
See a version of "God Created Heaven and Earth" by itself:
video was premiered as part of our prerecorded Easter Vigil service and was
also included in the Lutherans Restoring Creation worship service - right after a sermon by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.
Thank you to everyone who participated in creating it, Pastor Sarah Locke for the invitation, and to Pastor Daniel Locke managing our recording session.
Windchime photo: This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57866827
Musician's Guide to Evangelical Lutheran Worship
Evangelical Lutheran Worship