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A new tradition amid both joy and sorrow

Everyday God-Talk concerts for Advent and Christmas produce mournfulness and hopeful beauty

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

The Office of Theology & Worship and the Presbyterian Association of Musicians have combined to produce an online Advent concert through Everyday God-Talk. (iStock photo)

LOUISVILLE — After seeing the latest edition of Everyday God-Talk, the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for Worship in the Office of Theology and Worship, was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and rejoicing.

“Wow,” he wrote in an email to the guests. “What a joy to see and hear you all, not to mention your insightful comments.  I’m ready for Advent.  Thank you for this outstanding gift to the church.”

Gambrell was referencing the first ever virtual Advent Concert, presented by the Presbyterian Association of Musicians and the PC(USA)’s Office of Theology & Worship on Everyday God-Talk.

Everyday God-Talk host So Jung Kim, the PC(USA)’s associate for Theology, said she herself needed a concert during the seasons of Advent and Christmas this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she won’t be able to be with her family in South Korea this year.

“We’re all in isolation and our church services will be online, which creates an even greater feeling of distance,” Kim said.

Kim has also been thinking of her parents’ church, which is a small Presbyterian congregation in the outskirts of Seoul. The church may not have musical resources for Advent or Christmas, just like many small PC(USA) congregations.


Kelly Abraham is executive director of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians. (Screen shot)

But thanks to the expertise of Kelly Abraham, the executive director of PAM, Everyday God-Talk offers an accessible resource for these small churches from the PC(USA)’s Glory to God hymnal.

Gambrell also encouraged the idea, saying that the first Lessons and Carols service took place in 1918, which was also the year of a global influenza pandemic.

Eric Wall, Adam Ward, Phillip Morgan and Kelly Abraham join So Jung Kim (top center) for the Everyday God-Talk Advent and Christmas concerts. (Screen Shot)

With encouragement from colleagues from both the Office of Theology & Worship and Presbyterian Association of Musicians, the first Everyday God-Talk concert came together for Advent and Christmas seasons, which Kim hopes will become another beautiful tradition born in this unusual time.

Along with the performers, all four selections from Glory to God featured in the concert are listed below.  The Christmas Eve concert will soon follow with another list of four songs.

#101: “No Wind at the Window

  • Eric Wall, assistant professor of Sacred Music, Dean of Chapel, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, President of the PAM executive board: “This hymn rides the balance between a kind of hopeful beauty and almost a mournfulness, you might say. This is a fraught encounter with this angel and this young woman.”

Eric Wall performing “No Wind at the Window.” (Screen shot)

 #105 “People Look East

  • Adam Ward, director of Music Ministries, Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte and at-large PAM board member: “It’s one of the few Advent hymns that is upbeat. The first time we sang in it in church, it was the most exciting and exhilarating thing for me. The first time I got to play it for congregation to sing was even better — so much fun. It talks about preparing our space and about greening our homes — ‘make your house fair as you are able; trim the hearth and set the table.’ This is a get-yourself-ready [Advent hymn].”

 #127 “Jesus, the Light of the World

  • Phillip Morgan, director of Music at Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and former PAM executive board member: “It is so like the evolution of gospel music to take a pre-existing very old text [“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”] and attach a gospel refrain to it. I wanted to show how you could use this in Advent way. The idea of we’ll walk in the light is a way of still saying we are waiting in darkness — without actually singing about the darkness.”

 #122 “Silent Night, Holy Night!

“It is a guitar accompaniment, not a piano, so I think that is pretty special. You get string instruments,” said Kelly Abraham, PAM executive director.  “They recorded on a 70- degree day in November, safely distanced, having masks on, which even more brings out this message of what we are not able to do. And I was sitting there watching the cello standing on the grass. It’s amazing what we can do when we can’t do something.”

You can watch the Everyday God-Talk Advent concert here or on the Theology and Worship Facebook page.

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