Lord, on this Holy Saturday as your absence is so pronounced and we anticipate your return and the hope that it brings, may we not forget this feeling of longing and trembling and use it to help us choose you each and every morning until we finally meet you face to face.
Give Me Jesus and the hymn-tune by the same name, is a beautiful spiritual that began to make its way into hymnals in around 1860. Likewise, "Were You There" also grew out of the African American spiritual tradition although it's first inclusion in a hymnal wasn't until 1899. Additional stanzas ask the questions "Were you there when they pierced him in the side?" and one of the most poignant - "Were you there when the sun refused to shine?" which struck me immensely as I consider this Easter weekend.
Tonight's guest pianist is Dr. David Madeira, director of music at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, a professor of music theory and theology/worship studies at Belmont University, and a prolific composer, percussionist, pianist and arranger. An expert in the field of congregational psalmody, Dr. Madeira is best known for the creation of the twelve-point chant, a new format that makes chanting the Psalms accessible for modern congregations. His "The Twelve Point Chant Psalter" includes all 150 Psalms for congregational use and is available for purchase HERE. David and his wife Elizabeth, a teacher and community organizer, live near Nashville, TN with their three kids.
I'm grateful to Michelle Margiotta for her work editing this video.
Of all the events that I've had cancelled due to this pandemic, nothing has hit me harder than the loss of celebrating this Easter weekend with the congregations with which I was scheduled to worship is the loss that has weighed heaviest on me. The services that lead up to Easter Sunday are raw and weighty and I almost don't know how to move through this season without the guide of playing through music prayerfully curated to follow the liturgy and Scriptures that follow a series of events so crucial to our Faith. Although I often "work" on Easter Sunday worshipping with my violin alongside another church that I don't regularly attend, being with my St. B's community on Maundy Thursday through Saturday Vigil has become sacred to me.
Even tonight as I write this I'm grieving that we aren't in the sanctuary that has become such a safe space for me, playing notes that accompany our parish family down the path from the cross to the tomb to the garden. When I was first planning for this #HymnsFromHome series I'd shot David a text asking if he had any hymns he'd particularly like to play and he instantly recalled doing an arrangement of "Were You There" a few years ago (which I'd forgotten) and because the lamenting tone of that spiritual so well fits the desperate cry of "Give Me Jesus," I asked if he'd arrange the two together for Holy Saturday. In these hours between the crucifixion and the revelation of Christ's resurrection, I can only imagine the hushed discussions that would have taken place..."were YOU there? Last night? When Jesus who calls Himself the Messiah was crucified?" and how desperate His followers would have been to have Jesus back. Or at least understand the events that were unfolding. "Give me Jesus" would certainly have been their cry as it is ours tonight and all the time.
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Bethany is a freelance violinist/fiddler and tour manager who works with artists & events such as Kelly Minter, Cultivate: A Gathering Around The Word and Laura Story. She and her husband Keith live in Nashville, TN with their daughter Clare, cat & 6 backyard chickens. For more info on Bethany, visit her bio page!!