A Cappella Sunday
A Cappella Sunday is when worshiping communities from across the world commit to singing a cappella in their Sunday morning worship service. For communities where this is a new concept, it could just be one hymn, but for communities that are more comfortable singing unaccompanied, they are encouraged to sing their entire service a cappella. Below are why we do it, when we do it, and some resources to help make it successful.
Spending one Sunday a year to focus on your congregation singing a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment) has many benefits and purposes.
- It connects us to the history of the church. For thousands of years, a cappella singing was the mainstay of the church’s song. By recognizing this and exploring this way of music-making, we are acknowledging and honoring the saints of the past.
- It connects us to many Christian denominations, traditions, and regions of the world that continue to use a cappella music as their primary mode of music-making in corporate worship. Those include but are not limited to many Mennonite denominations, the Church of Christ, many Orthodox traditions, the Church of God in Christ, and South African Methodists.
- It offers to God something that is, for many congregations in the United States and Canada, a gift that is different from our usual music-making. Psalm 96:1 tells us to “Sing a new song to the Lord,” which can be achieved for some of us by singing a cappella.
- It encourages the congregation’s song by building up confidence in their own voices. Many in our congregations believe that they can’t sing, or can’t sing well. Singing a cappella presents those people with the best opportunity to hear themselves and others singing, giving them a fresh perspective on their assumptions of their own abilities and the ability of the congregation’s combined voice.
- It emphasizes the unique ability of instruments to enhance the congregation’s song. By showing the congregation that they can sing without instrumental accompaniment, instrumental accompaniment can then begin to enhance and empower the congregation’s voice rather than acting primarily as a crutch.
- It allows the instrumentalists to spend a Sunday listening carefully to the congregation to assess where their voice needs support. Often times it is hard to listen carefully to the congregation when you are focusing on playing your instrument accurately and musically. This gives the instrumentalists permission to step away for a Sunday without feeling like they are leaving the congregation stranded.
- Finally, singing a cappella is fun! By removing our typical means of accompanying song, our minds are often challenged to come up with new and creative ways to sing together that maintains energy and vitality. It can bring out the best in not only the congregation, but in the musician’s leadership.
Each year on the first Sunday of Lent (2019 is Sunday, March 10th)
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St. Rita Catholic Church – Ranger, TX
St John UMC – Augusta, GA
Trinity Lutheran Church – Bend, OR
Minnetonka UMC – Minnetonka, MN
Vienna Baptist Church – Vienna, VA
Aldersgate United Methodist Church – Alexandria, VA
Blythefield Christian Reformed – Rockford, MI
First Baptist Church – Vancouver, BC, Canada
San Rocco Oratory of Chicao Heights – Chicago Heights, IL
Pilgrim Lutheran Church – St. Paul, MN
Emmanuel Lutheran Church – Pittsburgh, PA
Church of Our Saviour Lutheran Church – Fond du Lac, WI
St. Catherine of Siena R. C. Church – Corpus Christi, TX
Rainbow Mennonite Church – Kansas City, KS
East Hill Church of Christ – York, NE
First UMC – Boerne, TX
Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church – La Mesa, CA
Fleetwood Christian Reformed Church – Surrey, BC, Canada
First Friends Meeting – Greensboro, NC
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church – Crystal Lake, IL
Gethsemane Lutheran Church – Columbus, OH
Fifth Avenue Baptist Church – Huntington, WV
Berkeley United Methodist Church – Austin, TX
North Chevy Chase Christian Church – Chevy Chase, MD
The First Baptist Church in America – Providence, RI
St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church – Dedham, MA
Grace Episcopal Church – Lexington, VA
First Baptist Church Vancouver – Vancouver, BC, Canada
Westminster United Church – Whitby, ON, Canada
Rejoice Ministries Christian Church – Oakland, CA
First Presbyterian Church – Rapid City, SD
Aldersgate UMC – Alexandria, VA
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen – Baltimore, MD
Storrs Congregational Church UCC – Storrs Mansfield, CT
Truth Worship Centre, Sovima Logos Bible College – Dimapur, Nagaland, India
Little Zion Lutheran – Telford, PA
First Baptist Church – Rapid City, SD
St. John Lutheran – Angleton, TX
Winterville Christian Church – Winterville, N.C.
Village Church on Antioch – Overland Park, KS
St James Lutheran – Pottstown, Pa
Westminster United Methodist Church – Westminster, MD
First Baptist Church – Rapid City, SD
Friedens United Church of Christ – St.Charles, MO
All Saints’ Anglican Westboro – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
St. Philip’s Anglican Church – Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
Trinity Episcopal – Mattoon, IL
NuValley Presbyterian Church – Rural Valley, PA
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church – Akron, OH
SouthWest Church of Christ – Ambarvale, NSW, Australia
Boulevard Church – Oklahoma City, OK
NPM-Chapter of the Archdiocese of San Antonio – San Antonio, TX
Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church – Mayfield, NY
Port Stanley United Church – Port Stanley, Ontario, Canada
Vestavia Hills Baptist Church – Vestavia Hills, AL
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church – Northfield, MN
Grace Community Church – Angier, NC
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Friend of The Center, D.J. Bulls from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area has spent his career in an a cappella singing denomination the Church of Christ.
Below are three resources he suggests to check out if your interested in a cappella hymn singing:
1. Fearless4you.com Is a website that provides a cappella, four-part congregational arrangements for a number of different types of modern hymns and contemporary worship songs/anthems/choruses. Available in round and shaped notes, many with rehearsal recordings and projected notation as well.
2. ZOEgroup.org This is a group that has done 20 something albums of four-part, presentational, and congregational a cappella worship. Folios with arrangements and individual pdf’s are available on their website and recordings are available on the iTunes store, Amazon Music, and google play.
3. paperlesshymnal.com This is a site that is a compendium of digital, projected four-part arrangements for congregations of thousands of hymns.