Selecting the hymn for the end of worship

The final hymn in worship, usually called the recessional hymn, has a unique musical and liturgical function.  It needs to bring the worship experience to a close, providing a sort of resumé of the activity of common worship.  It should be joyous and faith-filled, not introspective, individualistic, or didactic.

The music should be buoyant and energetic, with a positive feeling to it – therefore, never in a minor key.  (Just ask Arvella Schuller, wife of Robert Schuller of “Hour of Power” and Crystal Cathedral fame.  She flatly forbade the singing of any music in a minor key in the Crystal Cathedral.  When they installed a carillon in the bell tower, she insisted that the bells be cast in such a way as to make the minor third overtone a major third.  Now that's a little obsessive, but she has a point:  minor music should be used sparingly, carefully and with intention.)

Most importantly, the text should open outward into praise and service.  The lyrics may speak in general about various aspects of our belief, but the overall sense of the text must be moving forward, moving outward, going forth in love and praise.  Not “I Heard the Voice of Jesus.”  Not “Just as I Am”.  Not “What A Friend We Have in Jesus.” Those texts are static; at the end, they leave you standing right where you are.  "Go to the world, go struggle, bless, and pray ..."  The text of the hymn should send people forth into the world with happy, positive energy, taking the experience of common worship and moving forward.

With those criteria in mind, there are 23 hymns in Common Praise which are eligible to be sung at the end of the Sunday morning service.  They are listed below.  The only exceptions would be (a) special occasions [like a marriage, or Ultrea], and (b) seasonal hymns [like Christmas and Easter].  Even in Lent, you need to send people forth with a positive, alleluia-free message, so they want to come back next week.  If Lent is too grim and the music leaves people feeling crappy, they'll just stay home for individual self-flagellation.  The Christian message, even in the most penitential of seasons, is one of hope and joy.


List of Hymns Eligible to be Sung at the End of the Service

other than seasonal hymns

74    For the Bread Which You Have Broken

87    Strengthen for Service

210    Yours Be the Glory

322    All Hail the Power

329    Maker, in Whom We Live

374    Alleluia, Sing to Jesus

378    Crown Him with Many Crowns

397    Praise the One

399    Now Thank We All Our God

425    Joyful, Joyful

438    O Jesus, I Have Promised

444    Your Hand, O God, Has Guided 

447    Lord, We Hear Your Word

451    King of Love (musically good, theologically dubious)

482    Come and Journey

486    Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

528    O God, Our Help in Ages Past

565    Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

576    For the Healing of the Nations

577    God of Grace and God of Glory

598    Go to the World

602    Lift High the Cross

631    The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy

You may be wondering why this list doesn't include 570 Lord Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing; after all, the text relates specifically to the dismissal at the end of the service.  I would never use it because I think the music is a major turkey!  It's bland and ploddy, I don't care how beautifully you play it, this music is dull and static.  The curly melodic stuff in the last line is too suddenly busy.  The suggested alternative tune, 550 Alleluia Dulce Carmen, isn't a whole lot better.  Besides, with only two verses this piece is not useful to end an Anglican service with a procession, unless the priest and servers are on roller skates.