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Music as a part of ritual
Music for worship in the classroom setting can take a variety of directions. You can honor the traditional adult way of worshiping, with preludes, hymns, offertories, and postludes, or you can take many new directions. Whatever you do, give worship a sense of ritual. As you light the chalice, for example, you can add meaning by singing a song like "Rise Up, O Flame" (Singing the Living Tradition, #362), Stephen Finner's "Chalice Lighting" (May This Light Shine, #2), or one of your own choosing. May This Light Shine: A Songbook for Children and Youth is a wonderful resource published by the Unitarian Universalist Music Network (available from the UUA Bookstore at www.uuabookstore.org).
Give songs for worship a sense of ritual. You do not need to wait until the pianist gets to a certain point in his or her play-through to have the group stand and sing. The simple act of beginning and/or ending with silence can make a huge difference. Beginning with a bell has a wonderful calming effect.
In one sense, ritual is a form of sacred theater that contains staged elements. When these elements are repeated week after week, they become ritual—but ritual is so much more. If we were to participate in worship at a synagogue, a Catholic church, or a Buddhist temple, for example, we would see rituals that connect participants to the past. The opening of the Arc in Jewish traditions makes thousands of years come alive in the present. You might take great comfort in singing an ancient text like the "Alleluia." The comfort is in knowing that, by singing this phrase, we keep the traditions alive. For many Unitarian Universalists, singing "Spirit of Life" connects us to our past, and knowing that we keep the flame of our faith alive by singing the song comforts us. Lighting the chalice is a ritual. In many UU fellowships, lighting the candles of joys and concerns is a beloved ritual. We can enrich each ritual by adding songs or music in the background.