On Transfiguration Sunday in 2003, the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell was ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Fast forward 18 years and Gambrell now serves as associate for worship in the Office of Theology and Worship in the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
“That ordination was an echo or a ripple of my baptism 30 years earlier as I accepted a new calling in Christ’s service,” he said. “It was a way of building on the promises of my baptism to serve God in a new and particular way.”
Gambrell reflected on his baptism and calling as he wrote music for the Year of Leader Formation: Investing in Ruling Elders and Deacons. The initiative, launched by Mid Council Ministries in the Office of the General Assembly, is a yearlong focus on the ecclesial formation of ruling elders and deacons in the ministry of the church.
“I believe that our understanding of collegial ministry — drawing on the spiritual gifts and leadership of deacons, ruling elders and ministers — is one of the great gifts the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition has to offer to the larger church,” said Gambrell. “This is how we understand our connection and collaboration in the body of Christ, as many members with different gifts, all working for the common good.”
Gambrell wrote and recorded new worship music as an additional resource for the campaign, which includes new training resources, a webinar series and other tools to help participants grow in their roles.
“I love the idea of this Year of Leader Formation, particularly for deacons and ruling elders, so I was honored to be able to contribute a hymn for this effort,” he said. “The new tune emerged as I was writing the words. But I also wanted to offer an alternative tune that would already be familiar in many Presbyterian churches, so I have suggested ’Valet will ich dir geben,’ or ‘All Glory, Laud. and Honor.’”
Gambrell says music offers a way to illustrate some of the theological issues at stake.
“For instance, I wanted this hymn to have unison and harmony sections,” he said. “Unison to highlight the distinctive gifts of deacons, ruling elders and ministers, and harmony to demonstrate how, when we work together in God’s purpose, we are more than the sum of our parts.”
Gambrell says much of the text in the music is based on the PC(USA) Book of Order.
“I used the sections on the meaning of membership and baptism as well as the definitions of what it means to be a deacon, ruling elder and minister of Word and Sacrament to give shape to the hymn text,” he said. “I also found inspiration in Jesus’ ‘I am’ saying in John 14: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’ Finally, the trinitarian imagery in the first stanza is intended to be another connection to baptism.”
Gambrell says he hopes the new pieces will not only educate and equip people but inspire them to review the Book of Order and read passages focusing on deacons and elders and their importance in church ministry.