Unveiling First Flight: A Glimpse into the Best of Worship Live

Added about 7 months ago by Gillian R. Warson

Preparing a book for publication can be an interesting and rewarding journey. Here Sacristy Press authors Janet Wootton and Gillian Warson write about their experience.

The journey to First Flight Feathers: The Best of Worship Live has been, for editors Gillian Warson and Janet Wootton, a very interesting and exciting one. Both, in their various ways, were involved in the worship journal Worship Live – Janet as the first editor and Gillian more recently as co-editor. First Flight Feathers, published by Sacristy Press in June 2023, is the result of two years’ work as Gillian and Janet trawled through every edition of Worship Live to bring to the fore the very best of this fine earlier publication.

For more than 20 years, Worship Live drew together the best of new writing for use in a church environment. Many poets, musicians, hymnwriters and liturgists (such as Andrew Pratt, Marjorie Dobson, Sue Gilmurray, Martin Leckebusch, and many othres) whose work would become well known first published in its pages. Worship Live honoured and nourished the many crafts involved in writing effective resources for worship, honing skills and sharpening tools, as we have worked with worship makers over the years. The title of the collection, First Flight Feathers, is taken from one of the poems in the book, “Landfall with Columba”, by Maggie Norton, which celebrates the craft of beautiful writing. Furthermore, Worship Live gave “first flight” to many who emerged newly fledged, feeling the wind of the Spirit under their wings, but tentative in trusting to their new plumage as published writers.

Worship Live grew out of an idea by the amazing hymnological entrepreneur, Bernard Braley, of Stainer & Bell Ltd., a publisher at the forefront of publishing new words and music for worship for a generation and more. They supported the development of the journal and published it through the first 17 years, and have continued to be supportive in preparation of the present book.

Working with a team of editors and a whole range of wonderful writers, composers and worship leaders, we were able to keep pace with global events, as well as responding to the ancient rhythms of the church year. Themes would emerge from the steady stream of material that flowed in, so we were able to explore grand theological topics, including four issues on the Trinity (I know!), or take sideways looks at biblical stories. Sometimes we focused on very human experiences, such as economic justice, or conflict, pain and loss.

In these pages, you will find hymns, songs, prayers, poems and stories. Here are practical resources for worship throughout the year, as well as material that will challenge established views, or speak straight to people’s hearts.

One of the most exciting things that came out of Worship Live, perhaps THE most exciting thing was that we saw hymn writing partnerships develop as a result of text writers and composers coming together. This happened in two ways. The first was that the editors simply asked for tunes to be composed to new texts that appeared in Worship Live. The second was that “Hymn Writing Weekends” were organized where groups of people spent two full days together exploring, drafting and refining ideas. At the end of each weekend, all the new hymns and songs were showcased. What great times of worship we had! It was at the end of such a weekend that that the idea of a “Best Of” collection was suggested as there was a strong feeling that the wonderful resources in Worship Live should be honoured and celebrated. It took a while for the project to take hold, but it has now arrived in the beautifully produced volume First Flight Feathers. Gillian and Janet are delighted with this opportunity to showcase a vibrant collection of items by writers and musicians and shows how they can develop into a community. Thanks to The Pratt Green Trust the work of this work continues to be available.

The story doesn’t end here. Gillian and Janet have already run one workshop based on First Flight Feathers, at the Hymn Society Conference in the summer, and we are planning other events. If you would be interested in learning more, or would like to host an event, please email firstflightfeathers@gmail.com.

Gillian Warson is a freelance writer, educator and musician. She has written books numerous books on hymnody and hymn singing, including Using Vintage Hymns in Worship, also published by Sacristy Press, and has given conference papers and led workshops all over the world.

Janet Wootton served as a Congregational Minister before becoming Director of Studies for the Congregational Federation, UK. She is a hymnwriter and author and a former editor of Worship Live.

Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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