Singing the Advent Collects

I am always glad to say that Anglicans are prayerful people. Our personal and corporate worship is shaped by the Book of Common Prayer, literally a collection of trusted prayers and readings from the Bible that we can all use together. And we have names for the specific types of prayers we use in worship.

One of them is the collect (pronounced CO-llect, like you call someone, not co-LLECT, like you collect stamps) and it provides us a specific pattern for simple prayer. 1) Address God. 2) Make a request. 3) Invoke the name of Jesus in worship. 4) Amen. At the beginning of each service we pray the Collect for Purity which follows this pattern.

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Maybe the Collect for Purity is particularly familiar to you because we sing an arrangement of it written by our Director of Music, Chris Sims. During this Advent season he has also released an arrangement of the Advent collect for that week each Sunday. You can find the first three if you follow Restoration on Instagram. I’m looking forward to hearing the fourth and final one this week. I asked Chris what inspired him to put these beautiful prayers to song.

What drew you to the collects?
Chris: The whole idea started with Instagram being the medium. They limit videos to 1 minute and I knew I wanted each tune to feel complete when you watched it, rather than just hearing a snippet of some larger composition. The collects were a fit because they are so quick and to the point which is exactly what I wanted these to be.

What is your process for putting prayers to music?
Chris: I wish I had a process. I’d probably get more material written, but the reality is that it’s always different. Sometimes is starts with a melody sometimes it starts by just reading the prayer over and over again to different rhythms until something feels good and then put notes around the feel of the words. With these I think it was more the latter.

How does singing help you to engage with the collects in a different way than saying them?
Chris: For me it’s the same reason that you teach kids the ABC song. I have a really terrible memory. Rachael could attest to that. I could have locked myself in a room for hours trying to memorize those prayers and it wouldn’t have happened. But now that I have a tune with them I will remember the words for years and years to come.

How do the collects for the Advent season prepare you for Christmas?
Chris: The words have a very serious tone, right? Sometimes very hopeful, but other times kind of desperate. It’s such an odd juxtaposition to the light heartedness of the commercial Christmas season, which I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love as well. These prayers help serve as a reminder of the sort of cosmic implications of Christ’s birth, rather than just the nostalgic feelings that get tied onto the holidays, and the carols and such.

Are there other liturgical songs you would like to write?
Ya, for sure. I don’t know what the next project will be but working on these prayers has really helped excite me about songwriting again, so I want to capitalize on that momentum because it’s hard to get that engine working again when you set it aside for too long.

Follow Restoration on Instagram and make sure to listen to the final Advent collect this Sunday.