Contemporary Congregational Songs by V. Michael McKay

By Abbington, James | The Hymn, Autumn 2007 | Go to article overview

Contemporary Congregational Songs by V. Michael McKay


Abbington, James, The Hymn


For more than a quarter of a century, churches throughout the country have been inspired by the words and music of V Michael McKay. As a well-respected gospel music conductor, clinician, speaker, songwriter, and author, McKay has dedicated his life to a greater level of music ministry with a passion to meet the needs of the people in the contemporary Christian community. He stresses the importance of biblically-based text with a contemporary music idiom that encourages the congregation to participate fully in music throughout the service.

McKay (b. 1952) is a two-time Dove Award winner and a 2000 inductee into the Gospel Hall of Fame. National artists such as Yolanda Adams, Tramaine Hawkins, Darryl Coley, and Albertina Walker have recorded his songs. His compositions, "The Redeemed Praise" (#8), "In His Place" (#10), and "The Decision" (#63), first appeared in For the Living of These Days: Resources for Enriching Worship published in 1995 by Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., Macon, GA. In addition to "The Decision" (#388), four other compositions, "The Lamb" (#179), "A Perfect Sacrifice" (#229), "Welcome To My Father Father's House" (#340), and "Koinonia" (#579) can be found in the African American Heritage Hymnal published by GIA Publications. "Koinonia" also appears in Gather Comprehensive published by GIA Publications (#606), a hymnal and service book for Roman Catholic parishes in the United States since the Second Vatican Council, and in the most recently published Zion Still Sings: For Every Generation published by Abingdon Press (#89), a revision of Songs of Zion, a supplemental worship resource for African American congregations in the United Methodist Church.

McKay was music director of "The Church Without Walls-Brookhollow Baptist Church" in Houston, TX when he composed "Koinonia" (see Example 1). The Reverend Dr. Ralph D. West, Pastor/Founder called him late one Friday evening and asked him to write a composition for a group of college students who were meeting at the church the next morning. While he apologized for asking him to compose a song at the last minute, which was not an unusual request, he was confident the Michael would come through with just the right song, and that he did. The composition was so well received that he asked that it be taught and sung on the following Sunday morning for the fellowship period. The congregation was so moved by the text and the gesture of fellowship, so much so, that it continues to be sung there and in many churches across the nation today. I have used "Koinonia" in Australia, Canada, Brazil, in many church music workshops, and in college and university chapel services throughout the United States, and it never ceases to amaze me how people are brought together and led into an authentic fellowship experience in worship through music.

"Koinonia" is a Greek word meaning fellowship. In an age of overwhelming praise and worship songs and endless vertical texts, to God and from God, it is refreshing and welcoming to hear congregations sing this simple, yet profound horizontal text while shaking hands, embracing, and singing to each other. The text is:

"Koinonia" is usually sung in unison by the congregation and/or in three-parts with sopranos singing the top note of the treble voices, altos singing the middle note, and tenors singing the lowest note. On those wonderful occasions where there are basses present, I teach the part from the accompaniment. I suggest that the note in bass clef be occasionally played an octave lower and in octaves on the dotted quarter notes for a stronger and fuller accompaniment. A good tempo for "Koinonia" is the dotted quarter = ca. 66-69. The song is usually sung three or more times until community is created and the period of fellowship draws to a close. …

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