Top Songs for Pentecost

Six pastors and church musicians list their top songs for Pentecost. You can find most of these songs on Hymnary.org or YouTube.

Alison AdamAlison Adam: International song and worship leader

Current city: Grange-over-Sand, Cumbria, United Kingdom

Denominational context: United Reformed Church

Worship roles: Iona Community member who leads music and worship at workshops and events. She and John Bell co-produced the book and CD Sing with the World: Global Songs for Children. At her former church in London, she was on a team that helped choose songs based on the lectionary.

Top Pentecost songs:

In brief: Twenty years ago, a science student on an alternative worship team told me that in the Old Testament, one of the Hebrew names for the Spirit is Ruach, and that name is feminine! Holy Ghost was the name most used in my childhood church, which made the Spirit “it” and spooky. What this student shared changed me forever. The people of God have experienced, imagined, expressed and named God as having a feminine nature. Wow! We know that all humans are made in the image of God, so human nature, masculine and feminine, are of God. How then could we fail to joyfully embrace the possibility of expressing the Holy Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with the Spirit as “she”? It’s a bigger picture of God, and it’s biblical. So when choosing songs for Pentecost, I make it a priority to use songs which speak of God’s Spirit in the feminine. I include a word of explanation and have never had a negative response expressed to me. I believe it is because people know, from experience, of the feminine qualities of God’s care for them.

Go-to resources: Fire and Bread: Resources from Easter Sunday to Trinity Sunday by Ruth Burgess and Enemy of Apathy: Wild Goose Songs, Volume 2, by John Bell and Graham Maule

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John FergusonJohn Ferguson: Composer and Elliot and Klara Stockdal Johnson professor of organ and church music (emeritus) at St. Olaf College

Current city: Northfield, Minnesota

Denominational context: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Worship roles: Leads church music ministry and helps plan worship as St. John’s Lutheran Church interim director of music and worship. Designs and leads local, national and ecumenical hymn festivals.

Top Pentecost songs:

  • Come Down, O Love Divine, with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ DOWN AMPNEY tune
  • Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire, attributed to Rabanus Maurus, VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS tune
  • Veni Sancte Spiritus/ Holy Spirit Come to Us, Jacques Berthier, Taizé Community
  • Come, O Spirit, Dwell Among Us, Janie Alford, EBENEZER tune
  • Like the Murmur of the Dove’s Song, Carl P. Daw, BRIDEGROOM tune
  • Breathe on Me, Breath of God, Edwin Hatch and Robert Jackson

In brief: The first question for choosing hymns is whether the text is worth being sung. For Pentecost hymns, look for images that gently invoke the Spirit and also for words of fire and flame. The tune should fit the text in a way that just falls off the lips and is accessible and simple but not cheap. Visual idea: when the Pentecost Sunday service ends, our church goes outside to release red balloons with little notes inside, like “The Holy Spirit just descended on you from…” We get notes back from all over.

Go-to resources: Denominational hymnals and their handbooks “for worship ideas, human interest nuggets worth sharing and unique traditions in other denominations.”

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Nicole AshwoodNicole Ashwood: Caribbean and North America Council for Mission education in mission secretary

Current city: Kingston, Jamaica

Denominational context: United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands

Worship roles: Plans worship for World Council of Churches and other international, national and regional events. As an ordained pastor, she works with the worship team in her home congregation.

Top Pentecost songs:

  • O Let the Power Fall on I, Max Romeo
  • Breathe on Me, Breath of God, Edwin Hatch and Robert Jackson
  • Change My Heart, O God, Paul Baloche
  • Let Your Living Water Flow, John Watson
  • Breathe on Me, Breathe on Me, Clint Brown
  • I Will Never Be the Same Again, Geoff Bullock
  • Holy Spirit, Rain Down, Russell Fragar
  • The Lord’s Prayer, Father Richard Ho Lung version (also on Working for the Lord, #17)
  • Unity of the Spirit, Barbara Boertje

In brief: I love birthdays—my own, my friends’, Christmas and, of course, the birthday of the Church! Selecting music for Pentecost requires capturing the cry for a power that equalizes and transforms while celebrating the fact that—because of the movement of the Holy Spirit on that special Pentecost—Gentiles have unlimited access to the faith. My interest in liturgy was birthed from my love of the creative and performing arts and the subsequent desire to see some of this infused in worship, to create a space where God’s name is praised in a multifaceted way. Our congregation’s seasonal themes fall under a main annual theme. One year we sought to strengthen our spiritual and social base as a church family under the theme “Rev-vibrating the Broken Chords.” For Lent we sought to “put the pieces back together,” and in Pentecost we worked on “being in accord with the Spirit.”

Go-to resource: World Communion of Reformed Churches

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Gregg DeMeyGregg DeMey: Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church associate pastor and director of worship

Current city: Elmhurst, Illinois

Denominational context: Christian Reformed Church in North America

Worship roles: Plans and leads Sunday worship and music.

Top Pentecost songs:

  • And All the People Said Amen, Matt Maher
  • My Friends, May You Grow in Grace, revised by Gregg DeMey and Gregory Kett
  • Koinonia (a.k.a. How Can I Say that I Love the Lord), V. Michael McKay
  • Gather Us In, Marty Haugen
  • Lean On Me, Bill Withers

In brief: “Lean On Me” can work as a sermon response, as we seek the Holy Spirit’s power to lean on the providence of God or lean into building the body of Christ. Often our Pentecost themes are more communally than personally focused. The content is about the implications of the resurrection for our lives, such as the power and dynamics of forgiveness or what it means to live as baptized Christians. Our Pentecost series have focused on images of light, living water and serving as the hands and feet of Jesus. I prefer having a theme song or cluster of two or three theme songs or theme psalms. We might not do each one each week but will repeat them maybe four times in a six week series.

Go-to resource: Matt Maher Music

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Elizabeth VanderHaagenElizabeth Vander Haagen: Boston Square Christian Reformed Church co-pastor

Current city: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Denominational context: Christian Reformed Church in North America

Worship roles: Plans and leads Sunday worship; co-author with Lora Copley of the forthcoming Come to Me: a Family Prayer Book.

Top Pentecost songs:

  • Gracious Spirit, Hear Our Pleading, Wilson Niwagila
  • Amen, Siakudumisa!/Amen, Sing Praises to the Lord!, S. C. Molefe
  • Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying, Ken Medema
  • Take, O Take Me As I Am, John Bell
  • There Is a Redeemer, Melody Green
  • Holy Spirit, Come, Ron Fordyce
  • Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary, Randy Scruggs

In brief: Throughout the year, but especially in Pentecost, we try to focus on global music. We introduce only a few new songs each season. A couple of guitarists help lead worship every Sunday. Sometimes a few other singers will sing a new song through first to introduce it to the congregation. We do seasonal liturgies, so we have three songs that we’ll sing every Sunday for the season. We choose the other three or four songs each Sunday according to the sermon text.

Go-to resource: Pentecost resources in Reformed Worship, especially “Alive to the Spirit” by Len Kuyvenhoven

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Carlos ColonCarlos Colón: Baylor University coordinator of worship initiatives

Current city: Waco, Texas

Denominational context: Baptist

Worship roles: Assists the chapel director, leads some chapels, organizes Ash Wednesday and Station of the Cross services and all worship services that happen outside chapel. Leads worship once every two months at his church.

Top Pentecost songs:

  • Si El Espiritu de Dios/Like David the Shepherd I Sing, Anonymous
  • Veni Sancte Spiritus/ Holy Spirit Come to Us, Jacques Berthier, Taizé Community
  • Veni Creator Spiritus, Jacques Berthier, Taizé Community
  • Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire, attributed to Rabanus Maurus, VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS tune
  • Santo Espiritu, Excelsa Paloma/Holy Spirit, from Heaven Descended, Philip W. “Felipe” Blycker
  • Fuisteis Sellados (You Have Been Sealed), Philip W. Blycker
  • Himno al Espiritu Santo (Hymn to the Holy Spirit), Philip W. Blycker
  • Sed Llenos, Hermanos (Be Filled, Brothers), Philip W. Blycker

In brief: Philip W. “Felipe” Blycker has written a lot of songs in Spanish about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit. He is a very famous musical missionary and composer among Spanish-speaking Protestants. He and his wife, Arleen, have ministered in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. He was the music editor of the Spanish hymnal Celebremos Su Gloria.

Go-to resources: Himnario Bautista (Mundo Hispano); Celebremos Su Gloria (Libros Alianza); Lift Up Your Hearts (Faith Alive Christian Resources)

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