Open Up the Doors Songbook

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When Fletcher Clark first appeared at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, it soon became clear he was a musician. He began to play with our small band in church, adding to their hymns songs he and others had written. I told him that his ministry was to share his talent with others. The church began to grow and I believe that much of the growth is the result of Fletcher and our music. Recently, I urged him to collect his songs into a personal hymnal to share with the congregation.

The Rev. Tom C. Bruns

"We do indeed have a ministry of music,
and I am thankful to share mine with you!"
Julie Michie, Organist
Emmanuel Episcopal Church

In 2008 when Texas songwriter Fletcher Clark settled in the small town of Lockhart, just south of his long-time home in Austin, he chanced to attend Emmanuel Episcopal Church, founded in 1853. Surprisingly modest compared to the churches of his past, he was struck by the small chapel with its simple wooden pews, fine organist, and kindly rector (whose succinct seven minute sermon further impressed him). Soon he began playing his mandolin with the small folk ensemble there making a 'joyous noise', writing songs for the church, and composing fresh musical settings for selections from the hymnal.

Fletcher says,"Fr. Tom Bruns told me in his gentle yet firm voice that music was my ministry. Although I had written some faith-based songs, this viewpoint I had never considered." As he accumulated more original songs, he self-published them in his Personal Hymnal which would become the basis for his live performance musical ministry, as he took his music and lyrics to other congregations and groups. (This also included his 'folk mass' with its fresh musical settings of the traditional liturgy.) Finally, in 2015 he recorded and released twelve selections as the CD Open Up the Doors on his newly founded label Flécha3 Music.

Fletcher offers the following remarks about the songs.

  1. Open Up the Doors A visiting photographer took this shot (used for the cover) of the simple front doors to Emmanuel Episcopal. Those doors opened for me in 2008, and I innocently entered, completely unprepared for the experiences that would await therein. They became my symbol for that which is both a threshold and a barrier.
  2. Every Sinner Has a Future On a marquee in front of a small rural Texas church, I read: Every Saint has a Past, Every Sinner has a Future. Riding my old BMW motorcycle, I thought about the road I was on - where I had been and where I was going. Sometime later I learned that English playwright Oscar Wilde had once famously written, "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future." My Muse had me transpose the phrases for better rhythm to the scansion.
  3. Lord, We Would Have Heard You In 2011, storms and floods in the East, devastating sand storms in the West, tornadoes in the South, hurricanes on the Atlantic, and blizzards in the North. Then the fires in nearby Bastrop. In resignation more than despair, I mourned, "Lord, we would have heard You - You didn't have to be so loud." The verses came from the evening news, and with the concluding refrain, I was at peace. What began as resignation became acceptance – and serenity.
  4. Next Best Thing For every choice, the opportunity cost is the foregone alternative. How to choose? People considerably wiser than I commended to me that I meditate on that and then do the next right thing. The right thing is always the best choice, so for this lyric I turned that into the next best thing.
  5. Leave My Faith Alone The story of Job seems tragic, certainly when considered from the losses he suffered. Yet, God had singled out Job among all his creations to test the ability of the pious to resist the enticements of evil. Robbed of his worldly goods and comforts, Job clung unquestioningly to his faith in the goodness of God's will. And why not? He understood that the material world has very little to do with the Kingdom of God.
  6. Tiny Voice It's there, always. Lord knows, how I have tried everything to pretend not to hear it. Yet, even my mildest transgression or ego-sin brings a quiet rebuke. And it says to me, "What are you pretending not to know?" Though it be soft and small, it is the powerful voice of my soul - the precious gift of the living spirit.
  7. One More Soul in Heaven Tonight A dear friend had passed away, a treasured member of our congregation who touched the lives of many, both in her own loving family and her church family. We heard the news at supper following our customary Wednesday service. While she couldn’t join us for supper, there would be one more soul in heaven that night. Two days later, I was privileged to share this song with her friends and family as my own eulogy at the service commemorating her passing.
  8. Extra Alleluia This song was written for a friend at church - petite and elderly, possessing a soft yet firm voice. Our evening service, as specified in the Book of Common Prayer, would customarily end with "Alleluia, Alleluia!". Barely audible, she would intone an extra concluding "Alleluia!" after the customary two specified in the BCP.
  9. Take Me Down to the Riverside Fast asleep, that little voice bade me get up and write this down. 4:30am being an hour earlier than my customary arising, dutifully I arose, and without tea or coffee, scribbled down the refrain. Realizing it would take a while to grab manuscript paper, I went straight to my laptop's software to compose (transcribe) the melody of the refrain - with a quick check on the guitar. The verse melody then popped up, and I went to Matthew 3 for the text. When finished, I still had my tea at the appointed time.
  10. He Gave His Son Songwriters often write by assignment or commission. We needed an Easter hymn, and Lent had prepared me to value my blessings. I wanted to celebrate that simply and honestly. All I had to do after that was follow the simple commission I had been given.
  11. Arms of an Angel The word angel derives from the Greek term for 'messenger', 'bearer of tidings', 'envoy'. Throughout scripture, angels have come both modestly and with grandeur to impart the word of the Lord to us, His simple creations. The Holy Spirit dwells within all of God's creations, and any may be the bearer of the Good News of God's love. All love comes from God - love is sent from above.
  12. More Will Be Revealed A passage from page 164 of a popular Big Book reads, ‘We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.’ Folks naturally use the shorthand phrase, more will be revealed. So with that as a motif, the lyrics worked themselves out. Our recessional for the end of Sunday service at Emmanuel Episcopal Church often is an upbeat, cut-time, new-grass number from our folk group (with the congregation singing and clapping along), so this fit the bill. And it seemed the ideal conclusion to this collection!

"Fletcher Clark brings his far-ranging musical experience to the genre of hymnwriting - these songs are fresh takes on the shared, familiar vocabulary of the Christian
spiritual tradition."
The Very Reverend Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, President
Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest

"This is an impressive blend of the personal, the human, the devotional, and the spiritual. Open Up the Doors should appeal to all music directors and congregations interested in music that successfully combines contemporary expression with traditional themes."
Kevin Mooney, Assistant Professor of Music
Texas State University

"Fletcher has truly been inspired by a living and loving
God to compose this hymnal collection. It is a
blessing that it is now available for all to use."
Chuck Parsons, Author/Historian
Review Editor - The Journal of South Texas

"What I like about them is their simple clarity. Good strong, clear lyrics matched to singable, rhythmically stable tunes. I would expect your songs would be
very popular in some of the more mainstream, evangelical (even conservative) churches."
Mark Evans, Author/Professor
'Open Up the Doors: Music in the Modern Church'
Macquarie University, Sydney

©2018, Fletcher Clark
All Rights Reserved.
rev. 12/4/18