Ken Medema (b. Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1943) is a song writer, composer, recording artist, and story-teller through music. Blind from birth, Ken began playing the piano at age five and studied classical music by reading Braille. He graduated from Grand Rapids Christian High School and studied music therapy at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan. As a music therapist in both Indiana and New Jersey, he began writing songs for hurting teenagers, an experience that helped to launch a career of writing songs on Christian life that has taken him to venues large and small all over North America and beyond. He responds to what he hears and sees in his heart at particular events, often improvising songs on the spot, offering compassion, h… Go to person page >
Out of need and out of custom
we have gathered here again.
To the gathering we are bringing
love and laughter, grief and pain.
Some believing, some rejoicing,
some afraid, and some in doubt;
now we come our questions voicing,
we would search these matters out.
Intended as a hymn for the beginning of worship when the Christian community gathers around the Word, "Out of Need and Out of Custom" is a somewhat unusual text. It bears reading through several times and may also require some introductory comments prior to public singing. Stanza 2 points out that gathering for worship requires removing the masks behind which we often hide from God and from each other. We come to the Word with faith but also with doubts, and with joys but also with sorrows (st. 1)–and all of this we lay open to the Word, to Christ. The "searching" of stanzas 1 and 2 is our searching of the Word of God. Stanza 3 acknowledges our familiarity with God's message and directs us to pray for illumination.
Both the text and the music are by Ken Medema (born Kenneth Peter Medema, Grand Rapids, MI, 1943). He wrote stanza 1 in 1972 in Baltimore, Maryland, as part of a youth service in which some disillusioned young people wanted to tell their parents that "church is boring; church is a drag" and that being a church can be simply a custom or an artificial tradition. The words were sung to a familiar tune. Medema added two more stanzas later and composed a new tune for the text; the song was published in a larger score called The Gathering (1977). The tune name derives from that score title. GATHERING is a modified rounded bar-form tune (AA'BA'); it is well suited to part singing at a moderate tempo.
Blind from birth, Medema showed an early penchant for music. Educated in Christian schools in Grand Rapids, he also studied voice, piano, and music theory at Michigan State University. He worked as a music therapist in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Cedar Grove, New Jersey, for five years before beginning his full-time concert career in 1973. A gifted improviser, Medema writes his own lyrics and tunes, many of which are published and available on recordings. He tours extensively throughout the United States and Canada.