Meet Cameron Dezen Hammon, author of “Let Light Perpetual Shine Upon Them.”
Cameron Dezen Hammon is a writer and musician whose work has appeared in Ecotone, The Rumpus, The Literary Review, The Butter, Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, The Houston Chronicle, and elsewhere. Her essay “Infirmary Music” was named a notable in The Best American Essays 2017, and she is the host of The Ish podcast.
Q and A with Cameron Dezen Hammon
Q: What are your two favorite hymns or songs for worship?
A: My favorite hymns are usually not hymns but just regular songs that transport me. One is “Mary” by Patty Griffin. “Mary, you’re covered in roses, you’re covered in ashes, your covered in rain, your covered in babies . . . Jesus said ‘Mother, I couldn’t stay another day longer’ . . . Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place.” It’s about how Mary, the mother of God, was a mother like any. It’s also about the often invisible emotional and spiritual labor that mothers—that women—perform. That song destroys me every time I hear it. My favorite actual hymn is How Great Thou Art. We do it a bit differently at our jazzy Rite II service—uptempo, with a New Orleans Second-line style arrangement. I love it.
Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?
A: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hid: 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.
Q: As a musician who leads worship, are there go-to principles or guidelines you use when choosing music for worship?
A: I try to choose music that moves me first, because if I’m not connecting to it I don’t think the congregation will either. Sometimes I try to choose songs that reflect the readings but often they align whether I plan them like that or not.
Q: Some worship leaders say it can be challenging to worship while leading worship. What’s helpful for you?
A: My job is to walk toward, and invite others to come with me, to walk with me. But whether or not I’m “feeling” it or “worshipping” in every moment, doesn’t matter, I don’t think. Or, I hope it doesn’t. A friend of mine once described leading worship as channeling affections, as reflecting the love of the congregation back to God. That’s what I try to do—to simultaneously get out of the way while leading the way.
Q: What project are you working on now?
A: My first book, This Is My Body: A Memoir of Religious and Romantic Obsession, will be published by Lookout Books this year.
Check out her forthcoming book:
Find Cameron’s music on Amazon