Roger Johnson of inner-city Chicago (May “Letters”) is to be commended for his sincere desire to reach people of the world with the Gospel of Christ through his congregation. However, while I am not living the dynamic of his specific parish environment and situation, having lived 35 years in that greater metropolitan area–29 years prior to seminary and six serving my first parish call–I can testify that his concept that “classical organ (read: historic Lutheran hymnody and liturgy) is no longer reaching people” runs rampant in the Missouri Synod, and especially in that sizable chunk of its constituency.
It’s been my privilege to serve for the past five years a congregation (in an area where orthodox Lutheranism is very scarce) with a complete and fairly balanced spectrum of ages of members, from newborn to 90-plus. Our teenagers, who constitute a very active and sizable youth group, are virtually indistinguishable from their Worcester, Mass., area peers in terms of music tastes, fashion tastes, interests, and goals in life, etc. Yet, they are not only accustomed to historic Lutheran hymnody and liturgy, they actually thrive on it. Why? Because they were raised with it as an important part of their faith identity. Worship to them is not hip-hop and other such culturally congruent styles of music (which they do listen to on their own); it’s Page 15 and other liturgies, as well as the hymnody one would expect to go with it.
As for those not yet in the church–would they not be engaged as they worship with their peers who, due to the scale of their experience, are into “traditional” worship? Would we deny the children raised in our church the identity that’s become theirs? Would we seek to advertise our church as something it’s not?
Does worship have to always be “classical organ” in every setting? Absolutely not! But, imagine the treasure we’d be imparting on our own children and those of this world whom we may reach if all of us pastors would intentionally guide the members of our congregations, albeit, slowly in some settings, into the use and understanding of Lutheran liturgy and hymnody, using whichever orthodox hymnal, specific solid hymns, etc., to the point where that’s what we’d (again!) expect to find in an LCMS congregation!
Rev. Paul E. Gramit
Ev. Trinity Lutheran Church (UAC)
As a long-time lover of music and a pastor in the LCMS for almost a decade, I was thrilled to see your March issue focusing on church musicians.
I was, however, dismayed to read a few of the May letters of response that seemed to indicate that traditional organ music isn’t “reaching people for Jesus Christ” any more. That seems to suggest that the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is entirely dependant upon the worship music being emotionally stimulating.
In these days of abundant pluralistic practices and lax doctrine, we must remain ever vigilant against simply allowing our Divine Worship Service to be replaced by a weekly Christian music concert. When our youth (or even adults!) are coming to worship for any reason other than gathering around Word and Sacraments, then we’re encouraging the wrong motivations for worship–we should be praising God, not the band’s keyboardist, guitarist, or lead singer.
While I enjoy contemporary Christian music as much as the next person, if we allow the primary form of our music to mimic the worldly style that surrounds us, then it is quite possible that our worship music will soon mimic the worldly substance as well. Christian music concerts absolutely have their place on this earth, but distracting God’s children from the substance of the Divine Worship Service isn’t it.
My thanks and prayers of encouragement go out to our church musicians who understand the reason for–and appropriate use of–God’s gift of music within the worship service.
Rev. Sean Esterline
Messiah Lutheran Church
I would like to share my enthusiastic support for your March 2009 issue of The Lutheran Witness, which was almost entirely devoted to church music and musicians.
I have been a choir director and organist in various Lutheran churches for nearly 45 years and was overjoyed at the support for the traditional music of our Lutheran heritage exemplified in the articles on J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn, and especially tomorrow’s church musicians.
And, yes, a cover photo of a young woman at an organ console not playing in a praise band–it brought memories of my own developing enthusiasm for church music at her age.
I am disappointed at my own denomination, the ELCA. Its periodical had no mention of Mendelssohn’s 200th birthday (the “other” Lutheran composer), rarely runs articles in support of tradition worship and our musical heritage, but always has breathless stories about the latest Christian rock band or “praise” worship style.
I identify with three of your May letter-writers in response to the March issue: God bless you in the Missouri Synod for what you are doing to make people aware of our tremendous Lutheran musical heritage and to be certain that this tradition is passed on to a new generation.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Send letters to “Letters,”
c/o The Lutheran Witness,
1333 S. Kirkwood Road,
St. Louis, MO 63122-7295;
or send them via e-mail to Lutheran.Witness@LCMS.org.