Daily worship unites convention delegates around God’s Word

Trumpeter Matthew Wolf and members of Evangelii, the youth choir of Trinity Lutheran Church, Lisle, Ill., provide music during Midday Prayer July 10 at the LCMS convention. (LCMS/Michael Schuermann)

By Cheryl Magness

MILWAUKEE (July 11, 2016) — Corporate worship is at the heart of the 66th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

On Saturday night convention participants gathered at the opening Divine Service. For the remainder of the convention, business will pause morning, noon and evening to allow delegates and other attendees the opportunity to focus on the thing most needful: hearing God’s Word and proclaiming His work through liturgy and song.

Planning for the convention’s 15 worship opportunities began months ago as liturgies, hymns and psalm settings were chosen, and preachers and musicians lined up.

The Rev. William C. Weedon, director of worship for the Synod and International Center chaplain; the Rev. Dr. Jon Vieker, senior assistant to the Synod president; and Cantor Phillip Magness of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Broken Arrow, Okla., worked as a team to prepare the daily prayer services well in advance.

Weedon described the planning process.

“First we determined a lectionary that expounded the theme of the convention,” he said. “Then we decided to do full Matins and Evening Prayer, along with a simpler noonday office, on Sunday (as the Day of Resurrection); and for the remainder of the days, a simplified form of Matins; Midday Prayer for the 1:30 office and Mid-Afternoon Prayer for the close of each business day.

“The psalms and hymns were chosen to match the readings so that the assembly participates in the proclamation of the Word in song. Monday’s morning service is a bit different as it is built around Confession and Absolution.

“Similarly, Wednesday afternoon’s liturgy is a tad fuller than just Midday Prayer as it commemorates the faithful departed. Finally, the last service will be the office before travel, known as Itinerarium.”

Soloist Jennifer Barnickel-Fitch sings during the July 10 Evening Prayer service at the 2016 Synod convention in Milwaukee. (LCMS/Michael Schuermann)

Soloist Jennifer Barnickel-Fitch sings during the July 10 Evening Prayer service at the 2016 Synod convention in Milwaukee. (LCMS/Michael Schuermann)

All that’s involved

So many worship services require the involvement of many individuals. Serving as convention chaplain is Weedon; assistant chaplain for the week is the Rev. Peter Bender of Peace Lutheran Church, Sussex, Wis.

Preachers are the Rev. Christopher Esget, sixth vice-president of the LCMS; the Rev. Nabil S. Nour, fifth vice-president; the Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr., first vice-president; the Rev. Gregory Seltz of “The Lutheran Hour”; the Rev. Laokouxang (Kou) Seying, assistant professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; the Rev. Dr. John C. Wohlrabe Jr., second vice-president of the LCMS; the Rev. Allan Buss, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Belvidere, Ill.; the Rev. Dr. John C. Wille, president of the LCMS South Wisconsin District; and the Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray, fourth vice-president.

Along with the preachers and liturgists, multiple musicians will be participating over the course of the week. A quick glance through the convention worship folder reveals a wide-ranging musical palette that includes traditional hymns and a cappella chanting as well as contemporary psalm settings and Gospel and Taizé selections.

In addition to organ, the music includes a mix of brass, winds, strings, percussion, piano and guitar, as well as several guest choirs and vocal soloists. It all started coming together in the weeks immediately leading up to the convention, as outlined by Cantor Magness:

“Once the hymns and orders of service had been selected, the task was to locate, arrange and/or compose music to fit the musical talent available for each service, and then get everyone their music,” he said. “Between transposing parts, composing arrangements to fit brass or winds or strings, scanning and sending rehearsal copies of music, scheduling rehearsals, locating musicians and keeping on top of communication with everyone, I’ve been in ‘overdrive.’ What a joy to have so many great people coming together to bless our convention. It’s been like preparing for a big party, and now we get to kick up our heels and raise the roof!”

‘Finding time and space’

A particular challenge has been finding time and space for the many musicians involved to practice and warm up, as the worship space is also the space where convention business is conducted. Magness says he is meeting with musicians at 7 a.m. most mornings and during meal breaks.

There is also a designated warm-up room with an electric piano. Magness himself can often be seen practicing organ with headphones on, as the convention is underway.

“I hope that won’t distract anyone!” he says with a smile.

Providing assistance in the preparation of music and musicians for the convention are Matt Janssen, Kantor at Hope Lutheran Church, St. Louis, and Kathy May, organist and children’s choir director at Peace Lutheran Church, Sussex, Wis.

Among other things, Janssen coordinated the brass; and May, the woodwinds and strings for the daily offices. Special vocal offerings include the Peace-Sussex choir; the youth choir “Evangelii” of Trinity Lutheran Church, Lisle, Ill., under the direction of Jim Marriott; and soloists Monique Nunes of Bronxville, N.Y., and Jennifer Barnickel-Fitch of Aurora, Ill.

In addition to the convention worship, a Service of Prayer at the Close of the Day is being hosted by DOXOLOGY at historic Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Milwaukee at 9 p.m. on July 12. DOXOLOGY is a Milwaukee-based LCMS Recognized Service Organization that offers pastors and congregations intensive continuing-education training experiences in the art of pastoral care.

“Worship is central to the DOXOLOGY program,” says The Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil, executive director of DOXOLOGY. “The goal of this service is to provide convention-goers a fitting close to the end of a busy day and encouragement for Christian life and witness in the challenging times in which we live.”

The theme of the convention is “Upon This Rock.”

Cheryl Magness is a freelance writer, copy editor and musician and a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Broken Arrow, Okla.

Posted July 11, 2016

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