Friday, December 29, 2006

Endings

It's fascinating, this passing of time. The year is ending, the year is beginning.

I'm tremendously excited for one reason. One of the places I work has a "profit sharing" in which they contribute 15% of my salary to my 401k. This is the first time I've been eligible and barely eeked over the 1000 hours. But I'll finally have more than a few bucks in my 401k. I'm planning on leaving here at some point and I hope that I can still contribute at other places I work.

I'm leaving now to cat sit. Exciting isn't it? They are cute, but I'm tired and want to just watch TV for a while.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Heaven and Hell

It is amazing, I think, that God gives us a glimpse of heaven before a week of hell (or longer).

Next week is finals week here and I know that I have been completely stressed about all my irons in the fire. I have a jury on Thursday, had one today, and have three sizable papers due within the next week or so. Not to mention a 2 conducting finals and 2 smallish papers. All this is very accomplishable. I also have to plan Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost at church, which includes a 5-session Adult Forum series on Worship. I love my system of scheduling.

Oh, I forgot to mention the program I'm singing in tomorrow. I am a part of 3 choirs! Idiot!

This is what I live for, right?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pia Desideria and Christ Lutheran Church

Disclaimer: this is an awful paper I wrote for a class. I thought some of it interesting, so here it is. Please feel free to butcher it. I haven't read all of Pia Desideria, by Philip Jacob Spener, but I liked what I have read and am applying it to my congregation.

Everything I read and do at Luther revolves around what I’m doing at Christ Lutheran Church (CLC). This is probably the best reason for having the contextual education component. However, it can lead to myopia, which I hope I haven’t contracted at this point. This being said, as I was reading Pia Desideria, hoping to learn something about the Pietists that followed, I started applying Spener to CLC. His 6 hypothetical corrections could be used well at Christ.

1. the earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings, ecclesiolae in ecclesia ("a church within the church").

I have always liked the idea of having small-group Bible studies. This would do many things such as: bring a smaller community together in a tight-knit bond, teach the Bible, bring a sense of ownership to the community (that the pastor isn’t the only Bible scholar in the church, we all are), and to show what it was like for early Christians.

I think there are dangers here as well. Whenever there is community building, there is the problem of exclusion. Whenever one is studying the Bible, questions arise; and sometimes the answers people reach are not necessarily correct. However, I think that these are small prices to pay for a knowledgeable congregation.

2. the Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in the spiritual government of the Church

Yes. We do have an active laity at CLC, however, like in any church, it is the few that provide for the many. I think that #1 would help with #2, but I’m starting with this one at my church. Starting for the summer months, the congregation will be planning worship and thus, will be taking part in the priesthood of all believers. I’m really excited for this to go, I’m just nervous that it will either be so far-out that no one will recognize Christ (either the person or the church) in it, or too boring that the same problem will happen. However, this is the risk that one takes. It may not be successful at first, but it will work in the long run.

3. a knowledge of Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as its indispensable sign and supplement

This, of course, is personal. One cannot impose practice of spirituality, however, I think that the first two will help facilitate this process. I don’t think that Christ has too many hypocrites, besides me, but I know so few outside of church too. And we all are hypocritical aren’t we?

4. instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them

We need to welcome the stranger better. I don’t know how to do this, but I have some ideas. Currently, there is no communication with a visitor once they have left our building. Pastor Sue is fantastic about remembering people from one time to the next, and talks to every person that comes to church. But we need to figure out how to get their names and numbers.

I think a good place to start is with the ushers. Currently, we have a bunch of male ushers in the back of the church (where few people enter) and one cute (warm and welcoming) elderly lady who hands out bulletins. The men stand and talk before the service, and hand out the occasional bulletin, but rarely do anything besides that. I think if people were encouraged to sign the guestbook, which is already there, we could send them a thank you card or go visit them. Currently, the guest book still shows my family’s last visit, May 14th, 2006 on the same page as November 11th, 2006. That’s 6 months. We’ve had more than 20 visitors in 6 months.

5. a reorganization of the theological training of the universities, giving more prominence to the devotional life

This applies to Christ Church only in the area that we have four seminary students using this place as their contextual education site and one Luther intern. If we were offered more time for the purpose of devotions, that would be interesting, I don’t know what would happen. Another idea would be for each of us to take a small group (see #1) and lead devotions for our duration. This would build a small group for 2 years, then they would be on their own. This could be harmful in the inevitable partial destruction of the group. However, if the student is any good, the group would stay long after they depart.

6. a different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing rhetoric, the implanting of Christianity in the inner or new man, the soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life.

This leads to an interesting question, since we are all among the priesthood of all believers, why not have lay people preach, on occasion? Either way, the planting of Christianity has already been done. However, I do think that Christianity needs to be nurtured for the previous positions to take hold. This cannot be done, I think, by mentioning the lawmakers every sermon, which is currently done. I think there is a time and place for calling to action and a time for the filling one’s heart with wondrous things. That’s all I’m going to mention about my boss’ sermons.

I think Spener is useful in this day and age. I think the title could be “Small Group Dynamics in the Thriving Church” or some such and still be relevant. I plan on using this in my community, after all, we are not just musicians, we are Christian Educators too.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Hitler

So in one of my classes, The Church and Music, each member of the class is supposed to pick a person to study and represent during the rest of the term. I picked Adolf Hitler. Why? you may ask. Well, Adolf (we are on a first name basis, now) has some very specific ideas about music and the church. For instance, do you really think that he would like the magnificat? "He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." Luke 1:51-53 NRSV

So that's my story. I've got nothing. I'm sure this will be an interesting 6 weeks.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Worship Practices

I've been asking myself lately, what does worship look like?

Is worship praise songs? Is worship hymns? Is worship sitting in prayer? Is worship community? Is worship sitting in a circle chanting prayer? Is worship making food for the homeless? Is worship clothing the poor? Is worship being a good neighbor?

The more I ask this question, the more I realize the answer is "yes." Yes, worship is all those things.

I may not be fond of a worship service filled solely with P & W (Praise and Worship), but I can handle one or two in a service. I may be a fan of hymns, but I would get tired of singing chorales all day, every day. Prayer is important, but I get stiff after a 45 minute car ride. You get the point.

We, as humans, get centered around worship that pleases us and forget about the entity that we are worshipping. Would God want all P & W music? Would God want only hymns? Would God want us to only be prayerful? I think that answer would be "no."

I don't think God wants us to go and sit in worship and pray and sing and whatever, but tell lies about a coworker to get in with the new boss. Nor do I think that God wants us to not go and worship, but be a "good" person. I think God wants it all.


I'm sorry, I just had a lot of discussions about worship lately and realize that I'm in the minority here. There are so many people that think their way is the only way God wants it. Mostly because that's how they want it.

Who are we worshipping?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

First Rehearsal

So, we had our first rehearsal at choir on Wednesday. Yesterday. It was good. I forget that people forget about the first rehearsal, decide not to be in it at the last minute etc.

When I first started, we had a few more people than we do now. Well, I don't think the numbers are different, just jostled a bit. We lost a few, 2 tenors (both of which were sometimes there), a couple of basses (1 who was celebrating his 50th anniversary with the choir), and a soprano (wife of one of the tenors. We've gained two sopranos, an alto, and a couple of basses. I guess that's a net change of zero. But what can I do to change this cycle?

Here are my ideas;
  • do mostly SAB music, to get higher quality sound (and not kill our sole tenor)
  • do some more "fun" music, like gospel and/or African
  • do nothing, it's not my fault after all.


This is all, I'm going to bed, good night.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Prayers for a friend

In a little while, I will be going to the town of my Alma Mater to meet up with a friend and her family.

Her father has not been doing well lately, and on Monday had a tracheotomy. He has slowly been going down hill and has asked to let him pass.

My request is for prayer for her, her children and husband, her mother and father, and all the people who have been touched by their lives (there have been many).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Software

I'm trying some new software to help me post to this blog. I haven't been all too good at posts and I hope this addition will help me out. Basically, this is me testing the software to see if I like it.

It's BlogWorkz. I must admit, it's doing its job, but I don't notice too many frills. But I'm not looking for frills am I?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Holy Week

Tonight and tomorrow are the end of Holy Week, for us Western Liturgical Christians. Having relatives in churches that do not follow the Revised Common Lectionary, I am constantly under attack for being a part of a church that follows it. It is funny that some Christians, in order to promote their ideas, must attack your ideas and tell you that you are wrong for not following their plan.

Why do we need the Liturgical year. Here's my most basic thought, centering around Lent and Easter:

Easter is very important, putting it mildly. Easter needs to be a ginormous
celebration beyond any other party you've ever been to. Every other Sunday is a celebration of that fantastic party. If every Sunday were the best party, then there would "ginormous celebration" on Easter. So we have a period of contemplation and preparation for the death and suffering of our Savior.

This sets up a period of wanting, anticipation and longing for that great party.
If the worshipping is set well for Lent and Holy Week, then the longing happens. At my church, I don't think we set it up very well until Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter.

We read the Passion according to Mark's Gospel as a congregation. The congregation was screaming the passages where the crowd was saying "Crucify Him!" Immediately, we got it. We knew that if we were in Jerusalem in the early part of the last millennium that we would have been caught in the frenzy. WE crucified Jesus. WE gave Him the death penalty.

And now we wait.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Prayer and Music

On the first day of classes I walked in and sat next to two people I know from church. The teacher starts class by saying a word of prayer. I thought, "OK, I know I'm at seminary. Every teacher here is an ordained minister." And then class began.

He started talking about how people think and what brings words alive. He put these words on the overhead...

Angels we have heard on high,
sweetly singing o'er the plains,
and the mountains in reply,
echoing their joyous strains:

Gloria in excelsis deo.
Gloria in excelsis deo.
He told us to read them and we did. Then he said, "Wouldn't it sound better this way?" and proceeded in leading us in song. 4+ part harmony! Pseudo-spontaneous singing in a non-music class. That's great!

It's been so long since I've been a part of something like this. I don't know how to react. Should I be stunned? Should I just sit back and listen?

Throughout the two weeks we sang a lot. Probably 2-3 times per day. A lot of that time I spent listening. I wasn't critiquing (amazing for me). I was enjoying the lack of self-consciousness, the joy, the blase attention to proper technique. All those things contribute to wonderful, spirit-filled moments. That's the sort of thing you cannot get from a choir. Well, not as much as from a group of good non-singers.

Now the prayer before each session... It was different. This is the first non-public school I've been to in the 20-some years of schooling. I don't know what the prayer did for anyone else, but it freed me. I knew that I wasn't learning for the sake of learning, but really I was learning to teach others what I learned, for the sake of spreading knowlege and faith. This is new to me, bear with me. I.. felt that there was something inside that was hungry for what was being fed. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Tomorrow is choir (Schola Cantorum). I've been corrected for calling it choir. I can't wait for my first chapel on Wednesday. I should have gone today, but I guess my laziness over took that thought before I had it.

Update and First Class Over

So, the last time I wrote I was ranting about the Choral Audition, no? Well, here's the past-year-in-a-nutshell:


February 28th 2005, I auditioned for the Master of Sacred Music (MSM) program at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. I found the building at St. Olaf (in Northfield, MN) I needed to get to and walked around until I found the Administrator for the MSM program. She then, thankfully, guided me through the rest of the process.

I was ushered into a room filled with singers. Well, let's not say singers. Let's call them one of the best ensembles around. The sound that they made was beyond extraordinary! I cannot put into words what I felt. Joy, pride, fear, anguish and just before I was done I remembered some advice I received, "Don't forget to have fun. This may be your last time in front of a choir of that calibre, it might not. But DO NOT forget to have fun!" I didn't. I had a ball.

I also had to sing for the crew, Dr. Paul Westermeyer, Dr. Anton Armstrong, Dr. Bob Scholz,
and Dr. John Ferguson. What an assortment! Some of the best musical minds around and I sing for them, then they interview me for 1/2 hour. Yikes!

Anyway, I left there. Heart racing, pulse pounding. A few weeks later I get a letter. Thin. Thin means it's a, "I regret to inform you..." letter. Somehow I assume that it's not. I tear it open. "I got in!" I scream. My fiancee just smiles.


I was scheduled to start J-term 2006. And here I am. I finished my 1 class. A two-week course on Genesis-Revelation. It was great! We followed the story all the way through--in two weeks! Now it's over. I can't wait for my first set of classes to start! That's exciting.

I'll give some intelligent thoughts later, just wanted to fill you in.