As a parish pastor, I always looked forward to Holy Week. It is a week filled with worship and lots of it. It is a week that we invite the world into the holy three days. It is a week that we once again are invited into the awesome mystery of the tree of life.
As the hymn states:
Tree of Life and awesome mystery, in your death we are reborn; though you die in all of history,still you rise with every morn, still you rise with every morn.
We remember truth once spoken, love passed on through act and word;
every person lost and broken wears the body of our Lord, wears the body of our Lord.
Christ, you lead and we shall follow, stumbling though our steps may be; one with you in joy and sorrow, we the river, you the sea, we the river, you the sea.
God of all our fear and sorrow, God who lives beyond our death, hold us close through each tomorrow, love as near as every breath. (Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery, ELW #334)
We are a church that embodies and reminds the world that, through the mystery of the cross, God in God’s great goodness loved the world with outstretched arms that have encompassed the world for all eternity. The message of the cross remains that God continues to love the world even through our doubt and suffering, our sorrow and joy, our life and in our death.
God holds each of us closely in a loving embrace. We do not know what tomorrow will bring, but we know who holds tomorrow. God holds us close through each tomorrow and loves as near as every breath. We walk through this journey of Holy Week: from the palm parade, foot washing, service of the cross, a vigil where we hear of God’s great love story through salvation history, and then are led to the proclamation of Easter, “Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
May you know and may you proclaim to the world: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.
The Rev. Kevin L. Strickland
Assistant to the Presiding Bishop
Executive for Worship
A transformative experience in worship
The year after I graduated from college I had a Fulbright Fellowship to study in France. I was a student that year at the Faculty of Protestant Theology of the University of Strasbourg. Far away from home, I spent the year in classes with people who knew they wanted to be Lutheran pastors. Over the course of that time I realized I wanted to be one as well.
I was blessed with great worship experiences that year away. The beautiful cathedral of Strasbourg was warm and welcoming when I visited. I worshiped nearly every Sunday at St. Thomas, a medieval parish church that became Lutheran early in the Reformation and where Albert Schweitzer had played his earliest Bach-revival organ concerts. Most of my friends in Strasbourg spoke Alsatian, a German dialect I never mastered. But the public worship was in French, which I understood well enough to know I was hearing the gospel powerfully preached and prayed and sung by people who treated me with great kindness.
I also worshiped that year with the English-language community that gathered once a month. Strasbourg was the home of the Council of Europe, a big deal in those days. There were diplomats in town from Britain and Ireland, along with people there to do business, students like me and the occasional tourist. We met in the chapel of a local Roman Catholic religious order. Laypeople preached or one of my theology professors, who had studied in New York. We prayed and sang, and then chatted and drank coffee, in the language that was closest to my heart. People were very kind to me there too.
There was something powerful that year about worshiping in ways that required me to pay close attention. My French was never good enough for me to let my mind wander. And it was powerful, too, to worship in the language that let me relax. I hope this experience has made me more sensitive to the refugees and immigrants who come to this city, where so many worship in English somewhere in the morning, then gather to praise God in the afternoon in the language they brought from home.
And I hope that the welcome I received wherever I worshiped that year in Strasbourg is a welcome that everyone can feel in any of the churches for which I’m responsible. I pray that this is so.
Bishop Richard Graham
As part of the 500th anniversary observance of the Reformation, gather with other members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to rejoice in the freedom we have in Christ. The Grace Gathering, in partnership with the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, will be an opportunity to gather with voting members, prepare for the 500th anniversary and reflect on how the Reformation can continue to guide us today. It will be a time for workshops, worship and fellowship.
The Grace Gathering will provide an opportunity for all ELCA members to experience the same inspiring worship, Bible study, experiential learning activities and fellowship that voting members have when they attend the Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans. At the same time, the Grace Gathering will offer workshops and presentations that equip congregational leaders and synod planning teams to prepare for observing the 500th anniversary in local communities.
Registration is now open. Learn more and register at ELCA.org/gracegathering.
|A new resource to celebrate Christian unity
“Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharis”“Declaration on the Way” celebrates 50 years of international and regional Lutheran-Catholic dialogues and harvests the results of those efforts into Statements of Agreement on church, ministry and eucharist. It invites both communions to affirm the unity achieved through these agreements and establish church practices that reflect this growth.At the same time, this is a declaration “on the way.” Not all differences on church, ministry and eucharist have been reconciled at this time. The “Declaration on the Way” task force offers some possible ways forward and encourages Catholics and Lutherans to continue their journey together toward unity.
Read and discuss “Declaration on the Way” in adult study groups, affirm and celebrate these Lutheran-Catholic agreements, and take steps toward greater unity in your neighborhood or community.
Learn more at augsburgfortress.org.
|North American Association for the Catechumenate:
Sing a New Song: Unpacking the Mystery of Faith
2016 Annual Ecumenical Gathering
June 28-30Keynote speakers include Lizette Larson-Miller, professor of theology at the University of Western Ontario and chair of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation; Dan Benedict, abbot for the Order of St. Lukes; and Marty Haugen, well-known composer and musician. Through the keynote presentations, participants will be led on a journey reflecting on our rich liturgical heritage and rediscovering the ancient faith formation process known as the catechumenate.Pastors, seminarians, worship leaders and educators will benefit from this amazing program that seeks to bring new vitality to communities of faith with a focus on discipleship and baptismal living.
The event, which also features practical workshops and inspiring worship, will be held at the beautiful Bosque Center in Albuquerque, N.M. Scholarships are available for seminarians and first call pastors. Register by May 15 and receive a $50 early bird discount. For more information, email registrar Devra Betts or go to theNAAC website.
Lutheran Youth Choir International Invitation
The Lutheran Youth Choir International, an ecumenical summer touring choir for high school students founded in 2005, invites singers to be part of its 2016 Festival of Global Vocal Music. Following three previous choral festivals in Germany and one in the U.S., the choir’s fifth festival will be based in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. The festival, July 10-19, will include eight full days of rehearsing and performing sacred choral music from around the world with other young people from the United States and Germany. In addition, there will be time for sightseeing in Chicago and Milwaukee, a global percussion workshop, a trip to Six Flags Great America amusement park, and lots of other fun in and around the Chicago area.
The students will stay in beautiful and secure dormitories on the campus of North Central College in Naperville, Ill. The $995 tuition includes room and board, music, admissions and local transportation. Generous financial aid is available. All singers who participate in the 2016 festival will receive a $1,000 scholarship toward the cost of the Lutheran Youth Choir’s 2017 Festival of American Vocal Music in Mansfeld, Germany, July 22-Aug. 1, 2017.
Go to lutheranyouthchoir.org for additional information and application materials.
Yale Institute of Sacred Music:
Now in its sixth year, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music’s Congregations Project is expanding its reach and condensing its program to a three-day conference format, July 19-21, on the Yale campus in New Haven, Conn.
The ecumenical, practice-oriented conference is open to leaders of congregations from all denominations who seek to strengthen their ministries of worship, music and the arts. The selected theme, “Poverty, Wealth, and Worship,” serves as the focus for worship, lectures and workshops, as well as the work shared by participating congregations. This unique conference model draws on and draws together the distinctive gifts of pastors, musicians and lay leaders at every step along the way.
Faculty will include James Abbington, Kenyon Adams, Dorothy Bass, Rita Ferrone, Martin Jean, Luke Timothy Johnson, Don Saliers, Mark Sedio and Bryan Spinks.
More information and registration are available at ismcongregations.yale.edu.
National Worship Conference
Discover how art, drama, food, fun, poetry, multimedia, music, movement, nature, spiritual elements and storytelling can be interwoven with Anglican, Lutheran and cross-generational threads to create meaningful and transformational worship.
“Formation and Reformation: Worship, Justice and Mission of God” brings together presenters and participants from across North America to explore diverse styles of worship.
Keynote speakers include the Rev. Dr. Stephen M. Larson, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada pastor who co-authored “Liturgy, Justice and the Reign of God: Integrating Vision and Practice,” and the Very Rev. Bruce Jenneker, rector of All Saints Church, Durbanville, in the city of Cape Town and the Diocese of Saldnaha Bay in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. He is also the canon liturgist for the diocese.
Scott Weidler, ELCA program director for worship and music, will lead two workshops titled “Let Justice Sing” and “In These or Similar Words.”
To learn more about the conference or to register, go to nationalworshipconference.org.
One of the wonderful benefits of being a church in ecumenical dialogue and partnerships with so many other churches is being able to explore and use, as appropriate, some of their worship materials. Each month we will highlight a different resource. If you have suggestions please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our colleagues in the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church have worked diligently to recover an important aspect of their liturgical tradition: the singing of psalms. This collection provides the text (using the version prepared for Evangelical Lutheran Worship) and multiple musical settings in many forms for each psalm. Our church, too, has been working toward this recovery over the past 40 years. Any music director looking for varied settings will find a rich variety in this one resource.
Don’t forget about the wonderful resources for psalm singing from our own church: