Just returned after attending the opening Divine Service, listening to Dr. Wenthe's plenary address, attending choir practice, and restocking the Liturgy Solutions booth. It was simply a fabulous afternoon - for me and for my whole family - and I'll share more detail if this site generates interest. For now, though, let me just share with you today's Divine Service.
I almost titled this post, As It Should Be, because I was reminded of a comment made by a Columbian cellist at my alma matter one evening twenty years ago after listening to someone play Brahms exquisitely: "That was Brahms as it should be played." And today's Divine Service was "as it should be" at a conference like this: the LCMS at its best.
I'm tempted to get theological and muse about how the baptized are truly at "their best" when they are being washed and nourished by their Lord, but for now I'll just say that the LCMS is at its best when we worship according to our culture and heritage, embracing all the Lord's gifts with creativity and humility, and joyously be who we are. But more on that, later.
And today truly was the LCMS at its best. Kantor Janet Muth is to be especially commended for preparing the children's choir so well. They made a fabulous contribution to the service! Today being the Feast of Mary Magdalene, they added true Easter joy to our worship, especially with their vibrand and clear singing of Bach's "With Loudest Rejoicing". They also provided beautiful stanzas on the hymnody, singing stanzas on "For All the Faithful Women", "I Am Jesus' Little Lamb", "O Gracious Lord, I Firmly Am Believing", and "At the Lamb's High Feast" - many in special arrangements. They also provided the Verse, led the famous Victimae Paschli Sequence which was sung in place of the Hymn of the Day, and provided the Voluntary during the receiving of the offerings. That they were able to get all this together so well in less than a day is a testimony to the talents of Kantor Muth - and to the talents of the children themselves (including, I'd like to add, my lovely daughter, Caitlin!).
I was also impressed by the organist. I believe it was Paul Soulek, the director of music here at St. John's, whose sanctuary is our chapel and main meeting space for the conference. I also see David van Kampen played keyboards as well - so maybe they both played organ. Or maybe David was pianist for some of the preservice music. If anyone knows, fill me in! Anyway, the organ is a very nice instrument - a 1967 Schlicker - but it is especially nice when played be these young and capable and sensitive hands. I expect we will all be hearing much more from Paul - and David - in the future.
I would also like to compliment the instrumentalists, who added so much to the service. I saw LS composer and Concordia Nebraska professor Jeff Blersch conducting the ensemble, and want to commend him and Andrew Schultz for doing a great job coordinating that aspect of today's worship. The brass "kicked", as we musicians say, and the various winds and strings added meaningful touches to the service.
I also appreciated very much Dr. Wenthe's presentation: "The Psalms: A Prayer Book for Christians". I'll post more about that after Evening Prayer. To which I'm now headed!