Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sing the Faith - The Small Catechism Set to Music

Not to be confused with Singing the Faith, the DVD resource discussed at length in the previous post, Sing the Faith is the entire Small Catechism set to music, available now on CD as well as spiral bound printed music. Pastor Christopher Seifferlein of Adell, WI, has been an avid fan of these songs and wrote a review that we at Liturgy Solutions think you’ll appreciate. Pastor Seifferlein says . . .

Last week I had something special planned for vacation. To some it might not seem like much, but for my three children (ages 1, 4, and 6), the highly anticipated “Sing the Faith” CD was enough to calm the waters during our lengthy driving tour through the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. The only commotion we heard from the backseat was the occasional remark, “this is my favorite one,” or “start over from the beginning Dad.” Even the parents enjoyed singing along as we geared up to go over the Mighty Mac.

We’ve been using portions of this music in our congregation ever since Concordia Publishing House began releasing it in the Growing in Christ Sunday School curriculum two years ago. After long last the entire project has been completed and is available on one CD. Phil Magness composed the tunes for the Primary and Secondary texts, and the good folks at CPH put it all together, complete with beautiful singing by children. Kudos to a job well done.

We pastors are always complaining that no one uses the catechism, but here is a resource where even those who aren’t so regular in their family catechesis can make use of the catechism at home. Parents who would never sit down and teach their children the text of the catechism are slipping this disk into their player as they run errands around town in the family minivan. And the children are learning it! Last year our Sunday School of 15 children sang by heart in church the entire text of Luther’s explanation to the second article of the creed (at ages 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7)! It’s been a boon to my teaching credibility as well. The adults are surprised to see the children learning (and enjoying it too). My boast to the congregation has been that we do more work in the catechism in our one hour of Sunday School than most Lutheran Schools do in a whole week. Thanks Phil for making my job easy.

This summer for the second year in a row we featured this resource during a weekly “Catechism Workshop.” The families of our parish were invited to a half-hour program after church where a chief part of the catechism was learned throughout the summer months. This CD has been an integral part of preparing the congregation for a paradigm shift, what I call “raising the bar and lowering the communion age” (all at the same time). The small congregation that I serve pre-ordered 60 copies alone. (Phil, you owe me a drink the next time I see you.) At the meager list price, parents were purchasing them not only for themselves, but also for their godchildren as well, and grandparents were buying multiple copies as presents for their grandchildren.

Be warned that “Sing the Faith” is no Small Catechism set to “Vater Unser,” but neither is it Psalty the Singing Songbook either. I have found the music to be appropriate, engaging, and accessible to both young and old alike.

I even had one lady ask about Private Confession and Absolution after she contemplated the words of the Fifth Chief Part while singing it.

Only one comment. Why didn’t somebody think of this before?


Cheryl said...

Thanks for writing this, Pastor. Phil would be happy to buy you that drink! One note, however--he was paid up front on a stipend basis for his work on the catechism songs and is receiving no further remuneration based on sales. So while we love hearing about how well Phil's work is being received, at this point our joy is purely the result of knowing all his efforts are furthering the goal of passing along the faith to the next generation.

Cindy R. said...

I just got the CD and have listened to all the parts at least once. Wonderful work, Phil! Your melodies are pleasant and have a timeless quality that will enable them to be used and enjoyed by Lutherans for a long, long time. The tunes lend themselves well to being performed in a variety of ways - soloist or group, children's or adult choir, male or female voices. I commend the singers on the CD for their lovely voices and their careful enunciation.

When I read the liner notes explaining the value of learning words through music, I thought of the story of Joachimsthal. Anything that helps us to have God's words and teachings solidly etched in our minds is highly valuable. Here's an excerpt from an article in the WELS magazine Forward in Christ:

"It seems too easy to take the blessing of freedom to practice our religion for granted.

History can teach us not to take such blessings for granted. Almost 500 years ago, a group of families moved to where a mine had opened in the present-day Czech Republic. They named their new town Joachimsthal. The year after they founded their town, Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenberg, and the Reformation began.

The mining families all became Lutheran. They opened and supported two Lutheran elementary schools, one for the boys and one for the girls. They supported a number of pastors in a large congregation that contained, at its peak, 5,000 mining families.

Many of their legal and church records have been preserved, and their story is told in the book Singing the Gospel by Christopher Boyd Brown. What is striking is the documented evidence of each family being sure that the children learned Bible accounts, Luther's Small Catechism, Lutheran worship, and in particular, the words of dozens of Lutheran hymns.

What happened when the town lost the freedom of religion is also striking. After imperial armies took over the territory and banned Lutheranism, a priest named Franciscus Albanus was sent to the village. He had his doctoral degree from a college where they trained men to oppose the unconditional gospel. Franciscus Albanus worked hard in Joachimsthal. But the children under his care told him the truths of the Bible as they had learned them in Luther's Small Catechism. The men and women of the village patiently insisted on forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus as their Savior. And the families sang Lutheran hymns in public and private. Even armies could not stop the singing.

Albanus was forced to begin reading through the Lutheran theological volumes stored in the Joachimsthal library in order to 'strike the people with their own sword, and convince them out of their own writings.'

Instead, he himself was convinced by the Holy Spirit. Albanus resigned from the priesthood and became a Lutheran pastor.

May the Lord bless our own efforts at thorough Christian education in our homes and around the world so that even in the hardest times our children remain strong in the faith, testifying to Jesus throughout all generations."

This musical catechism has the potential to be a crucial tool in our circles for Christian education that endures. All this in an $8 CD? What a bargain.