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

Friday, October 1, 2010


Dear Friends,

I returned yesterday from Brazzaville, Congo, and eagerly look forward to sharing news of my journey and the Lord's ministry in French West Africa with you.

The upcoming posts will have a less liturgical emphasis, but will be appropriate nonetheless because the point of our work together is the proclamation of the Gospel. True, our focus is on how this may best be done through our singing of psalms, hymns, and liturgical songs, but such was the central part and prime reason for my recent trip, as I went to Africa to introduce the French-language edition of the LSB, Liturgies et Cantiques Luthériens, to our brethren in French West Africa.

For now, let me just just offer a few initial thoughts:

1 - Our hymnody is truly catholic, i.e. "universal". Its essence as folk song means our melodies can be planted and take root in any cultural soil. One of the most well-received hymns I taught was the French version of "Triune God, be Thou Our Stay". And the singing of "Savior of the Nations, Come" was especially vibrant.

2 - Chanting is also catholic. One of my favorite moments of the Divine Service last Sunday was the responsive Introit between Pastor Mavoungu and the congregation of 300. The formula tone used was also interesting in that it was more Ionian than most of our tones (expected) and more complex (unexpected).

3 - What we've been saying about the primacy of singing is so true. The best singing of the congregation was when they sang a cappella or with just traditional drums. When microphoned singers sang and an electric keyboard & bass joined in, there was less communal singing. Part of this was the (limited) skill of the instrumental musicians, but there was a fundamental shift in the spirit and voice of the assembly everytime they had "ownership" of the song.

Most inspirational was how thankful our brothers & sisters in Congo are for their blessings. They have been given so little, and yet rejoice so much.

May we who have been given so much (materially) in America be like-minded in thanksgiving, and may we be generous in our support of our fellow confessional Lutherans around the world. As President Harrison says, "Now is the time to rock the world for confessional Lutheranism."

This is our work to do together - not something to just leave up to synod. If the Lord moves you to want to help our brothers and sisters in French West Africa as I share my journey with you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

There is so much to be done.

Last thought for now:

4 - I think the coolest thing I witnessed was a 5th-grade girl reciting the small catechism in French. Perfectly. Her reward the next day was to receive her own Bible. Her joy was so thorough, so genuine.

Awake, our hearts, with gladness!


Amberg said...

And my heart too. The chorale has found tender soil. Let it be planted where it will bear fruit. Right now I fear in America there is too much hard ground, too many thorns.

Thank you for your wonderful observations. The voice rules!

What is there hymnal?

Amberg said...

their hymnal. sorry.

Phillip said...

They are just getting a hymnal: the French-language edition of the Lutheran Service Book, which is entitled Liturgies et Cantiques Luthériens. So instead of the LSB they have the LCL. About 20% of the hymns are different than LSB, reflecting more of the heritage of Francophone Christianity. Also, of the three settings of the DS, one of them is a setting by a French Canadian composer that has been popular in Quebec for well over 10 years now. I'll tell more about it in a future just gave me the idea to give it a review! :)

They only have 60 of these books, 45 of which I brought over. Up until now, they have just had a handful of hymnals from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France, out of which the pastors taught the people the few hymns they knew well from their seminary training in France.

They are hungry for hymnody and hope to be given more hymnals and also hope that I will be able to return soon and teach them more of our hymnody. I do hope to be able to nurture the seeds that we planted last month in Brazzaville. I think the soil there is tender indeed!

Amberg said...

What would be wonderful would be an educated African to learn Latin and German and so have more of the original vigor brought into French.

It is their heritage too and a rich heritage it is!