RECOVERING LUTHERAN IDENTITY IN WORSHIP AND MUSIC: A Conference Sponsored by EECMY and LCMS
On 19-21 March 2015, The LCMS and EECMY held a conference titled, “Recovering Lutheran Identity in Worship and Music.” The conference originated from the work of the EECMY hymnal committee, which is seeking to develop a new hymnal for the EECMY. Deaconess Sandra Rhein from the Missouri Synod works with the EECMY’s hymnal committee. She has made several trips to Ethiopia for this work and most recently organized the worship conference. This post is based upon her reports.
The first action of this Hymnal Committee was to sponsor a three-day Worship and Music Conference. The goal of the conference was to teach the fundamentals of what theology and music mean for the faithful. It was held March 19—21 at Gudima Tumsa Training Center in Addis Ababa. Invitations were sent to 150 pastors and music leaders, as well as select seminary students. Over 160 attended, with a larger attendance each day as word spread about the wonderful Biblical teaching, and the participants were attentive and appreciative throughout three full days of lectures and presentations. At the conclusion of the conference, each attendance was presented a copy of the newly published book Catechisms, Creeds and Confessions (Click to see a previous blog post about this resource).
The conference was held over three days beginning with Matins and ending with Vespers. Presentations were given by Deaconess Sandra Rhein, Dr. Fred Baue, and Rev. Christopher Esget. Sectionals included topics such as “How to read music,” “Jesus, Help! The Kyrie as the basic prayer of the Christian,” “The connection between doctrine and worship.”
The conference presenters pictured left to right: Dr. Fred Baue, Mr. Girum Fantaye, Deaconess Sandra Rhein, and Rev. Christopher Esget. Conference presenters were Dr. Fred Baue (retired), Rev. Christopher Esget (Immanuel, Alexandria, VA), and Deaconess Sandra Rhein (Emmaus, South Bend, IN). Rev. Esget’s topic was “the gift of liturgy”. God chooses to come to us and give His gifts to us through the liturgy. Our liturgical life is faithful to Biblical teachings and also distinctly Lutheran. Dr. Baue spoke on the meaning of “Lutheran identity” and how the Book of Concord is necessary for our confession. Dr. Baue has also been experimenting with a musical setting for Matins and Vespers, using Ethiopian pentatonic scales. These settings were used to open and close each day of the conference. Deaconess Rhein taught the music of Matins and Vespers to the participants, along with an introducing them to music notation and the practice of chanting.
In the video above, Deaconess Sandra Rhein teaches how to sing the opening versicles.
Although the lectures were conducted in English, the ultimate goal is to issue a revision of the liturgy in Amharic. The first edition of the liturgy in Amharic was completed by the the Swedish missionaries in the 1920s. The EECMY used this consistently until the communist government took over. The rapid growth of the EECMY along with the lack of printed resources has decreased the knowledge of the historic liturgy among many members. The EECMY asked the LCMS to assist them with a hymnal to help increase their Lutheran identity.
In addition to the hymnody the EECMY inherited from the Scandinavian Missionaries, they also have indigenous songs that developed out of the Ethiopian context and in some cases from the persecution the church faced. The song book pictured above was compiled by Scandinavian missionaries in the early 1970s. Some of these songs such as “What Kind of Love Is This?,” are known to the LCMS — See Lutheran Service Book 542. In LSB the hymn is known as “When I Behold Jesus Christ.”
Pictured above is a copy of “What Kind of Love Is This? by Almaz Belhu. The above photo may be the earliest printing of that hymn. Any revision of the EECMY hymnal will consider the historic hymns of the church, along with newer songs and hymns developed in the Ethiopian context.
It is an exciting time for world Lutheranism!
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