The Farmer's Wife: Discussing music at church services


One of the monthly commitments I have is breakfast with Tabitha retirees.  It started with a handful of gals and has grown to more than a dozen, with a couple guys, too. 

Last week, I was seated opposite a nurse who was clinical director for the York region while I was in the Nebraska City area. We met “in the middle” sometimes, at the home office in Lincoln, and I knew her husband was also a farmer, but we did not really get acquainted until these fun get-togethers.

This past week, we were sharing about how much we enjoy four-part harmony in our church services. I knew Carolyn was Mennonite, and I commented that their church has the same rich background of this kind of music. And we smiled in sympathy with each other as we agreed we have learned the contemporary stuff in the late services.  

In fact, I knew that some Mennonite churches did not even have instruments, so that the singing was all a capella. She brought me up to date on that, saying that most of their churches now even have great organs. But if we wanted to learn four parts, it helps to sing without accompaniment.  

I went online this evening and found Garrison Keillor's treatise on Singing With the Lutherans.  He begins that he admits he makes fun of Lutherans because “who wouldn't, if you are from Minnesota?” And he goes on to say if you ask a bunch of Lutherans to sing “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore”, they will get that boat to shore and up on the beach!  He once sang “Children of the Heavenly Father" with a large bunch of Lutherans and when they finished, they all had tears, partly from God's promise He will not forsake us, and partly because of the lovely four part harmony music.

He says Lutherans (and Mennonites) are bred from childhood in this way of singing. It starts when they are small and they sit on the lap of someone singing in the alto, tenor, or bass of a song, and they learn harmonic intervals by putting their heads on the rib cage. They are too modest to sing solos, and too worldly to sing in unison!

Wikipedia states that Eastern Mennonite University says music is the heart of their school. So is it of all the Concordias! One of the most amazing videos I have received was of the Concordia, Seward, football team singing “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” in the locker room; this happens after every game, win or lose!!

And at the recent funeral of the wife of a long-time choir member of our church, the congregation sang “It Is Well With My Soul”, not only in four part, but with the men singing the refrain on “it is well”. Gave me goose bumps. And a few tears, which is what good music can do, especially when coupled with those words of affirmation.