Thursday, November 19, 2009

Church-Musick


SWEETEST of sweets, I thank you when displeasure
Did through my body wound my minde,
You took me thence ; and in your house of pleasure
A daintie lodging me assign'd.

Now I in you without a bodie move,
Rising and falling with your wings :
We both together sweetly live and love,
Yet say sometimes, God help poore Kings.

Comfort, 'Ile ; for if you poste from me,
Sure I shall do so, and much more :
But if I travell in your companie,
You know the way to heavens doore.

--George Herbert

"Here was a man who seemed to me to excel all the authors
I had read in conveying the very quality of life as we live it
from moment to moment, but the wretched fellow, instead
of doing it all directly, insisted on mediating it through
what I still would have called the "Christian mythology."
The upshot of it all could nearly be expressed, "Christians
are wrong, but all the rest are bores."
-C. S. Lewis

Sunday, November 8, 2009

You Know You’re a Lutheran Music Director When . . .


You have Sunday’s dates all memorized through the next few months, and are able, at the drop of a hat, to reel off all the musicians involved.

You arrive at church at least an hour before anyone else and make a beeline for the organ.

You have a food stash in the church basement (not even kidding).

You have a hard time getting downstairs to socialize because you’re always wrapping up “loose ends” of the music scene.

You acquire music faster than you can organize it.

Your way of “killing time” is getting in a few more hours of organ practice.

You receive news of an upcoming funeral, and immediately think, “Can I get off work that day?”

Your idea of a successful Christmas/Easter service is stuffing it full of as much music as folks will sit through.

You’re suddenly aware that you forgot to give the congregation that crucial piece of music history that would have made the chorale so much more meaningful . . . . that must be the reason for the lackluster singing.

Halfway through the introduction, you realize you’re playing the right hymn, wrong tune.

In an exchange with a Baptist, you come to the realization that he has (gasp!) no clue who Paul Manz is.

Your congregation is really eager to sing a nominal German stanza of “Silent Night.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

News from ELCA

Thought I'd pass along some sad news from the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). They have decided to chuck the Biblical directive (regarding homosexuality) in favor of a more politically correct position. Read more.

The ELCA leaders should know that they haven't convinced God. "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pange Lingua

Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world's redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.

Of a pure and spotless Virgin
born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
then He closed in solemn order
wondrously His life of woe.

On the night of that Last Supper,
seated with His chosen band,
He the Pascal victim eating,
first fulfills the Law's command;
then as Food to His Apostles
gives Himself with His own hand.

To the everlasting Father,
and the Son who reigns on high,
with the Holy Ghost proceeding
forth from Each eternally,
be salvation, honor, blessing,
might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.

--St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) for the Feast of Corpus Christi (now called the Solemnity of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Churchly Spires

I'm reposting a piece I wrote shortly after my move to Milwaukee, so impressed was I with the many beckoning spires on the south side.

***

My eye caught the spark of beauty leaping from the horizon of downtown Milwaukee, a gladdening distraction from the torn-up roads in the construction zone. Polished, churchly spires gleamed against their gray and ghetto-like surroundings, testifying to a time when people did not settle for “whatever works,” but invested those solid piles of masonry with consideration for God’s glory and for posterity. Truly, a wise man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.

Today, most congregations question the wisdom of building something so permanent when a cheap wooden building would do, but Milwaukee’s first settlers took the trouble to build not for their time but for the future. We see in abundance the structures built by pragmatism. Our society “lives for the moment,” and it produces art and architecture that will soon be cast away and forgotten. We mourn the lost aesthetic of beauty and extravagance, of high art poured out to the glory of God.

The soaring spires on Milwaukee’s skyline, as long as they stand, will never cease to signify the glory that is above and within them, and I believe their aesthetic will be reborn in my time. The consuming beauty of holiness is a call to worship, and we answer with our art.

“Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thine House, and the place where Thine honor dwelleth.”

8-29-07

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Milton in Church

Milton in Church
But let my due feet never fail
To walk the studious cloister's pale,
And love the high-embowèd roof,
With antique pillars massy proof,
And storied windows richly dight
Casting a dim religious light.

There let the pealing organ blow
To the full-voiced quire below
In service high and anthems clear,
As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all Heaven before mine eyes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Agonie


Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.

Who would know Sinne, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love in that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.

- George Herbert (1633)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New Residence, New Friends

I thought I'd include a post about my experience moving to a new area! Bryant and I moved in June to a more rural area in the northwest of the Milwaukee metro complex, so that has kept us incredibly busy in the meantime. Our house is finally beginning to look like a home, and I love how Bryant has been so involved in the furnishing/decorating process. Most guys try to leave that to their wives, but Bryant has definite ideas about what he wants. =)

I'm still the music director at Pilgrim Lutheran in Wauwatosa, with no intention of leaving any time soon. The congregation has provided organ lessons for me for two years, and it looks like I may get my lessons for some time! I'm absolutely thrilled with the opportunity, but I wondered how I would be able to continue practicing 7-10 hours a week when I live so far away. I never waste trips into town, of course!

My solution was to contact several of the local churches to find out 1) if they had a pipe organ, and 2) if I might be allowed to use it for practice. Google was invaluable, and I talked to many pastors and church secretaries who informed me sadly that they no longer had an organ of any kind. One UCC organist refused me quite rudely, and a Catholic church wanted to charge me a fee. I actually got a key to a Lutheran church within the first few days, but their organ was a wheezy electric organ in bad repair. But finally I got a response to an email from another Catholic church--a few more miles away--and the director was interested to meet me because she, too, had studied organ with Sister Mary Jane Wagner.

Yesterday I kept an appointment with her, and met a very pleasant woman just a few years older than myself who holds a post as full-time music director (imagine!) of the opulent Catholic church in Hartford. She plays for three masses a week, directs the choir, and organizes special music. She told me the church's "open" hours, and gave me free rein to practice at my leisure, no fees! The little pipe organ is a gorgeous Schwanz with many more stops and a couple more pedals than my Martin Ott. It fills up the resonant space admirably. It's such a pleasure to practice on it, and such a blessing to be closer to home! Gasoline is much too expensive to warrant special trips to Wauwatosa for organ practice. Thank you so much, Ms. Rinehart!

I just recently discovered Paul Manz's God of Grace, a festive organ setting of "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah." I can't stop playing it!

Some of you may wonder, "What's it like to cut yourself off from human society for an hour or so every day, just to put in all that practice on the instrument?" It's a little bit strange at first! But you get sucked into your "piano world" or your "organ world" or what ever world your instrument inhabits. Some days the practice is real work and you can't wait for it to be over. You plug along on some piece that just seems impenetrable. But some days your fingers get it--your feet get it--you're swept along by the adrenaline and the thrill of being The Great Noisemaker. Yesterday was the latter for me. I had to call Bryant so he could see the instrument and appreciate the incredible sound of it!

Mary Jane Wagner, as a teacher, strikes a very good balance between disciplined "left-brained" technical mastery and insightful "right-brained" artistry and spirituality. She has given me some awesome insights into the art I am priveleged to practice. She observed, for instance, that the empty church almost pulsates with the "esprit de corps" --speaking of the congregation and the spirit of worship that remains in the building. It's an awesome thing to enter that beautiful, spacious church designed to inspire your worship; to be all alone in that place where people strive to meet with God--Who of course is not confined to those walls, but promises He will visit His people. It's a great privelege to know that you "own" the space and the organ for that time, and to receive the inspiration you need to make your craft the best it can be.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rejuvenation for LCMS Churches

Bryant and I have been attending a series of "Rejuvenation" meetings for LCMS churches, and it's really made me think about what the church is, what it does, and why people attend (or fail to attend). LCMS churches in the city are declining in membership to an alarming degree, retaining mostly an aging population. Young people, for the most part, are not staying in the church or finding themselves attracted to it.

Most of us simply go about business as usual, not realizing that the church is approaching the day when it must close its doors because of a lack of interest. Is it our fault? Is it the fault of parents who did not pass on their dedication to the house of God? Is it the fault of pastors who missed the mark in their ministry? Can we simply blame it on the world for presenting its strong temptations and persuasive heresies? Or has Christ "removed the candlestick" as He promised in Revelation? If parents "drop the ball" in relaying their faith to the next generation, what feat of wits or strength can restore it? If no one presents these riches of faith with the proper reverence and passion, how can a lost generation re-discover it? It would take nothing less than a miracle, such as the story of Ezra; yet, God can do that too.

The church has so much to offer its people, and yet most of us go through the motions and do not reflect on the riches available to us. We criticize the cheap marketing tricks and gimmicky attempts to "sell" Christianity in a watered-down form, but what is the legitimate means to helping people understand the depth of God's love? You see I have more questions than answers at this point. I invite you to respond with ideas and an outside perspective.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pastor Shot!

'No One Can Fathom a Motive': Pastor Shot During Service

By KATIE ESCHERICH March 8, 2009

A GUNMAN walked down the aisle of a church during a Sunday service and killed the pastor, then stabbed himself and slashed two other people as he was wrestled to the ground by parishioners.

"The first shot hit the pastor's Bible. 'It hit the very top of the Bible and exploded on top of the Bible and turned into what many thought was confetti,'" Trent said. 'In fact, some thought it was some type of skit or some type of program at the time.'" (Emphasis added)

How interesting! That really says something about the recent degeneration of decorous worship to the level of pop culture.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

One in the Lord

I became Mrs. Bryant Moritz on February 20. 2009 at Pilgrim Ev. Lutheran Church at 6817 W Center Street in Wauwatosa. We were married by Rev. Paul Peckman, Dr. Paul Hunsicker preached the sermon, and Sister Mary Jane Wagner played the pipe organ. Here's a list of our music selections. The recessional was so well-suited to the occasion--opulently triumphant. Thank you, Mary Jane! Thanks to all who had a part in our wedding. Praise God for a beautiful day and glorious celebration.

Preludes:
1. “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”, Op. 7 #3 (Paul Manz)
2. “Rhosymedre” (“Lovely”) from Three Preludes for Organ (R. Vaughan Williams)
3. “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (J.S. Bach)
4. “Air on the G String” (J.S. Bach)

Processional: Festive Trumpet Tune in D Major (Mark Thewes)

Recessional: Allegro from Concerto in G, BWV 592 (J.S. Bach)

Postlude: Choral Prelude on “Ar Hyd Y Nos” (Go, My Children, with My Blessing) (Paul Manz)