Daniel Thomas, Church Musician
As we enter the fall season you’ll notice we’ve introduced new liturgical music. It is my hope that as a community we can continue to expand our musical boundaries in relation to worship, and where this summer’s music was based in a more contemporary American sound, this fall we are using music from Christian cultures around the world, as a reminder that music and worship transcends cultural and political boundaries.
I have incorporated traditional folk and sacred music from South Africa, Peru, Korea, Russia, China, and Jamaica, as well as a European piece from the classical era and a more contemporary Caribbean song. What I like about all of these pieces is, even though they reflect a variety of melodic and rhythmic structures, they maintain a simplicity that allow communities to learn the tunes quickly and focus on the words and their moment in worship.
You will also notice some changes in our instrumentation! First and foremost, you’ll see our handbells incorporated much more often into the liturgies; this is something we will continue to do in upcoming seasons, and I am grateful to and impressed by Rachel, Kevin, and Chuck for their willingness and quick study (Rebecca, of course, is a handbell veteran!). Secondly, you’ll also notice our guitarists often joining Ronny in playing percussion, which allows us to create more varied textures and colors.
Finally, I am spending very little time at the piano during the liturgical music – part of this is to support the different aural textures of the pieces (the piano is very much a European instrument and would not often be found in the folk traditions of these other cultures), but it is also to allow me to play a support role for the rest of our band. Since my arrival at CGS, I have wanted the band to function more as an ensemble and less as a piano with some instruments playing along. But I also recognize that our musicians are volunteers, and as such, may be absent due to family, work, or other responsibilities. This setup allows me to jump around and fill in as needed to maintain the integrity of the ensemble sound. (I will admit that it’s also a fun challenge, as I went from playing bass two weeks ago to handbells last week, and this week I’ll be doing various things to fill in for Rachel and Kevin).
As always, I hope you enjoy this liturgical music and are able to appreciate its origins and connections to God and God’s Word that all of these cultures enjoy. And as always, I welcome your thoughts and discussion on this or any music that we have here at CGS.
Chuck Witschorik, Council Secretary
Over the past few months at CGS we have shared a particular song as part of our offertory reflection. The piece, "Christ Has No Body Now But Yours," features a beautiful melody paired with the lyrics of a celebrated poem by the sixteenth-century Spanish mystic Teresa of Avila. Here are the words of the text:
"Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which Christ sees,
Yours are the feet with which Christ walks,
Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses all the world."
Though this poem has always intrigued me, it caught my attention in a particular way this year in my roles as part of both the music ministry and church council. From my vantage point with the worship band on Sunday mornings, I have the privilege to share music alongside the other musicians and to witness our congregation come together in praise and thanksgiving each week. Every time we play this song, it moves me to actually witness the lyrics come alive as members of the congregation embrace one another in peace, share from the abundance God has blessed them with, and bring forward the shared gifts of the community. The tenderness of people's care for one another and their generosity in giving reminds me how Christ would serve and care for each of us.
As a member of council I have also had the opportunity to get to know more intimately the variety of ways in which our congregation reaches out in service to others. From shelter cooking, to food drives, to proclaiming God's radically inclusive love at San Jose Pride, and in so many more ways, the people of CGS truly embody the message of the poem. Each of us is unique, flawed and imperfect and yet also beautifully gifted and it is inspiring to witness how God brings us together and uses us as a community, as an embodiment of Christ's love.
As the council discerns this fall how God is calling us to continue to walk in our mission, I take inspiration from the visible ways I can see God already at work among us. At the same time, I look forward with anticipation to witnessing the ways God will continue to move among us, equipping us for service. Building on the strong foundation of where God has brought us so far, we continue to listen for the Spirit's voice, calling us, strengthening us, and equipping us for both the ongoing means and the new opportunities we will have to share Christ's love in our midst, as the eyes, the feet, the hands, and the heart called to proclaim, welcome, and serve.
Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
Our choirs, the CGS Mixed Choir and Keynote Vocal Group, will start singing in our weekly worship services again starting September 9, “God’s Work. Our Hands. (GWOH)” Sunday. This is the perfect time for our choirs to resume our weekly commitment to worship, because I believe that our choral ministry’s work tie in with that of GWOH. As announced on the ELCA website (www.elca.org):
“GWOH day is an opportunity to celebrate who we are as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – one church, freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor. Service activities offer an opportunity for us to explore one of our most basic convictions as Lutherans: that all of life in Jesus Christ – every act of service, in every daily calling, in every corner of life – flows freely from a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. You work every day to make your community a better place. Let us continue doing this work together in 2018!”
Singing in our choirs and being involved in all the other ministries of CGS is a celebration of who we are as a church and a good testament of our mission - to proclaim, welcome, and serve. It is our way of loving and serving our community and helping to make it a better place - may it be by reaching out to the sick, feeding the hungry, or even making our worship experiences special and welcoming for our guests and congregation. May this “God’s Work. Our Hands.” Sunday be a perfect motivation for us to move forward with our work, as singers and ministers, to serve the world with gratitude, reflecting the unconditional love of God.
from Pr. Manda
Two years ago, Scott approached me to talk about how to prepare his daughters to receive communion for the first time. Even though we welcome all people, regardless of age, to receive holy communion at CGS, in his family they do things differently. It’s been my pleasure to work with them over the past years and I am overjoyed that this month, Harper and Violet will receive what they have helped to prepare and distribute a few times in the past. Here is what they wanted to share with you on this special occasion for their family:
Communion (Also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist) is a time at church when we all receive bread and wine to symbolize Jesus’s body and blood. But why do we do that?
Jesus created the tradition of communion at the last supper where he told his followers to use bread and wine to remember the sacrifice he was going to make while he died on the cross. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) Now, every time we gather together to receive communion, we get a chance to recognize the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
The tradition of communion consists of several elements (bread, linen, etc). 30 minutes to an hour before church begins, 1 – 3 volunteers prepare communion in the sacristy. The volunteers prepare by pouring the wine (or grape juice) into the flagon and small cups. They also prepare by placing the bread and wafers onto the bread plate and putting wafers into the pax box. Next, the volunteers bring these things into the nave and placed onto the altar.
In the past few months me and my sister have been learning all about why we take communion and how we prepare for it. Every Sunday we would come to church early and help set up communion. The people there helping us taught us how to set up the altar, prepare the bread and wine, and taught us why we should take communion. We also talked to Pastor Manda several times to help our understanding of communion further. Additionally, we interviewed our grandparents and a few people that go to our church about why we should take communion. Now, thanks to all of them, me and my sister have a better understanding of how and why we take communion.
I’d like to tell you a bit about what I have been working on for about the past year. Pastor Manda and I have been working on learning more about church and why we take Communion. From my personal journey and experience, I’ve have learned so much about Communion and why we take it. From what I have learned, Communion is taken to represent all of the sacrifices Jesus made for us and to commemorate him collectively through out everyone, no matter what age, gender or race. Communion is taken to commemorate the Eucharist and its meaning. It is taken to respect, talk to, and show your love and appreciation to God. I have learned so much about God, I’ve interviewed people to realize the whole meaning and simply just learned how to set up the altar. I’d like to thank Pastor Manda for taking time to teach me about God, and you all for being such a great church community.