By Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
This past Sunday in our Pentecost Service, our men’s choir, Keynote Vocal Group, sang “O Sifuni Mungu”, a song partly in Swahili, originally recorded by the group First Call. It is a very lively music set with clear African beat and rhythm, accompanied with drums, percussive instruments, and piano. As the song goes, “All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing. All men, all creatures, everybody, praise the Lord!” - it is undoubtedly a song of praise and worship to God. But as most cases in song writing, its conception and composition go beyond one particular purpose.
According to the composer, Marty McCall, “The first spark of inspiration for the song happened during a 1987 Grammy show performance. When Paul Simon entered the stage to perform a song from his “Graceland” album, he was joined and backed up by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a male vocal group from South Africa. It was a musical and cultural innovation rarely seen at that time in pop music and it was thrilling! I’ve always loved exploring music from diverse cultures so this experience affected me powerfully. Ladysmith was authentically African yet still accessible to American audiences, using the same diatonic scale and chord progressions found in western music. While Paul Simon’s music is solidly American, the addition of Ladysmith’s strong but sensitive vocal accompaniment, the unique style, and the traditional clothing of the group made the performance an equally African cultural statement. A powerful fusion. It was a moment of clear inspiration for me.
“I saw a spiritual, musical and culturally blended vision that I wanted deeply to express, believing that within the Body of Christ, heightened awareness of our varied cultures gives us a unique pathway to celebrate and worship God together.”
These composer’s words about the song’s conception struck me the most, especially thinking about our CGS family. With our members’ diverse backgrounds, we are a blending of cultural, musical, and spiritual expressions. Each of us brings something different and unique to our church family, that make our faith growth and experience special. We share foods from our different cultures, share experiences from involvements from past churches and religions, and of course for me, share music that we love to sing. All of these, as the composer mentions, give us a unique pathway to celebrate and worship God together. This is also a reason why I try to have the choirs occasionally sing music in a different language. That as we celebrate and worship God through these music, it is also an opportunity for us to learn, grow, and appreciate different cultures. It truly is a thrilling experience!
By Pastor Manda
I don’t have to tell you about the immigration crisis at our southern border. If you’ve consumed any amount of news, you know something of the story and you may have even formed an opinion on what we should be doing about who is and is not allowed to become a US citizen or live within our nation’s borders.
I don’t care to influence your thoughts on that today. I don’t have an agenda that you should think one way or another about immigration. I do have a concern for how we treat others, no matter what our relationship with them is.
We usually talk about the way we treat one another and cite the golden rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Which we have adopted and adapted from Matthew 7.12 “In everything you do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” He says this as part of a longer sermon – the same one that contains the beatitudes (blessed are..) and a bunch of other teachings that you would recognize. They were amazed because Jesus taught these familiar things in a way that they hadn’t heard before. And while he was upholding the laws, he was also changing our relationship to them.
After this sermon, the next three things Jesus does in the story are:
For this reason, Peace Lutheran Church and Border Servant Corps in Las Cruces, New Mexico are extending hospitality to those asylum seekers and immigrants who have been detained by the US government at the southern border. After their degrading and traumatizing treatment at the detention center, Peace LC, with the staffing of Border Servant Corps becomes a place of safety and refuge.
30-50 detainees arrive there every week. In the next 7 days they receive warm beds, food, showers, medical care, and assistance to get to the next stage of their journey. For some people this means going on to a city in the US where they can move through the next part of the asylum process. For others this means travelling back to one of the places that they came from.
During the week of July 21st, a group of people from CGS are going to go and volunteer with the Border Servant Corps to support them as they extend grace to the recently released detainees. Matt Byom, Shirley Woods, Joshua Armstrong, Michael Flanagin, and myself are not people who have any expertise to lend, nor do we have the ability to heal the trauma of emigration or detention. What we do have is the same thing we all have – the ability to extend grace to others. So that is what we’ll do, following the example of Jesus.
My hope is that our group will be able to invite you in to share in this ministry with us before and after our trip. I hope that you will speak with these individuals about what they are doing. I hope also that you will keep us in your prayers along with those who work every day to extend grace to those who are vulnerable in and around the US border, and every individual whose life is so devoid of hope that they risk safety and law-breaking to find a better life in the US.
By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
As an institution – a family, a business, a civic or social organization, a church – grows, matures, and evolves over the years, it accumulates things. These things can be physical, to be sure, but can also be mental or spiritual: the memories and recollections of the individual members; a legacy of works done in the community of which it is a part; or the direct impact, great or small, it has on its members.
Often times the physical objects serve as a tangible reminder of the mental and spiritual accomplishments, and can therefore be difficult to let go of those objects, even when they have outlived their practical purposes. Getting rid of such things can feel like a disservice – to the objects themselves, to the memories of their use, and to the memories of those who used them. CGS is no different in this respect – take a tour through some of the nooks and crannies of our building, and you find the accumulations of generations of worship and service.
Of particular interest to me are the hundreds of hymnals that can be found in a crawl space off of the choir loft (among other places). As the ELCA has updated hymnals and other worship materials, and particularly since CGS has moved to printing the hymns directly in the bulletins, many of these books have not seen the light of day in years, let alone use in worship service.
The majority of our collection consists of the Lutheran Book of Worship (the “Green Book”), which served as the “official” hymnal of the ELCA from 1978 to 2006, but we also have many copies of With One Voice (the “Blue Book”, which was published in 1995 as a supplement to the LBW) and the Service Book and Hymnal (the “Red Book”, which dates to 1955). Many of these hymnals were bought for the church by our members, who have dedications in the front to them or to their loved ones, and many of these members or their families remain active with us today.
This brings me to the point of my missive: as CGS looks forward to how our space may be best used (and perhaps modified), we are also taking stock of the things we have accumulated, and finding the best place and use for them. Therefore, we will be finding new homes for our hymnals, be it with another congregation, individuals, libraries, or other uses. We will be going through and making a list of all dedicants in the hymnals and reaching out to them or their families to have the opportunity to take those hymnals home.
It may seem strange for a church to get rid of its hymnals; even more so when you connect the physical object to the years of worship and community it witnessed. But the truth is these books have for many years simply been “taking up space” in a dark corner of our building, and we’d like to honor their memory and use by allowing the opportunity for others to use them as well.
If you know that one or more of those hymnals has your name (or that of a loved one) in it, let us know and we’ll make sure it gets to you. If you’d just like a hymnal (or two) to have in your home, let us know that as well! We’ll be working on this over the next couple of months and hope to have new homes for all the hymnals by Labor Day.
We give thanks to God for the gifts of music and community, and thanks for the role that our hymnals have played in allowing us to share those gifts.
By Laurie Gaumer, CGS Treasurer
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.