Thursday, September 17, 2009

Week zero--Zion Lutheran Church

I have ordinarily been a member of the Chancel Choir of Zion Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor, and when I decided to embark on the Itinerant Chorister project, I offered Minister of Music Rob Meyer first dibs on a few Sundays throughout the year when I would plan to be there. His first choice was Sunday, September 13. Because much of the activity in this church is scheduled around the academic year, the Sunday after Labor Day has been known as Rally Sunday. However, in order to play down the idea that things in the church seriously slow down during the summer, and important things only happen at other times of the year, the name was changed to Celebration Sunday. However, the front of the church bulletin says Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost. I have to admit that it might be hard for the First through Fourteenth Sundays after Pentecost to excite people enough to drop their summer weekend activities and go to see the green paraments in the chancel.

In my experience, choirs are groups in which jokesters hang out, some of them very funny, some pretty corny. One bit of humor on this occasion was actually the director, reminding us (I had heard this joke before) that the Bible is a book of baseball, as evidenced by its first words being "In the big inning..."

Celebration Sunday was a big deal, and Zion's big deal worship forces were on hand for both the 8:15 and 9:30 services. In addition to the Chancel Choir and the organ, which are more usual, there was also a brass quintet and the Bell Choir. Despite that, one of the stirring bits was spoken at the very beginning (big inning) of the service, with some riffs on the handbells interspersed--Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us kneel before the Lord our maker! Psalm 95:1,6

A music-related point within the sermon by Pastor Mike Walters was that making music and singing is a type of teaching--putting the words of faith into the ears of those listening, as well is into our own hearts. The theme of the sermon was teaching, in preparation for commissioning those who were teaching classes for children and adults and serving other roles in the church. Those who were there as musicians for the two services were commissioned twice.

The choir worked harder than usual, doing three songs. Two of those were choral sections of hymns with the congregation joining for much of them--Praise to the Lord, the Almighty and Lift High the Cross. Each of these featured the brass quintet as well. The times when I was growing up that I remember singing the latter hymn were all on Easter during communion time. Maybe we sang it at other times, too. The centerpiece that the choir sang that day was new to us, Sing to the Lord a New Song, with text from Psalm 96, composed and arranged by John Behnke for choir, organ, and handbells.

It was an exciting send-off from my home base into the actual Itinerant Chorister project. This week--First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor.

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