Members from most of our congregations were present at the music day, held at Bellville Kreuzkirche. Most of those present were actively involved in the music ministries of their own congregations, while a few were there to sing some songs and discuss music in church.
Those present were mostly organists/ pianists.
2. Opening remarks
There was a general agreement among those present that churches struggle with inconsistency and availability. People have busy lives; young people have other responsibilities that come up and others get older and don’t have the strength to be available every Sonday. This adds to the need but also the want for church choirs and other instruments to be used during worship in church. There was a time when congregations had choirs who would lead the singing, but most churches don’t have this luxury anymore. This means that the congregants have to lead the singing themselves, which does mean there are more mistakes, unknown songs are a pain, and the voices don’t carry to well. This is of course true for the hymns/ songs we sing, but also the liturgical songs that make out a part of our services.
Generally, everyone agreed that liturgy is a crucial part of our services and our Lutheran tradition. It is what makes us feel at home whether attending a service here in the Cape or in a different region. The liturgy must stay, but the question is how can we make it more contemporary? This we’ll need to unpack a bit more – liturgy for us today.
Of course, some congregations have the people and ability to have a wider variety of instruments during a Sunday service. For example, a band, solo singers and more contemporary songs. A larger group of active younger congregants play a big role here. With this being true for certain congregations we would need to unpack how we can make use of variety in services and Lutheran tradition – instrumental variety as part of our worship service.
Not to oversimplify but Lutheran love to sing and when everything ‘clicks’ in a service like the liturgy, which includes the readings, prayers, songs and sermon, we feel at home, and we can celebrate Christ grace together as one Lutheran body.
3. Next steps or what to start unpacking together.
In our discussion we listed many things that can or should be done. Some of them are simple and for admin purposes and others more complex, requiring some brain and teamwork.
A database can be made of all the congregations’ musicians. Who plays for which congregations, what instruments they play and maybe on which Sundays they play. This would help us be more aware of the other congregations and if in need we can contact a musician from another congregation to help out at a service or event. A possible ‘musician exchange’ similar to the pastor’s exchange, can also be planned. This would help us get to know each other better and learn from each other.
Closely linked to this is the making of a canon on hymns and songs that all our congregations can learn and share. Most congregations use the Australian hymnal, with some making use of the American hymnal and other more contemporary song books. St. Martini already has a booklet wherein they have grouped some of their hymns for more contemporary occasions. This would be a bigger work, due to the large number of hymns available. If every congregation notes down which songs they sing at Sunday services over a span of the church year, those notes can be compared to identify the most loved songs.
With the liturgy and many of the hymns coming from a German background and from many years ago, not all the words sing smoothly (some of old and not common today) and the translations are difficult. Here we can look at the changing of some words or notes to help. This is probably more difficult than it sounds but very doable when we have identified the hymns or part of liturgy. There are many modern hymns or notes to the songs and part of liturgy, which we can learn which will help.
An important part of making our liturgy more contemporary or fitting for our congregations today is for us to learn more about the parts of liturgy and the songs that we sing. This would add to the theological depth of why we’re singing it and to the spiritual value of what we’re singing. We have knowledgeable people in our congregations and at the University of Stellenbosch which we can ask for guidance, and we have funds available for this.
Lastly, there can also be training for congregants. This training can include teaching about the liturgy and also practicing the songs in the liturgy. Instead of having a choir lead to liturgical songs, the whole congregation can now take the lead to sing at the right time and at the right pace.
4. Leaders group
Ingrid van Sittert