With Advent, we enter a new church year. The church will also be looking forward to the observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. What can that mean for your congregation’s music ministry? You likely have plans underway, but here are ten ministry opportunities for you to consider.
1. Teach about why we sing together. Use this year to be intentional about assembly singing being a shared activity, particularly the singing of the hymn of the day. For suggestions, see page 49 of Reformation 500 Sourcebook: Anniversary Resources for Congregations, and page 17 of Sundays and Seasons: Guide to Worship Planning, Year A 2017. Teach through spoken word, blogs, website, newsletter and bulletin articles, or social media. Another resource to encourage you would be the Frequently Asked Questions on the ELCA website, particularly the questions related to music.
2. Create opportunities to sing with your Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. Can you hold a choir exchange? An evening prayer service? For guidance and templates, see Reformation 500 Sourcebook, “Common Prayer,” page 51. While her presentation is more focused on worship in general than music in particular, Gail Ramshaw’s presentation at the 2015 Worship Jubilee stresses our ecumenical partnerships and offers some practical ideas for joint worship services.
3. Celebrate the heritage of Lutheran hymnody by planning a hymn festival. Again, a collaborative or ecumenical choir could be a part of such an event. You could also use the “Church’s Journey in Art and Song” as provided on the ELCA website.
4. Sing and teach about hymns of the Reformation era on a regular basis. You could do this seasonally, choosing a hymn by Martin Luther or other hymn writers of the period.
5. Widen the understanding of “Lutheran” hymns beyond hymns written by Martin Luther. The “Hymns for the Anniversary year” on page 43 of Reformation 500 Sourcebook shows us that hymns from many lands and eras proclaim the centrality of the grace offered us in Jesus Christ.
6. Review the “Reformation 500” section with each seasonal essay from the 2017 edition of Sundays and Seasons, either in print or online. Many offer musical suggestions connected to the season and the Reformation.
7. Give particular attention to teaching children the faith through music. If your church has a children’s choir, renew that commitment. If it does not, could you or another music leader begin such a ministry? Is music a regular part of Christian education?
8. Include hymnody in an Adult forum on Luther’s catechism. A helpful resource is “Martin Luther, the Catechism and Music,” on page 113 of Reformation 500 Sourcebook.
9. Seek out Lutheran colleagues and ask what are they doing to mark the 500th. Share ideas and possibilities, even events if you are in close proximity. If you are serving a Lutheran church and are not yet a member of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, this is an organization that exists to support you in your calling.
10. Discern with pastors and a worship committee/team what needs reformation in your particular place. Is there an aspect of your music ministry that needs extra attention and reviving? How can you intentionally engage that area?
Reformation is ongoing, but this year allows for focused energy on Luther’s legacy as it shapes our worship. May the Spirit infuse your planning and celebrating!