Commentary

Sing a new song … and a couple old ones, too

Bob Hulteen

With its concentration of Lutherans — and, specifically, Lutheran colleges — the Midwest enjoys an abundance of good choral music. Indeed, it is verifiably true that (most) Lutherans love to sing. And, of course, we are fortunate to have some beautiful hymns — both traditional and modern.

Hymn-singing is perfect for the pan-Lutheran Metro Lutheran newspaper. It is an activity we can participate in together even while we have ecclesial, social, political, liturgical, and theological differences. Hymn festivals are like gang truces — regardless of “affiliation,” all in attendance are safe sharing the same room at the same time because there is a common purpose: singing the hymns.

Mount Olive Lutheran Church, the home of the modern hymn festival (under the leadership of then-cantor Paul Manz), will again host Manz’ tradition of a Palm Sunday Hymn Festival as a benefit for Metro Lutheran. Palm, or Passion, Sunday falls on March 24 this year, and the hymn festival is set to begin at 4 p.m.

Current cantor David Cherwien will once again put together a program mixing familiar and new hymns. In addition, he prepares the mass choir that leads the congregational singing.

And, perhaps more visibly, Cherwien is also the organist for the hymn festival. He is well-known for his improvisational abilities, a gift that adds to the emotional experience of participants.

Susan Palo Cherwien knits together the various hymns with reflections that draw from scripture, devotional readings, theology, poetry, and scientific literature. She goes for the story under the story, and Palm Sunday provides an inspirational challenge for digging beyond the familiar to the deeper vein of interpretation.

As editor emeritus Michael L. Sherer said in a feature story about Susan (Metro Lutheran, September 2012, page 8), “[Cherwien] is careful about her craft, not bringing forth a new text until it’s really ready.” Luckily for Metro Lutheran readers who attend the hymn festival, she always seems ready for this event.

So join us on Palm Sunday as we sing a new song with a sanctuary filled with Lutherans of various stripes. Allow yourself to be inspired!

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