Everyone in the Sanctuary was Singing, Really! by Pr. Rossow

This evening at our Saturday evening service I looked around the sanctuary and two different times, once during the offertory and once during the closing hymn, I scanned the congregation and noticed that every last person in the room was singing. No kidding – everyone had a hymnal open and was singing, including a seven year old boy in the back right (his mom is an opera singer so maybe that is not so incredible), a nearly shut-in octogenarian in the third row, one of our day school teachers who just lost his wife to cancer this year, and our two high school boys serving as senior acolytes, not too mention the other 60-70 people at church tonight.

I attribute this to two things: we use the hymnal which is basically folk music of some sort or another and the fact that we have trained musicians (Cantor Phillip Magness and Associate Cantor Susan Keller) who have led the congregational song for the last several years. Cantor Magness has made it a priority to lead the music in such a way that invites and encourages people to sing. Things are far from perfect. Tomorrow at our more attended services we will have those typical church-goers who for whatever reason do not sing but even at those services I have noticed  a high percentage of people singing.

Here’s to professional church musicians who put a premium  not on concerts and thier own musicianship, but instead work to enhance the people’s song. We have lost some members over the years most likely because we preach law and gospel instead of felt needs and because we use the historic liturgy, but I will tell you this, the people we have (between 450 and 650 a weekend) are devout and dedicated to the historic liturgy and solid biblical preaching.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Everyone in the Sanctuary was Singing, Really! by Pr. Rossow — 7 Comments

  1. Leaders who make it an INTENTIONAL point to LEAD others to sing…Devout and didicated…

    Thanks you Pr. Rossow for such an uplifting story. May God bless you to be a shining light to others.

    Better than my congregation. After another hard push to CW (2 of 3 services now) I have noticed over the past year tha tin the remaining traditional service, less people seem to sing. At times I have felt my wife and I are the only ones singing during communion. (makes it hard to pcik up the song after we are back in the pew) I think our “traditionalists” are feeling beat down.

    But still, keep up the good fight for rightly preaching the Word and distributing the Sacraments.

  2. Thank you for this excellent, encouraging testimonial. God’s Word in song (God’s Word!) is that which unites participation of ALL generations. Praise His Name!

  3. I could not agree with you more and praise God for worship leaders that encourage participation and reduce showmanship.

    Our current worship arts leader makes it all about him. His rearrangement of familiar tunes and adding echoed parts make it impossible to participate. As if almost on purpose, he chooses to not follow the words as produced on the slides (no hymnals at our place).

    The most over the top moment was during an Easter service when he stood center altar on a raised platform and directed the choir and praise band at the same time. During this song he made sure his hands were raised so that everyone could see that this was his creation. Very sad.

    Although we disagree about what should be played and on what instruments, this is a point of complete agreement. The music leader must make it all about participation and not about performance.

    God’s sweet blessings to all of you.


  4. Yes having a Kantor makes all the difference. As a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin, TX. It is my privilege to be under the guidance of Mrs. Kathy Achterberg who has served as minister of music at St. Paul for nearly a decade. As a student at Concordia Texas, to be able to attend and be involved at St. Paul is an honor. Being mentored by two great pastors and Kathy is a wonderful experience. I learn so much and because of the experience and knowledge they have, I will be better prepared when I take my first call as a Kantor.

    Yes, having Kantors in our parishes is a good thing. Encourage your youth to consider church work, Concordia Seward, Austin, Mequon, Irvine, River Forest, and Ann Arbor all have Director of Parish Music Programs (DPM), which is the LC-MS rostered position of Kantors. These are good programs. How great would it be for all ministers of music to come out of these programs?

  5. When did we adopt the term “worship leader” as our norm. What has happened to choir director? You see, we adopt these terms, next thing we have women Cantors, next need a hymnal with more of a folk song content and then we need to add some instruments that will support our Kumbaya service. That’s how it all starts and ends……………….with the music driving the congregation and first thing you know they are pulled into a willow creek mode before they know what has happened. Then we go the whole way and become ELCA. Preposterous? No…………….historical.

  6. Tim Schneider – You are a breath of fresh air in our mutual conversation and consolation. Thank you for your continued participation in this site. I hope also that you will be a part of our synod’s ongoing Model Theological Conference as it unflolds at the district level next year.

    Stephen – I hope we will be able to continue to develop our synodical programs for the training of church musicians. They are a great gift to the church! In addition, we need as a synod to cultivate more avenues for non-synodically trained musicians to learn Lutheran liturgical theology and the art of liturgical musianship. We have so many talented musicians in our churches who have studied classical music at top-notch programs in this country. Should we develop this resource, many smaller parishes (who cannot call a full-time Director of Parish Music) would be able to avail themselves of a higher level of musical leadership.

    Our God Reigns – I just don’t agree that having women lead the congregation in song, whether from an organ, a piano, or with their voices, is the kind of slippery slope you say it is. Whether you call the “chief musician” a Director of Music, a Cantor, a Kantor, or a left-handed smoke sifter, I think the vast majority in the pews understand that the role of music leader is seperate from the pastoral office. Even in places where the pastor has been lead singer. That said, I do agree that the term “worship leader” is confusing, because the leader of worship is the pastor.

    Let me also add that our churches are blessed by the leadership of several female cantors. I know of no pastors who would object to having any of these dear sisters in Christ lead the Lord’s song in their parishes.

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