Sacred music educator and missionary Phillip Magness recently returned from three weeks in the Republic of Congo, where he led an intensive workshop on hymnody and liturgy at Paroisse Wittenberg (Wittenberg Parish) in Pointe-Noire, consulted with church leaders on future projects, and worked with the musicians at St. Augustine Lutheran Church in Brazzaville.
The workshop in Pointe-Noire involved a variety of participants who came in three “waves”: pastors and seminarians, elders and choir members, and children, with the first group attending all three sessions each day, the second the latter two, and the children coming after school. Attendees worked on learning key stanzas of core hymns by heart so that the Lord’s song would dwell in them more richly and so that they would be equipped to share good hymns without hymnals. They also learned some new hymns from Liturgies et Cantiques Lutheriennes (LCL) (the French-language edition of Lutheran Service Book), developed music literacy using both music from LCL and from prayer and praise music in the local Lingala language, and grew in their understanding of the Word as various scriptural allusions in hymns were explained.
The work in both Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville also included some practical instruction to pastors and musicians, encouraging them to work together and practice transitions before services so that the liturgy can flow more smoothly and better lead the congregation. For example, when a hymn is sung in an a capella setting, the key and tempo must be established. Typically, this is done by the pastor, who sings a phrase and then counts off a beat to bring the people in. It is important that songs not start off too high or too low for the assembly, so worship leaders were encouraged to consider the contour of the melody before starting to sing.
The Rev. Joseph Mboungou of Pointe-Noire was one of many who expressed gratitude for the teaching received, saying, “We are very happy because the whole parish keeps singing these hymns. My brother Phillip has sown a lot, and now we will reap much in the ministry that we share together in Christ.”
Read more stories about LCMS international mission work at international.lcms.org.