By Cheryl Magness
This summer, for the first time in seven years, LCMS pastors, musicians, lay leaders and more will gather to grow in the knowledge and practice of Lutheran worship at a national Synod conference. Under the theme “Songs of Deliverance: Psalms in the Great Congregation,” the 2024 Institute on Liturgy, Preaching and Church Music will take place July 9–12 at Concordia University, Nebraska (CUNE), Seward, Neb.
The Rev. Sean Daenzer, director of LCMS Worship, says the institute will communicate that everyone who is in the Body of Christ — “every voice in every pew, pulpit and balcony” — has a part in the song of the church.
That song, Daenzer says, includes “not only the Confession and Absolution, the preaching and the Lord’s Supper, but every part of the liturgy ordered to surround worshipers in the Word of God.” The psalms, as the Bible’s hymnal, are an essential part of that liturgy.
“The psalter is … filled with the songs of the Lord’s deliverance,” writes Daenzer in his welcome letter in the registration information. Noting that the sinner is desperately in need of deliverance from sin, he says the church is wise to take up the psalms daily “in Christ Jesus, who prays them first and best.”
Voices old and new
The institute has something for everyone: church musicians, pastors, teachers, artists, lay leaders and anyone who wants to learn about the church’s worship. Presentations will feature long-time experts in their respective fields as well as up-and-coming voices with fresh perspectives.
Keynote speakers are:
- Charles Brown, Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill., on singing the psalms;
- The Rev. Dr. Adam Hensley, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, on the order and arrangement of the psalter; and
- The Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Boyle, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, on the psalms as a conversation between God and His people.
Among other topics, psalm-specific breakout sessions will address:
- The psalms as a source of comfort;
- Using the psalms in preaching;
- Psalm resources for small congregations;
- Composing music for the psalms; and
- Leading psalm-singing from the piano.
There will also be a variety of sessions on many other worship-related topics such as preaching, organ playing, choir directing, worship planning and more.
All the psalms
A centerpiece of the 2024 institute is a plan to pray the entire psalter — all 150 psalms — over the course of the gathering’s four days. And yes, says Daenzer with a smile, “that includes all of Psalm 119.” A variety of approaches to praying and singing the psalms will be employed.
Other activities include:
- A parallel youth choir track for unchanged voices that will provide music for some of the institute’s worship;
- A series of recitals featuring professional LCMS church musicians as well as student musicians;
- “Bach at the Brewery,” an opportunity to raise a glass and sing some Bach chorales just for fun;
- An ice cream social complete with folk dancing; and
- Nightly Compline.
Paul Steitz, an elder at Trinity Lutheran Church, Broken Arrow, Okla., said that he will be attending the institute and encouraging others to do so.
“It was at the 2014 institute in Seward, Neb., that I was first exposed to a level of Lutheran worship I didn’t know existed,” Steitz said. “Never before had I been exposed to such a thorough rendering of divine worship in all its beauty. Singing the liturgy with hundreds of fellow Lutherans instilled in me a profound appreciation for how we worship. …
“Over the years, I have been blessed to have met and worked with some of the best musicians in the LCMS. In each case, what stood out the most for me was the devotion these musicians have to the conservation of the liturgy and why it is so important to the future of the church. I want my choir director, his wife and as many other members of my church choir as possible to experience the rich treasure of Lutheran worship. There is so much to be learned and taken back to our respective congregations, regardless of size or musical resources. I can’t recommend this event more strongly.”
Kathleen Stahlhut, a member of Chapel of the Cross, St. Louis, has served the church for many years as both a professional musician and a volunteer. She is planning to attend the institute and is encouraging her parish musician to do so also. “It will be his first,” she said, adding that she “loves the worship services and comparing notes with other people.”
Tom Honebrink, a lay deacon at Catalina Lutheran Church, Tucson, who has attended two institutes in the past, said he is “eagerly anticipating this summer’s gathering.”
“And ‘gathering’ is not a word carelessly chosen,” Honebrink continued, “as it is the coming together that has been of monumental importance for me personally. The camaraderie and fellowship serve to magnify the value of the learning, worship and reception of God’s good gifts throughout the event.
“As a layperson, it is a blessing to receive encouragement from others who serve in similar ways in the church militant and to offer such support in return. Many thanks to all who bring about the smooth execution of this undertaking. May God once again bless the leaders, teachers and hearers.”
Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
“The Lutheran church is no place for silence,” writes Daenzer in his welcome letter. “From pulpit and chancel, from balcony and choir loft, and from each voice in between, Christ’s holy Word sounds, echoing the stories and truths that bear His blessed Name.”
The 2024 institute is an opportunity to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).
For more information, or to register, visit lcms.org/2024-worship-institute.Learn more and register
Posted Jan. 23, 2024