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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Singing for a cause

Church's music series benefits local charities

For all the talk these days in the emerging church about how a clear mission promotes ministry, Bethesda Lutheran in New Haven, Conn., has put its music where its mouth is. 

The congregation of approximately 300 members, with 125 worshiping on a Sunday, has made its Bethesda Music Series a ministry that offers four or five professional-level concerts a year. The program attracts both the support of performers from nearby Yale University and Connecticut state colleges, and the ecumenical cooperation of churches whose choirs sing in the series. 

Now in its 21st year, the ministry gives all the money it raises to Habitat for Humanity, homeless shelters, after-school programs, summer camps and other community organizations. 

"We're a small church that can, in our own way, make a big difference in the community with a solid ministry in music," said Lars Gjerde, music director, a native of Norway and a graduate of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.

Start-up money for the series, which begins every Reformation Sunday, is raised during Music Sunday each May, which combined with an endowment helps make the series self-sustaining. "Faithful donors underwrite the expenses of the series, allowing us to give 100 percent of all freewill offerings to the charities," Gjerde said.


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