More than three years ago Kathy Levenhagen, a synodically authorized lay minister serving two small congregations in northern Minnesota, unexpectedly found herself planning worship. Maria Lutheran in Kennedy and Zion in Lake Bronson even used different resources — Evangelical Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Book of Worship, respectively.
"As a layperson you may not think about it, but before every [service] someone has picked out hymns, texts and more," she said. "I didn't know how to do that and wasn't particularly musical. I can follow a hymn if a pianist plays, but without that, heaven help us."
Levenhagen had seen exhibits at synod events for the Leadership Program for Musicians, a two-year Episcopal and Lutheran effort that trains music and worship leaders to lead liturgical worship, especially in congregations with limited resources. Still, she said, "it took me a few months of frustration with the way our [worship] service was working and my not knowing how to make it better [before] I finally called and asked if they could help a layperson like me. I'm so glad I made that call."
She learned more than she expected: how the service flows, how to find hymns, how to help the congregation "stretch and grow" musically, and how to change tunes or substitute hymn texts. Levenhagen also studied the history, philosophy and structures of church music.
"I also learned about using the youth of our congregation to teach new hymns, [and] I have grown to love the chant of Psalms," she said.
John Jahr, director of worship and music at Vinje Lutheran Church, Willmar, Minn., has taught LPM courses for Levenhagen and other participants from the Northwestern Minnesota and Eastern North Dakota synods. He hopes to launch an LPM program for the Southeastern Minnesota Synod in fall 2014 — something "people are really hungry for," he said.
Jahr knows what he's talking about: "I was only 11 when I was first pressed into service as a church musician. I was there before I even knew what I was doing."
But Jahr, like many, had found his vocation.
Most are church musicians
LPM helps church musicians grow that vocational understanding, said Valerie Lefever-Hughes, cantor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and Lutheran Campus Ministry in Chapel Hill, N.C. She coordinates an LPM chapter in North Carolina with her Episcopal counterpart, Kyle Ritter, canon for music at The Cathedral of All Souls, Asheville, N.C.
The program gives church musicians and others "tools and practical skills to help their assemblies sing well and actively participate in worship," Lefever-Hughes said. That's especially important in small congregations where musicians may not have formal musical or theological training, she said.
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