The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Offering time and talents

Musician shares his many gifts with others

John Gottschall loves music. And he loves wood. These two deep interests led to his distinctive vocation. Gottschall is organist and choir director at Philadelphia’s St. Mark Lutheran Church, a predominantly African American congregation.

In his Philadelphia apartment, John Gottschall sits at the organ he built with wood he gathered.
His “studio” is his apartment, which one visitor described as containing “pieces of tree trunks, specialized woodworking tools, organ pipes and any number of totally unrecognizable things ….” One of Gottschall’s organs stands in the living room where he gives lessons and holds student recitals.

Gottschall shares his talents in many ways. He started a program for the community, which provides lessons in voice, piano, violin and organ. Charles Leonard, pastor of St. Mark, says Gottshall “values each person’s gifts and helps them build confidence” so they can sing or play an instrument. Every year the congregation holds an official music appreciation Sunday. But Leonard says Gottshall insists that “every Sunday is music appreciation Sunday.”

The whole congregation loves music and sings from 12 to 15 hymns at every service. There are also four ensembles,  a gospel choir, a choir of people over 55, a children’s choir and a men’s ensemble.

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