Once again I am totally impressed by the quality, organization, and spirit of the WELS national worship conference. I have been to many such gatherings of other organizations, many of them fine in their own right. But every time I spend a week with the WELS, I am reminded of Proverbs 31:29 ("Many have done excellently, but you have surpassed them all!"). That such excellence proceeds from a church body of but 400,000 souls is truly noteworthy. Clearly, these saints love the Lord's song, and, as we prayed in chapel this AM, desire "to worship in excellent, noble, and lovely ways."
There is so much that merits these accolades that I will not be able to squeeze them all in here between morning chapel and the upcoming keynote address to be delivered by Rev. Aaron Christie. But one highlight that must be mentioned is the outstanding opening concert last night given by the Festival Choir and Orchestra. Volunteer groups gathered from WELS congregations around the country, these ensembles performed magnificently under the inspiring direction of Dr. Kermit Moldernhauer and Katherine Tiefel. Especially memorable moments included a beautiful setting of "When You Pass Through the Waters" (Is. 43:1-3) by Paul D. Weber (published by Morning Star Music), Evelyen R. Larter's arrangement of "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel (Augsburg Fortress), Mendelssohn's "There Shall a Star", the Crucifixus from Bach's B Minor Mass, and Manz' "Even So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come." Liturgy Solutions composers Kevin Hildebrand and Jeffrey Blersch also had works performed: Kevin's setting of Jaroslav Vajda's incredibly moving text, "In Hopelessness and Near Despair," and Jeff's concertato on "Crown Him with Many Crowns" (CPH). Both of these works were excellently performed, as was John Rutter's Psalm 146. Above all, this reviewer was particularly moved by Brad Holmes "Star in the East". This should not surprise my friends who know my love for Sacred Harp music! :)
More to come. It is now time for the keynote address, "Passing the Torch." The hymn festival last night was loosely themed on "passing the joy of our Lutheran heritage to the next generation." It'll be good to discuss this, and we need strategies and motivation for training up all those who are new in the faith in the Lord's song - whether young or old. But it'll be great after discussing this to get back to enacting it, both here at this conference and back home in our congregations. And with 1000+ participants here at this conference, there will be a lot of places after this conference where the Lord's song will be sung with greater nobility, excellence, beauty, and joy!