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“Steeped in Tradition, Stirred by the Spirit, Sweetened with Love”

Welcome to Christ Evangelical Church

December 2015

"A Country Church in the City"   

Our congregation was founded in 1894 and is part of the great German Evangelical and Reformed Tradition in America!      

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Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!


Listen to a recent Sunday Sermon: "A Wisdom-Free Nation?"

1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

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How Can I Keep from Singing?

When I was growing up in the 60s my mother believed that piano lessons were an essential part of a child’s education. My sister (4 years older) took to the lessons quite well and soon was performing honorably in recitals. During the Christmas season she was soon accompanying us from the piano as we sang Christmas carols. She also mastered “Songs of the Civil War” and a book of Stephen Foster songs. Young people may not believe it, but at family gatherings we would sit around the piano and listen to my sister play and sing songs like “Camptown Races” and “Eatin’ Goober Peas.”  My sister was a “star” at these gatherings.

By contrast, my piano lessons did not progress so smoothly. When were lived in Schweinfurt, Herr Hoffman spent most of the lessons hitting my knuckles with a ruler. When we moved by to Arlington, I struggled mightily to prepare “Animal Crackers in My Soup” for recital with meager results. Finally, Mrs. Raughtabaugh (spelling unknown) told my mother that, “maybe little Mebane (me), could find a better use of this time than taking piano lessons.” I turned my time attention towards my ChemCraft lab set and soon found that burning and blowing things up was a lot more fun than playing the scales.

If I couldn’t play the piano like my sister, at least I could contribute to church and home by singing. Nope. My father, who was well known in church for his resonant singing voice, soon ruled that I “couldn’t carry a tune in the bucket.” Through my whole educational history, I was never asked to be in a choir or singing group. Of course, I never auditioned. I sang in the car to the radio, but never where anyone could hear me. One time, I tried singing to a college girlfriend, Lucille Rita Shimerman, but the results were less than romantic. I think for the next 20 years, the only songs I sang in public were “Happy Birthday” and the “Star Spangled Banner” (at White Sox games). Since I only went to church on Christmas and Easter, I didn’t have much chance to do any hymn singing.

When I returned to my Christian faith almost 20 years ago, my life changed in many ways. What surprised me the most was that my freedom in Christ was a freedom to sing! As a renewed Christian, I picked up that hymnal and sang my heart out. I was (and remain) only semi-trained. I can barely read music. But from the start, I was loud (painfully loud to some) and I was joyful. God was doing a new thing in me. I think it was in about the second year of my renewed church life that a gentleman (the husband of the Pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, now long closed) in the pew in front of me turned to me and asked me why I was not in a choir. This was in a church too small to have a choir.

From that day on, I was looking for a church home where I could join the choir. I was soon a member of the choir at 1st Presbyterian Church of University City. About half of the members of this choir were professional-level singers who performed with the Saint Louis Symphony. Because of my lack of skill, I struggled and I sometimes despaired, but I did not give up. Since then I have been a member of the choir at Christ Episcopal Church, a sometime member of the Evangelical Church choir, and have joined the Messiah choir and the Easter cantata choir based out of Trinity Lutheran. I took one set of voice lessons, but I am still only semi-skilled in sight-reading. I have only done 3 solos in my entire singing career. I do my best with a strong section leader, and I am a slow learner. I love to sing.

During my life in the church, the words of the hymns have taught me as much or more about God than have Sunday school and Bible study. In my experience those words really reach my mind and heart when I sing them rather than simply listen to others singing. I can sometimes listen to secular music without singing along. But whenever and wherever I hear Christian music, I want to sing.

During the almost 8 years I have been attending Evangelical Church, I have always enjoyed listening to Bev and the choir, singing in the choir, and singing along with the congregation. All aspects of the service—the responsive Psalms, the Scripture, the prayers, the Creed, the sermon, the benediction—are meaningful for me, but the singing is part of service that I fully connect with. Singing is the part of church that involves the whole person: mind, spirit, and body. It is the part of church where I can “get over myself” and give myself up to Christ.

During the second half of 2015 we have been blessed with a wonderful visitor, Annamarie Engelhard. In her gentle and quiet way, she has had a tremendous impact on our choir and congregation. With our Christmas cantata, Bev and Annamarie have shown us that we can do much more than we ever imagined. In 2016 Annamarie will be moving on to start her music therapy career. We will miss her greatly. Her brief time with us has reminded us of how important singing is to our congregation. Let’s prayerfully consider how we can move forward to continue to develop our music ministry. We can be confident that if we are obedient to God’s Will, he will send us the people we need to keep us singing.

The hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing,” with lyrics by an unknown author, first published in 1868, says it all:   

My life flows on in endless song;

Above earth's lamentation,

I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn

That hails a new creation;

Thro' all the tumult and the strife

I hear the music ringing;

It finds an echo in my soul—

How can I keep from singing?

What tho' my joys and comforts die?

The Lord my Saviour liveth;

What tho' the darkness gather round?

Songs in the night he giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that refuge clinging;

Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;

I see the blue above it;

And day by day this pathway smooths,

Since first I learned to love it,

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

A fountain ever springing;

All things are mine since I am his—

How can I keep from singing?


Pastor Dan

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