–By Elizabeth Ahlman
On Sunday, May 31, 2015 the congregation of St. Trinitatisgemeinde (Holy Trinity Congegation) in Leipzig, Germany hosted the singing festival of the Saxony-Thuringia circuit of The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (SELK). The singing festivals are held often in the SELK within circuits interspersed with larger festivals for the entire district, which the congregation has also previously hosted in Lukaskirche (St. Luke’s Church). This year, the singing festival for the district also fell on Holy Trinity Sunday, the namesake of the congregation and the congregation’s traditional festival day.
The day began with a festival Divine Service in the morning led by St. Trinitatisgemeinde’s pastor, Rev. Markus Fischer. It was attended by visiting SELK members, as well as unchurched people from the surrounding area. The congregation recently moved into Lukaskirche, which was built in the 1890’s, in order to reach out to the surrounding community of Volkmarsdorf, within Leipzig. The community contains many migrants, asylum seekers and poorer German citizens. Events like the singing festival help to bring the church to the attention of others.
After the service, the congregation had tables set up outside its meeting house, Die Brücke (The Bridge) which is directly across the square from the church. They served a midday meal to attendees of the service, as well as anyone from the neighborhood who stopped by while they were serving the meal. Several people asked what was going on, and if they could enjoy some of the food. This offered an opportunity for members to share the Gospel with the people of the neighborhood, and to initiate some contact between them and the church.
After lunch, the singers began preparing for the concert as more SELK members from surrounding communities arrived. Renatus Voigt, a member of St. Trinitatisgemeinde, brought a speaker into the square and taught several traditional folk dances to others waiting for the concert to begin. Many children from Volkmarsdorf joined in with the SELK members during this fun event.
After the dancing, Missionary Rev. Hugo Gevers, who works with the mission arm of the SELK (The Lutheran Church Mission or LKM), and heads the work at Die Brücke, gave a presentation “Mission: Mission Impossible, or Sending?” He spoke about what “mission” is and what it entails, and then attendees split into groups to discuss the theme.
Everyone then returned to the church for the afternoon concert over the theme “Rejoice you, beautiful little flowers: Songs of Summer and Eternity.” The sacred music was performed by a choir made up from singers throughout the SELK Saxon-Thuringian District. SELK East Cantor Georg Mogwitz directed the choir and other musicians, including LCMS missionary and organist, Rev. Dr. Christopher S. Ahlman, who serves the congregation in Leipzig alongside his SELK colleagues. There was also a children’s choir, violinists, a guitar player, brass and block flutes.
Sacred pieces which were performed included a Te Deum arrangement by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, “Sehet an den Feigenbaum” by Heinrich Schütz, Michael Praetorius’ “Herzlich tut mich erfreuen die Sommerzeit” and more. In between sections of the concert, Rev. Armin Wenz of the SELK offered short reflections which tied the pieces together around the theme, and brought God’s work of creation and Christ’s work of redemption to the forefront. Many visitors were in attendance at the concert, which was performed beautifully by the group of volunteers.
(Video below is a portion of Burkhard Kinzler’s “Wunderbarer König” (Wonderful King)).
Following the concert, cake and coffee were available at the tables outdoors, many of which were baked by members of the local congregation. During this time, once again, many people from the neighborhood joined members for the cake and drinks at the outdoor tables. This allowed for more interaction with the people from the neighborhood.
The beautiful music was a gift of the volunteer singers to the church, but also to the community around Lukaskirche. The event allowed for celebration, Gospel proclamation and contact with Lutherans from other cities, as well as non-church members from the community. The attendees enjoyed Life Together around the Word and Sacrament of the morning’s Divine Service, as well as during the activities afterward. The day also served as a Witness to the surrounding community, much of which is un-churched, Muslim and atheist, of the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is hoped that activities such as these would not only strengthen those who are already Christians and members, but also serve as a way to show the people of Volkmarsdorf that they are also welcome in the Lord’s House.