This Sunday, Bethany will be commemorating its 80th anniversary at the Triskett location. As pastor has noted, this is not the official anniversary of the complete building's dedication, but rather the anniversary of the first service held at the site. In 1929, this summer service was held in the basement because the sanctuary itself was not yet completed.
Unfortunately, the music from that first service is not known to us. We do, however, have a copy of the bulletins from November of that year, when the building was dedicated. Therefore, all of the service music will come from pieces that were played that week, nearly 80 years ago.
The prelude will be selections from "Suite Gothique" by Leon Boellmann. He was a Frenchman who was born in the German-border region of Alsace. He was a younger contemporary of the better known Franck and Saint-Saens, and the music has a distinctively modern, French sound. Because he died at the young age of 35, he did not leave a large body of music and his name is not well known. "Suite Gothique" is likely his best known piece and some would consider it a staple of the organ repertoire. I will be playing the Chorale Introduction and the Prayer to Notre Dame from the suite.
Looking back over the 80 year history of Bethany, it's interesting to see what music has come and gone, as well as what has remained the same. The broader perspective of history so often dwarfs the parochial arguments that fill our lives (and committee meetings). Incidentally, both of my grandmothers turn 80 this fall, both of them born in October, just after the stock market crash. When I was home in Minnesota, one of them told us stories from her childhood about birthdays and Christmases where an orange was both a gift and a rare treat and about the blackout drills of World War II. Such personal histories can also inspire us to strive for greatness in these difficult times and to be thankful for the gifts we have.
To go back even further in history, some of the greatest Lutheran hymns of faith were composed in the time leading up to and during the Thirty Years War, including the text "In Thee is gladness, amid all sadness, Jesus, sunshine of my heart." I've remarked before that the first book published in America (during a time of self-evident hard work, disease, and challenge) was a hymnal.
Let's celebrate 80 years of wonderful history while also dreaming and planning, reaching out to the congregation and community for many more years to come.