Choral Society performs Evensong service for Good Friday

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News As night approaches in England, the ancient cathedrals come alive with the sound of Evensong. Every day of the year at late afternoon, these services, less than an hour long, give praise, mostly with music, and with two readings appropriate to the season. The University Choral Society, directed by Mark Munson, will present an Evensong service for Good Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m. in First United Methodist Church. Michael Gartz, who will be the organist, said Evensong dates back to 1610 with the introduction of the King James Bible and the English prayer book. The order of the service has remained the same and that’s how it will be performed Friday. Munson will offer a brief introduction to those attending to give them a sense of what will occur. Mark Bunce sings as Mark Munson conducts the Intrit in the vestibule of First United Methodist Church. Evensong is infrequently performed in the United States. As organist at St. Timothy’s in Perrysburg Gartz has presented a few, and Trinity Episcopal in Toledo, his home church when he was growing up and early in his career, has offered Evensong services on special occasions. Gartz said his greatest exposure comes from attending Royal School of Church Music conferences in New Jersey during summers dating back to 1971. Cathedral organists from England would come over, and choirmasters would bring their boys choirs. The conference would culminate in an Evensong service  at St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Starting in 1989, singers from Trinity in Toledo, under the direction of Jim Metzler, traveled to England to sing. This led to the formation of Canterbury Singers USA. That ensemble travels to England during the summer and winter breaks when English choirs are on vacation. Mark and Tina Bunce, of Bowling Green, traveled to England with the Canterbury Singers and performed Evensong hundreds of time in a number of cathedrals.  Gartz who started touring with the ensemble in 2006, said he’s performed in at least 10 cathedrals. In their travels, the Bunces have sung for the 50th anniversary of VJ Day and for the 900th anniversary of Norwich Cathedral. On Friday, Mark Bunce will serve as the precentor who leads call and response sections. The Evensong has passages unfamiliar to most American choir singers. One feature is a psalm that’s chanted in speech-like patterns.  There is little cogregational singing. The congregation will invited to join in the singing of one hymn and participate in he chanting of the Lord’s Prayer and Apostles’ Creed. Introducing this tradition both to the Choral Society and local listeners was part of the reason Musnon programmed it. Directing an Evensong is new to him. He and his family did attend five Evensongs while traveling a few years back in England. Though the format is unchanged, the music is different. A Magnificat is always included, and Gartz said there are hundreds, if not more, different settings of the traditional prayer. There is also a Nunc Dimittis, also known as “Simeon’s Song.” This scripture story tells of a devout Jew who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that before he died he would see the Messiah. When Jesus was presented as an infant in the temple, Simeon held him and declared: “O Lord, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” Gartz selected settings by American composer Harold Friedell. These fit the church, the choir, and the organ in the church more than the more romantic settings typically sung in England. The anthem is selected based on the liturgical calendar. For the Good…

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Tom Klein: Why National Prayer Day should be truly inclusive

By now the news has spread around this city; Bowling Green leaders and many citizens are not pleased.   Chaplain Kristel Asmus, who again serves as coordinator of our the National Prayer Day, is directing the event coming in May, 2019, and is restricting speakers to Christians.  No Muslims, no Mormons.  And, of course, no Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’is.  All those religious groups represent spiritual causes preaching compassion and love.  Christian-only speakers conflict with the nationally established purpose of the event — to recognize and celebrate the religious and ethnic diversity of America. Anything other than inclusiveness is harmful and dangerous. Some history might help explain what’s at stake here. A national prayer day was formalized in 1952 when a joint resolution by Congress was signed by President Truman. In 1988, the law was amended and then signed by President Reagan. For its long history, the prayer-day speakers have spanned diverse faith communities with the purpose being to spread the word of God and love to unite the country. Spiritual extremism happens when someone claims a monopoly on truth.  The greatest danger of such extremism is the wars accompanied by a fundamentalist cause and character, with economic and historical components connected.  In our own time there’s the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian Civil War, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.   Then, there’s the Thirty Years War, the Crusades, the Sudanese Civil War, and the Nigerian Civil War.  Of course Christian-only speakers in our small town will not spark a war. But when such practices spread across the US, that can happen. It’s a rare event when one person who, ironically, has been in charge of this event for twenty years and decides to radically modify it.  We need to understand why a chaplain might take such an extreme position, converting a healing and unifying message into one where there is only one right message, and why serious harms can result.  Such an attitude is at best disturbing.  The chaplain, with confirmation from the National Day of Prayer Task Force, told the BG Independent News that “Mormons could not participate in leadership teams or participate publicly in the prayer event.”  Looking at that restrictive attitude through the lens of theologian James Fowler’s framework on stages of spiritual development is enlightening.     Much like Piaget’s work examining the cognitive development of children and adolescents, Fowler’s research takes the next step and includes persons of all ages to see how their thinking changes as they grow up, moving from stage to stage. To simplify Fowler’s conclusions, early stages of spiritual development see children thinking literally and concretely.  “Mom said no and I better not touch that.”  Adolescents and younger adults discover beliefs without questioning them.  “Mom and Dad are agnostics.  I am too.”  In early adulthood, persons can learn that they’re in a box and need to look outside of it.  “Maybe poetry isn’t as bad as I thought.”  In mid-life a person can approach people and ideas by realizing that some experiences are not rational, logical or easily understood, moving from either/or to both/and and getting to know people of other faiths and other life orientations.  “I used to think that men with beards are weird.  Now I’m not so sure.”    Finally, at the stage for those approaching maturity and old age, “universalizing,” as theologian Rose Anne Karesh writes, lets us see “all humanity as one brotherhood, and taking profound, self-sacrificing action to care for all of humanity.” (Of course some individuals don’t grow according to Fowler’s ladder.  There are many youth who live as saints and Mother Teresa’s.) It may be fitting to conclude with one of the great Christian theologians of our time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who lived between the two world wars and was imprisoned for resistance to Hitler…

Christians only can pray at BG National Day of Prayer

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Across the country, the National Day of Prayer invites people of all faiths to pray for the nation. But not in Bowling Green. Here, only Christians can pray. About a month ago, the Wood County Commissioners sent a letter to Kristel Asmus, who has organized the annual National Day of Prayer on the steps of the county courthouse for 20 years. The letter expressed the commissioners’ concerns about area residents who feel the local prayer observance fails to include all faiths. On Tuesday, the commissioners met with Asmus to discuss their wishes that the event be more inclusive and less divisive. But Asmus was unwilling budge. Others are welcome to attend, but not participate in prayer. “Just so you know, I’m not changing,” she told the commissioners. That puts the local National Day of Prayer event at odds with most others around the nation – and at odds with the original intention for the day. The annual observance, held on the first Thursday of May from noon to 1 p.m., was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry Truman. The National Day of Prayer invited people of all faiths to pray for the nation. However, a privately-funded “task force” was created later to “mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families.” The task force’s logic was that since America was “birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible,” then only Christian prayers were welcome. In Bowling Green, the event continued as usual until a leader of the local Mormon church became head of the Bowling Green Ministerial Association. Asmus, who coordinates the annual gathering, said he was not allowed to pray at the event. “We believe in the total Bible,” she told the commissioners. “The Mormon belief is not Christian.” Asmus, who represents Dayspring Assembly of God in the ministerial association, said she sought confirmation from the National Day of Prayer Task Force. She presented the commissioners with the reply from the group, concurring with her decision. The letter stated that Mormons could not participate in leadership teams or participate publicly in the prayer event. “They do not believe what we believe,” she said. “I could not invite them to participate.” “That started this whole thing,” Asmus said to the county commissioners. Some churches, she said, want all faiths to be included. But she continues to refuse. “I cannot invite a Muslim to pray to Allah. I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” she said. The purpose of the day is for Christians to pray for the nation and its leaders. “The Mormons can come to be part of the audience,” she added. “But to come to the podium and pray, I want them to believe in God.” Asmus also presented the commissioners with a commitment form from the National Day of Prayer Task Force, that she requires all participants to sign. The form requires a lengthy statement of faith. “I’m going to stand by this. I’m not going to change,” she said. “I’m just going to invite the Christian churches to pray.” Commissioner Ted Bowlus asked Asmus about her unwillingness to include others. “My understanding is, Mormons follow the Bible,” Bowlus said. “They say they do, but they really don’t,” Asmus replied, listing off some differences in doctrines. “They’re not on board with us.” Then Bowlus took it further. “What would Jesus do,” he asked. “Would he exclude all religions that don’t believe in him? I don’t think so.” Asmus responded with…

Unitarian Universalists celebrate the art of moral revival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation wants to raise money for and awareness of the Poor People’s Campaign. And they want to have fun doing it. On Sunday, Nov. 18 the congregation will hold an art-in from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Rev. Lynn Kerr said that the Unitarian Universalist Justice Ohio has been working with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. That included helping people register to vote and then helping them get to the polls. “Though obviously we’re not encouraging them to vote any particular way,” she said. The proceeds from the art-in will be shared with the Poor People’s Campaign and the congregation. The art-in itself has two elements. Art supplies are being donated by local artists and businesses and will be sold at low prices so people can get the art supplies they want.  “The second thing is we have local artists who are sharing their talents where someone can come in do DYI project. But the artists will be there to show them how to do those projects,” she said. The projects include jewelry making, crocheting, holiday ornaments, and origami. Kerr will be showing how to make ornaments out of birch bark. “They’ll be doing cool things that don’t take a terribly long time to do,” she said. That way people will be able to complete several over the course of the afternoon. Food will be available including items from the Share Our Grounds cafe in Whitehouse. Poor People’s campaign is calling for a moral revival. “We’re just adding art to it to raise awareness.  What’s lacking in the country is we need to think about what’s a compassionate act,” Kerr said.  “What we’re missing right now is compassion through moral action.” During the congregation’s 11 a.m. service Melissa Jeter, who is studying to be a lay minister and often speaks on social issues, will give the sermon. Jeter said that the Poor People’s Campaign is a continuation of the work Martin Luther King Jr. was pursuing in the years before his assassination. So much of what she sees, from the Flint water crisis to concerns about violence in schools, goes against King’s belief in the need to build a beloved community. This new call for a moral revival is not a commemoration of the effort started by King. “This is to continue the work that’s not been completed,” Jeter said. All these issues from the growing income disparity to threats to the environment are part of a web. “We’re all in the same boat.” That there are still poor people who struggled for life’s basics in this wealthy country “does not seem right, does not seem moral,” Jeter said. That someone making minimum wage has to work 74 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment makes one question how much value is put on a person’s life. Unitarian Universalists value every individual’s life. Tying this mission to the arts is fitting, she said. “It’s a way of reclaiming our own power to create.”  

Composer Sam Adler experienced Kristallnact as child, commemorates it in cantata to be performed Sunday

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In the early morning hours of Nov. 11, 1938 Samuel Adler’s family heard an explosion nearby their home in Mannheim, Germany. The 10-year-old later learned that it was the chapel at the Jewish Cemetery being bombed. This was the night that would come to be known as Kristallnacht — the night of broken glass, when the Nazis launched their full scale their persecution of Jews, moving beyond harassment to state violence. Adler’s father, Hugo Adler, a noted cantor, was caught up in the arrests, but released.  He tried to leave the country but couldn’t. A few days after Kristallnacht he and his son went to the central synagogue, which had been destroyed, where they climbed to the loft to collect and rescue as many of the music books, which contained the musical legacy of the congregation. Nazis moved around below where the two worked. Later the family was able to flee Germany “on the last train,” Adler remembers. “We were scared to death until we left for America.” A half century after those traumatic events, Adler, now an internationally renowned composer, commemorated Kristallnacht in “Stars in the Dust” with a libretto by the late Samuel Rosenbaum, one of the chief cantors in conservative Judaism. To commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, “Stars in the Dust” will be performed Sunday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m., at Temple Shomer Emunim, 6453 Sylvania Ave, Sylvania. The performance will feature Cantor Andrea Rae Markowicz, soloists Christopher Scholl, tenor, and Lance Ashmore, baritone, from Bowling Green State University as well as the university’s Collegiate Chorale, conducted by Richard Schnipke, and orchestra, conducted by Emily Freeman Brown, Adler’s wife. The award-winning actress and singer Michelle Azar, the composer’s niece, will narrate.  Adler, who is retired from the faculties of the Eastman School of Music and the Juilliard School, now lives in Perrysburg. The libretto, Adler said, chronicles what happened drawing on contemporary accounts, including that  of a cantor who sang Kaddish, the traditional prayer of mourning, after seeing the damage wrought on his community. “It ends in conviction that it must never happen again,” Adler said.  But given anti-Semitism dates back 2000 years, vigilance will always be necessary. “We have to work at it so it doesn’t happen,” the composer said. Adler, who turned 90 in March, is in the midst of a year-long celebration. He and Brown have just gotten back from a trip to Europe where his violin concerto and a new choral work “To Speak to Our Time” were performed in his native Germany. That choral work’s four movements each use a different language beginning with German poet Nelly Sachs’ “Chorus of the Wanderers.” That poem speaks to the plight of refugees who have “stars pinned to our hats,” a reference to the Nazis’ rule that Jews wear a Star of David at all times when out in public. The piece also sets Psalms in Hebrew and Latin, and ends in English with an admonition, Adler said. “We must work for a peaceful world.”

BG holds vigil for Jewish and black victims of hatred

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Eighty people sought refuge and peace in a place of worship Sunday evening in Bowling Green. They remembered the 11 people killed a week ago while seeking sanctuary in their place of worship near Pittsburgh. And they remembered the two people shot down a few days earlier while grocery shopping in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. They were killed for being Jewish, and killed for being black. People of all faith and all races gathered at First Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green to be “agents of justice” in a world where that seems to be lacking. “We are here as people who believe that hatred and evil cannot have the last word,” said Rev. Mary Jane Saunders. “Violence against people of any faith should alarm people of all faiths,” she said. “Violence against any person should alarm all persons.” Rev. Gary Saunders noted the frequency of vigils held in recent years, sponsored by Not In Our Town Bowling Green. “Unfortunately over the years, we’ve had a number of events where the community just needs to come together,” he said. Mary Jane Saunders cautioned those gathered once again to not be overwhelmed by the work ahead. “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief,” she said. One by one, the stories of the Pittsburgh and Jeffersontown victims were read aloud. Killed in the synagogue, there were grandparents, doctors, a retired accountant, a couple married more than 60 years, and two brother who were developmentally disabled. They were remembered for their devotion to the synagogue, their generosity, their humor. And now they will be remembered for the “special horror” of being killed in their place of sanctuary. At the grocery store, one of the victims was shopping with his grandson to get poster board for the 12-year-old’s school project. “They were going about the most mundane task of life,” in a grocery store, Mary Jane Saunders said. Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards talked about the origin of the Not In Our Town movement after the defacing of a synagogue in Bloomington, Indiana. He talked about the “massacre of the innocents” at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill. Edwards asked those present to take a stand and denounce the spreading of hatred in any form. The mayor ended his comments with a message from the late public television star Mr. Rogers, who once lived in Squirrel Hill. “Love thy neighbor. No exceptions,” he said, quoting Rogers. Chris Bullins, dean of students at Bowling Green State University, spoke on behalf of the university community. “Senseless acts like these have no place in our schools, our churches, our communities,” Bullins said. He finished by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” Joe Jacoby, representing the Jewish community, read the 23rd Psalm. Ethan Glassman, student president of the Hillel organization on campus, read the Mourners Kaddish as candles were lit for the victims. And Ginny Stewart read Langston Hughes’ poem, “I Dream a World.” Also speaking was Imam Talal Eid, from the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. “I pray our gathering today will be a gathering of healing,” the Imam said. The people of this nation have one option to make this country strong, he said. That is to know one another. “Isn’t it true that my blood and your blood are the same,” he asked. Embracing diversity, love and peace will defeat hatred, he said. “Those who attempt to destroy our…

Connection Center benefits from St. Aloysius rummage sale

From CONNECTION CENTER OF HARBOR Colleen Schroeder and her Co-Chair Carol Beckley from St. Aloysius recently  presented the Connection Center of Harbor with a  check for $2700 from their annual rummage sale. Although St. Aloysius has conducted an annual rummage sale for many years, Colleen and Carol have co-chaired the Benefit Rummage Sale together for the past nine years. Every year the rummage sale proceeds are split in half; half to fund the St. Aloysius Food Pantry and half donated to a community agency, program or a local charity. This is the fifth time in those nine years proceeds were given to a mental health and/or substance use disorder program. It was Carol’s idea the Connection Center receive the donation this year. As a member of the Connection Center, Carol knew the Center was moving this year into a larger space and needed additional furnishings and supplies for the new building and expanded programming. Verna Mullins, Manager of the Connection Center of Harbor, says “The timing couldn’t be more perfect. We will use this money to purchase furnishings for our new building as well as obtain items for the expansion of our exercise and nutrition programs. Fitness equipment and a group pass to the BG Community Center will be first on our list.” Our community becomes stronger when community collaborations like these, match resources with relevant needs.