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Lutheran, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA.
Church in America.
The congregation was formed in 1904 and met in a variety of
temporary spaces, including a spare room above a hardware store.
The present church was consecrated in 1928 and is smallish,
seating around 200-220, and very simply appointed. There are
stained-glass windows that are largely non-representational,
in keeping with the simplicity of the worship space. A new wing
was added in 1957 to house the church's educational activities.
As an inner-city church, there is an impressive multi-generational
mix to its congregation: young couples with children, older
couples, and, due to its proximity to the campus of Western
Michigan University, college students. This mix helps the parish
to sustain a broad range of educational, social, and social
justice activities. They are one of several churches in the
Kalamazoo area involved with the campus ministry at WMU. Over
the years, as the congregation grew, several new Lutheran parishes
were established from the original congregation, including a
Latvian Lutheran church.
Kalamazoo is a city in southwestern Michigan. Its name is a
corruption of the Potawatomi Native American name for the river
that runs through it. The word means "boiling water"
and is thought to refer to the rolling fogs that often cover
the river when viewed from nearby hills. The city's metropolitan
area has a population of approximately 325,000. It is the home
to Western Michigan University and the highly-regarded Kalamazoo
College. Important industries are the Stryker Corporation, which
makes medical equipment, and the Pfizer Corporation, which recently
took over the Upjohn Company, a pharmaceutical manufacturing
firm. There are four breweries, including the well-known Bell's
Brewery. And the city was immortalized by the Glenn Miller Band's
1942 hit song, "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo," also featured
in the 1942 movie Orchestra Wives. The parish itself
is in downtown Kalamazoo's historic district, with older homes
(both rental properties and single-family homes) and small businesses
No names of participants were given in the service leaflet.
Judging from his photo on their website, it was the Revd Ken
Johnson, pastor, who led the intercessions that began the service.
The date & time:
Good Friday, March 29, 2013, 7.00pm.
What was the name of the service?
Good Friday Tenebrae.
How full was the building?
Including the balcony, I would estimate the building seats about 220. Roughly 80 people were present (including choir and acolytes).
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was handed a service leaflet by an usher.
Was your pew comfortable?
Cushioned, and quite comfortable.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
As I got out of my car, I was approached by a fellow in his
20s who asked if I worked at Trinity. I replied that no, I didn't,
that I was just here to attend a service. He said he had confused
me with someone else, and then asked if he could hold my hand
and say a prayer. We held hands, he said his prayer, I replied
"Amen." Not the way I expected my evening at Trinity to begin
... but I wish him well. Once I was inside the church, the atmosphere
was quiet and reverent, for the most part.
What were the exact opening
words of the service?
A collect, beginning "Father, look with love on your people,
the love which our Lord Jesus Christ showed us when he delivered
himself up and suffered the agony of the cross..."
What books did the congregation use during the
The 2006 Evangelical Lutheran Worship was used for
the opening hymn; everything else was in the service leaflet.
What musical instruments
A two manual, 29 rank pipe organ by Casavant Freres, and cello,
the latter providing prelude and postlude from the unaccompanied
suites by Bach, and another Bach piece with organ during the
service. I assume that the parish organist, William Musselman,
was organist; Bruce Uchimura (who was thanked in the bulletin,
but not identified as the cellist) was featured as cellist.
Did anything distract
A somewhat hyperactive youngster (11, perhaps) in the pew in
front of me. I suppose he comes by it naturally, as his parents
also talked all the way through Mr Uchimura's exquisite prelude.
They were thankfully quieter once the service began.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
A very formal liturgy. It began with a silent procession, a
congregational hymn, intercessions in the form of a brief litany
and concluding collect, and a collection of money. This was
followed by the Tenebrae service: seven readings (all from the
passion accounts of one or another of the four gospels), with
the first five followed by choir anthems. A Bach arrangement
for cello and organ followed the sixth reading. Prior to the
service, seven candles had been placed on the altar and lighted;
one was extinguished by an acolyte after each reading. Following
the seventh, the remaining lit candle was carried to the back
of the church by an acolyte. Then came the strepitus,
as the bulletin described it: a loud noise that "signifies the
earth shaking and rocks splitting at Christ's death." Then the
acolyte brought the Christ candle, still lit, back to the altar.
A final choir anthem, blessing, and postlude (more unaccompanied
Bach for cello) concluded the service.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
There was none.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The care with which the participants had prepared their liturgy. No fumbled cues, no awkward choreography. Readers all projected well.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Four of the six choir anthems (ably sung by a parish choir of
16) were of the "Protestant anthem factory" type: quite similar
in style, representing the type of choral output of several
of our publishing houses (OK a pet peeve of mine). The
unaccompanied cello suites, and Mr Musselman's organ accompaniments,
were a welcome musical contrast.
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
We were all enjoined to "depart in silence at will." Like most
of the congregation, I remained seated to hear Mr Uchimura's
Bach, although a few got up and left immediately after the blessing.
How would you describe the after-service
There was none.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 Hmmm ... the service lasted all of 40 minutes, so not
a lot to go on. The parish seems to have quite a lot of varied
activities and a commitment to social justice. If Materfamilias
and I were to move to Kalamazoo, we would start our search for
a church at Trinity, although I found myself wondering if, over
time, we might not find the worship and music more conservative
than we are used to. Hard to say.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, it did.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The young gentleman who asked me to pray with him.
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