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500th Anniversary of the Reformation Events

Area Lutherans mark Reformation’s 500th anniversary with hymn festival

As Lutherans throughout the world will be observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this fall, Spokane area Lutheran churches are joining in this observance with a Hymn Festival with the theme, “Remembering History, Celebrating Diversity, and Anticipating Unity.”

The hymn festival is at 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 29, at Central Lutheran Church, 512 S. Bernard.

The festival is an opportunity for Lutheran and other Christians to join in singing hymns of the faith from Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” to contemporary and ethnic hymns reaching into the future, said Carolyn Payne, event coordinator, a member of St. Mark’s and organist/choir director at Salem Lutheran. 

Singers from local choirs will form a massed choir under the direction of Paul Brueggemeier and Debbie Hansen to sing three concertatas, including “God Alone Be Praised.”

Based on Psalm 46, it was written specifically for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for Reformation 500 by Susan Briehl, a Lutheran pastor, and composer of hymns and worship materials, currently interim pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran, and composer-conductor Zebulon Highbon who teaches at Muskingum University’s Music Department in Ohio.  Both are members of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, which commissioned the work. 

Organists, instrumentalists, singers and readers are from All Saints, Central, Messiah, St. Marks, Salem, Zion (Spokane Valley) and Zion (Deer Park) Lutheran churches. 

Susan has written liturgical reflections that weave the hymns together around three themes, “the Word and Sacrament,” “God hears our cries for mercy and pours out abundant grace” and “the Spirit leads us into Christ’s Future.”

Central Lutheran Church, which traditionally holds a fall hymn festival, is hosting the event.  Before the festival begins, the carillon, purchased in memory of Janice Newell, organist at St. Augustine Catholic Church and Central Lutheran, will ring.

For information, call 535-7145, email


Musician links Luther, Bach, music, theology

Donivan Johnson, with guest performers soprano Randi Lithgow and Jennifer Goodnight on the keyboard, will offer a presentation for Reformation 500 on “A Mighty Fortress: Martin Luther, Musical Theologian, and J.S. Bach, Theological Musician” at 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Northwest Museum for Arts and Culture, 2316 W. 1st Ave.

Donivan, composer and retired music teacher for the Selkirk School District, will discuss the theological and musical works of Luther and Bach. He will share Luther’s hymns and how Bach used them in his cantatas and organ chorale preludes.

Among the excerpts they will present and comment on are Bach’s Cantatas No. 4, “Christ lay in death’s grim prison,” and No. 80, “A mighty fortress is our God.”

Donivan will explore the importance of Luther’s “re-formation” of the Roman Catholic liturgy and will share how Bach, who was born, raised and educated in the heart of “Lutherland,” became an influential composer and church musician, as well as being versed in Lutheran theology.

The event features Randi and Jennifer performing Spokane’s premiere of Donivan’s setting of Luther’s family Christmas carol, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.”

Since 2011, Donivan has given seven lecture-concerts at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in conjunction with exhibits and programs.  In 2009, he and the museum received the Humanities Washington Award.

For 26 years, Donivan taught music, band, choir and orchestra for the Selkirk School District.  He was organist for a year at the American Lutheran Church in Newport and pianist at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Metaline Falls.

For information, call 446-3505.

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