This Month's Newsletter

The monthly Sing For Joy newsletter contains a letter from the program's host, Pastor Bruce Benson, along with a listing of music selections for each program and the corresponding scripture readings. If you'd like to receive a complimentary subscription, fill out our online request form for either the print newsletter or the electronic newsletter.

August 2017 Newsletter (Year A)
Pastor Bruce Benson
The Beauty of Practice, by Pastor Bruce Benson

I’ve been picking wild black raspberries. My hands are scratched, as are my arms from the days I forgot to wear long sleeves, and my ankles and neck are mosquito bitten. But I’m happy. I like picking black raspberries.

My enjoyment of berry picking started in an unusual way. Or perhaps not so unusual — an assignment: from my mother back when I was an early teen. I know my mom liked black raspberries over ice cream and on breakfast cereal as much as anyone else, but I’ve always suspected that she had another motive as well for shooing me out into the woods when I was a junior high kid bored already by midsummer, and whining about “nothing to do.” She offered me 25 cents a quart for berries. Two quarts, at that time, would get me a long way toward a new fishing lure or a great splurge at Ralph’s gas station coke machine and candy counter. But something else happened while I was disentangling myself from black raspberry brambles back in the woods. I discovered beauty. 

A little colony of black raspberry canes, swaying gently in dappled woodland light and a light summer breeze, with the first ripe berries shining black and luscious amidst a cluster of other still red and green fruits waiting their turn — it is beautiful. Picking berries became an aesthetic experience. One I still look forward to each summer. Thanks, mom.

But what does this have to do with Sing For Joy? Well, when one is standing mostly still picking berries, the mind is free to roam, and it occurred to me during a recent early morning picking session that there is some similarity between berry picking and various arts. Musical arts, for example. One could say that my berry picking is something like choir practice, insofar as the choir and I do preparation work while others enjoy the fruits of our labors later. But what I was actually thinking about was a comparison that is made less often. I like berry picking even though doing it on a hot summer day involves blood, sweat and tears. (The latter because sweat runs into the eyes.) And a good, vigorous choir practice, while it doesn’t usually draw blood, sure makes the blood pump, and not with grit-your-teeth drudgery. During my years at St. Olaf College I heard literally hundreds of students remark on how much they loved choir practice. And orchestra practice, and band practice. Yes, practice. Not just performances, practices. That’s like enjoying not just berry eating, but berry picking. Music making — even during practice — ushers one into the presence of beauty and grace. Okay, okay, not every minute of every practice is beautiful, but hard work gets you there. A berry patch is beautiful too, communicating grace to both the eye and the tongue. The experience of being in such a place during the season of ripeness is like being surrounded by music. And grace, wherever it is found, arouses gratitude. May there be plenty of both for you this summer season.

Peace be with you, 

Pastor Bruce Benson

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August Playlists and Programs

Playlists are ready now, and each show will become available to stream on the Friday before the week begins. 

August 6, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 18 (Year A)

August 13, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 19 (Year A)

August 20, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 20 (Year A)

August 27, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 21 (Year A)

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Thank you for your gifts in memory and honor of those close to your heart.

son, David
Kathleen D. Eister
David N. Johnson
Ivy and Jack Jostrel
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Phyllis Wikoff

Jaran Cochran and Ella Anthony
Etha, Corbin and Alora

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