Newsletter Archives

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 to subscribe.

August 2019 Newsletter (Year C)

Pastor Bruce Benson

Names, Stories and Hymn Tunes

Summer is the season of family reunions. In my family, those gatherings tended to be fairly small, but I know that others have virtual conferences and conventions of extended family. Part of the fun, part of the renewal of family ties, part of the welcoming of newcomers into the family circle, is the recital of old stories and family lore, stories no doubt embroidered a bit as the years pass. And, of course, sometimes the reunion itself becomes the stuff of new stories re-told in years to come.

I've been reading an old book this summer, Names on the Land, by George Stewart, a book about place names in the United States. I would say that the book was written (1945) long before our current discussion and debate about whether some place names in America are due for a change, but names have changed regularly over the centuries. There is no time before change. Stewart observes that naming seems to be the way we humans turn "space" into "place." Sometimes we do that with weapons and force; we seize territory and put our own names on what we have taken. But other times we do it with affection and love. My wife's family farm was more than just acres of un-named space. It had named places. When someone said, "I'll be out by the bowl," everyone else in the family knew where they would be. Places, like families, have names and stories.

One story Stewart tells reminded me of my grandfather and Sing For Joy. It is a story of how the town of Bangor, Maine got its name. Is the story true? Well, recent research has revealed that the story is not historically accurate; it is what Stewart calls "folk history," the kind that arises from family reunions, church picnics and Uncle Louie's birthday party. But that "folk history" is what reminds me of my grandfather. Here's the tale as Stewart tells it:

In 1781 the citizens of a small community in Maine petitioned for incorporation, and sent their minister, the Reverend Seth Noble, to Boston on this errand. As the clerk was filling out the papers, Mr. Noble stood by, in true Yankee fashion, quietly humming a tune to himself (as my grandfather would almost certainly have done — he did it all the time!). When the clerk suddenly asked him, "What's the name?" he absent-mindedly thought of the tune, not the town, and replied "Bangor." The naming from a hymn-tune became a repeated folk tale.

I know the story is factually inaccurate, but as a description of a certain type of person, it could hardly better describe my grandfather. Even if Rev. Seth Noble did not do as the story says, my grandfather, Rev. Nels Benson, certainly could have! And I imagine many Sing For Joy listeners could have, as well.

Take time this summer for family, stories and hymn tunes. Sing for joy.

Peace be with you,

Bruce Benson

Pastor Bruce Benson

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Lanterns in Boe Chapel

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

IN MEMORY OF:

Webster Bishop

Donald Pardun,
Kevin Jantz, Harry Jantz; on Father's Day

Dorotha Polovina

Raymond F. Miller

my husband,
Raymond F. Miller


IN HONOR OF:

The Rev. Roger Bruns, on the 40th anniversary of his ordination as pastor in the Lutheran Church (ELCA)

Ellen M. Syrdal Erdahl

Mr. Bernie Fortmeyer

Marion Miller Iverson, '52

James and Nancy Spitzack

Westminster Chancel Choir

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