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 2020 Newsletter (Year A)

Pastor Bruce Benson

Music and Grace

As I write, the pace of damaging climate change appears to have accelerated, Covid-19 is surging in several states, racism is alive and well in the world, my brother-in-law is hospitalized with brain damage, and a long-time dear friend has been declared ready for hospice.

On the other hand, last night's lovely July rain has left the world around me fragrant, freshly laundered and brimming with eager life. Each wrinkle of breeze stirs the maple and birch leaves, and they spill the last of their overnight collected rainwater onto the ferns and wild raspberries below; the wild buttercups and daisies, still wet, glisten in the morning sunshine; and birds of several species can't decide whether to celebrate the sparkling clean morning with tree-top singing or flights of satisfaction through the limbs and leaves — so they do both. Everywhere I look, life seems to be just as it ought to be.

Must I choose one view or the other? Trouble or beauty? Worry or wonder? I can't. Both are true. Both matter. To be sure, there are times when we get so worn down bearing the weight of the first that we try to hide in the second for respite. And there are other times when the burden of the first is too strong to shed, when beauty becomes invisible to us, music unheard. As people over the centuries have noted, it is difficult to leave one's troubles behind; they tend to come with you wherever you go. Honesty about life, however, means living in these two worlds at once.

There is a sense, therefore, in which both music and Grace help us face life more honestly. Not because they are equally full of trouble and beauty, but because each works to open the human spirit to a fuller truth. Each has a way of softening our resistance. Each works to open us to what we are closing off. Grief, anger, resentment, fear — these things close the doors of our hearts that would let in beauty, hope and joy. And on the other side, pretending that life is all goodness is a very poor recipe for living a full meaningful life. None of the troubles I mentioned above deserves to be denied or minimized. They all need to be faced. Music and Grace open doors of the spirit to The Spirit. 

If you have ever had a hymn tune or other melody slowly open a closed emotional door within you, bringing you tears of release, you know all about this. If you have ever heard, in church or out, a word full of Grace that unclenched within you a heart that you didn't even realize till then had been closed, you know.

Am I suggesting that Sing For Joy can help keep us open and honest? Well, I hope it can. The world's trouble needs us to face it honestly, and the world's beauty beckons us to embrace and honor it fully. The Holy Spirit nudges us toward both — for our good, and for the world's. Sing for joy.

Peace be with you,

Bruce Benson

Pastor Bruce Benson

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The Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community at St. Olaf College is rolling out its inaugural newsletter this summer. You can sign up here to receive a copy in your inbox with articles that speak to their mission of facilitating interreligious exploration of faith, values and vocation.

Lanterns in Boe Chapel

Memorials and Honorariums

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


Mary Anne Dettman

Mrs. Jean Holmgren

Robert C. (BJ) Johnson, our beloved friend, colleague and mentor

Jennifer Koenig

Math and Christine Siebenaler

Mr. Harry Wallace


Bruce Benson

Gary Cottrill

Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Haskell

Pilgrim Congregational Church

Rev. Neal Snider, on his 85th Birthday

To include an honorarium or memorial when you give to Sing For Joy, simply include the name(s) and occasion(s) in the comment box, as well as who should receive an acknowledgement letter and their email address — unfortunately, we cannot send snail mail letters at this time since the Sing For Joy team is working remotely due to Covid-19.

Donations can celebrate a personal milestone such as an anniversary or birthday, or honor a loved one who perhaps also enjoyed music, all while furthering the Sing For Joy mission to bring sacred choral music to listeners around the world.