By Starrla Cray
“Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, alles schläft, einsam wacht . . .”
Area residents will have a chance to rejoice and worship with a special all-German church service called “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie Saturday, Dec. 18 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
“We’ll have good music, and for those who know a little of the language, it’ll be a good opportunity to bring back old memories of other German services,” said Associate Pastor Chris Bode of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Buffalo.
Bode, a fluent German speaker, will be the preacher and liturgist for the service.
German soloist Lawrence Bierman of Norwood Young-America and organist Nancy Buckentine of Cologne will provide musical selections before and during the event, starting at 10 a.m.
“Of course, all the hymns will be in German, as well,” said St. Peter Lutheran Church Pastor Dave Erbel.
Those who aren’t able to attend can listen live on KDUZ 1260 AM, or via live webcast at www.kduz.com.
After the service, parishioners will have the opportunity to enjoy a barbecue sandwich and potato salad lunch, with a free-will offering to cover the cost.
“It’s very good to keep this tradition going as long as possible,” Erbel said. When St. Peter Lutheran Church was established by German immigrants in 1871, German church services were commonplace.
Now, however, the German language is becoming increasingly less prevalent in the United States.
“In not too many years, we might not be able to do this,” Erbel said,
In the past, attendance at the German services has been as high as 350. In recent years, the unique event has remained fairly popular, typically drawing 150 to 200 people each year.
“That’s pretty good when you consider that everything is in German,” Erbel said. KDUZ radio in Hutchinson helps organize the event, which is usually held at a different area church each year.
St. Peter Lutheran Church hosted the event in 2006, with Rev. Randell E. Tonn of Glencoe officiating. Tonn passed away in the fall of 2007, and subsequent German services have been a way for friends and family to honor his memory.
This year will be the first time Bode has conducted a German service, although he has done German devotionals on KDUZ radio.
Bode’s first German classes were at Mayer Lutheran High School. After graduation in 1987, he majored in German at the University of Minnesota.
During ministry training at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Bode also had the opportunity to study in Germany for a year.
“It was fun to be able to learn a foreign language and to connect with people from a different culture in a different part of the world,” he said.
German is an integral element of the Lutheran heritage, which was one of the reasons Bode was attracted to it.
In 1517, German theologian Martin Luther helped initiate the Protestant reformation by writing a letter to a Roman Catholic Church leader regarding the abuse of power in the church.
At that time, the church had been collecting indulgences as a way for people to “pay” for their sins. Luther taught that salvation isn’t earned by “good deeds,” but instead is a free gift received through faith in Jesus.
Bode said he’s excited to be part of Lester Prairie’s German church service, and hopes it will be a blessing for all who attend.
“Not everyone who comes speaks German,” Erbel said. “Many people just like to listen to the music and see what an all-German church service is like.”
For more information, contact St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie at (320) 395-2811.