Church Music in a Liturgical Perspective

The Beginnings

101810churchmusiccenter_41_ribboncutting_web.jpgThe Center for Church Music was dedicated on October 18, 2010 (photo below) and is presently located in the Klinck Memorial Library on the campus of Concordia University Chicago. See map.

The Center came into being as the result of two extraordinary gifts to the University—one from Dr. Carl and Noël Schalk and another from the family of the late Dr. Richard Hillert.

To help establish the Center, the Hillerts presented to the University (as a permanent loan) the  manuscripts and published compositions of Dr. Hillert, distinguished professor emeritus of music at Concordia. A noted Lutheran composer, Hillert is probably best known for his “Holy Communion, Setting 1” including “Worthy Is Christ,” the canticle known as “This is the feast.”

To further establish the Center, the Carl Schalk American Lutheran Hymnal Collection was gifted to the University, encompassing more than 530 volumes including Lutheran hymnals in English, German, Norwegian and Swedish, published in the United States and the Pennsylvania colony as early as 1786; in Germany between 1726 and 1787; and in Australia since 1936. It includes the first editions from the presses of important early American printers and publishers including Christopher Sauer, Peter Leibert and Michael Billmeyer. Since then the Center has added to its onsite collections on loan the 

The Center serves as  a repository for special collections and works by history’s influential Christian church musicians, including significant contributions by American Lutherans.  As a locus for the study of church music, the Center will also disseminate papers and monographs for conferences such as CUC’s annual Vi Messerli Memorial Lectures in Church Music.

Through its work, the Center extends the legacy of a gifted generation of Lutheran church musicians. It seeks to foster an appreciation and understanding of the Church’s song among pastors, musicians, and laity, all the while encouraging the next generation of composers of sacred music.


The work of the Center for Church Music is based on the following convictions:

  • Worship is the center of the Church’s life. It is what the Church is a worshiping community and from that glowing center flow all aspects of the Church’s life and mission.
  • For Lutherans, worship is centered in Word and Sacrament. Lutherans celebrate Holy Communion each Sunday and festival, in addition to providing regular occasions for the observance of historic non-Eucharistic worship centered in readings from Scripture, psalms, prayers, and hymns and canticles.
  • Lutherans stand unapologetically in the liturgical tradition of the Church. As such its worship is shaped by the church year, appointed readings, the singing of psalms, and a basic core of hymnody. Lutheran worship is characterized by neither faddishness or novelty but values stability and continuity with the historic Church.
  • Music in Lutheran worship is a vehicle for the proclamation of the good news of the Gospel and the praise of God. God is praised when the Gospel is proclaimed, and when the Gospel is proclaimed, that is the way God is rightly praised.
  • Congregational song in liturgy and hymns is the central focus of music in Lutheran worship. A sung liturgy and vibrant congregational singing are the norm in Lutheran worship. At the same time Lutheran worship welcomes the contribution of organ, choirs, and instruments, and the work of composers as they are centered in the liturgy and congregational song.

The Founders Group

Although the various departments of Concordia University Chicago are amazing and generous in their unflagging and expert support of the Center and even though the various workers of the Center are all volunteers, some of the activities do have out-of-pocket costs.

For example:

  • Print publishing costs
  • Scholarship stipends
  • Student composer awards
  • Scanning for the digital initiative (both the hymnal collection and the composer manuscripts)
  • Video production
  • New and exciting projects on the horizon
  • Director travel costs

Many people have already made financial contributions and we are thankful for each one of them!

The following have made major donations ($25,000+), which helped to set the Center in motion and have sustained and increased the current momentum of the Center’s progress.

  • Waldemar Seefeldt, LaGrange Park, IL
  • Linda and Robert E. Kempke, Rocky River, OH
  • Pr. Nancy and Dr. William A. Raabe, Madison WI
  • Charles and Mary Sukup, Sheffield, IA

Gifts at any level are welcome. Pledge or contribute through Concordia University Chicago’s secure website at CUChicago.edu/support or contact Barry Bobb and request a pledge form today!

The Advisory Board

A fine advisory group has been assembled to evaluate various ideas for the Center, cast its vision, formulate plans and evaluate progress toward its goals.

James Freese, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • Professor of Music & Director of the Master of Church Music and Parish Music Programs - Concordia University Wisconsin
  • Cantor - Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Scott Hyslop, Frankenmuth, Michigan

  • Director of Parish Music - St. Lorenz Lutheran Church

Linda Kempke, Rocky River, Ohio

  • Associate in Ministry and Cantor - Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Brooklyn, Ohio

Jonathan Kohrs, River Forest, Illinois

  • Assistant Professor Music, Concordia University Chicago

Nancy Raabe, Madison, Wisconsin

  • Pastor, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Marshall, Wisconsin

Carl Schalk, Melrose Park, Illinois

  • Distinguished Professor of Church Music Emeritus - Concordia University Chicago

Steven Wente, River Forest, Illinois

  • Distinguished Professor of Music - Concordia University Chicago
  • Cantor - First St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Chicago, Illinois

Paul Westermeyer, Roseville, Minnesota

  • Emeritus Professor of Church Music - Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota