With the passing of Carl Schalk in January of 2021, the Center is pleased to announce that Mark Bender and James Freese will be sharing the role of editor for this feature.

These “occasional perspectives” will include 1) still pertinent writings of Carl,  2) other essential essays from our Lutheran heritage, and 3) new writings from church musicians and pastors of the present time. (Please read more about Mark and Jim below.)

Mark Louis Bender was born on December 21, 1951 in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned the Bachelor of Arts in elementary education--Director of Parish Music degree (1974) and the Master of Church Music degree (1976), both from Concordia Teachers College in River Forest, Illinois (now Concordia University--Chicago). In 2005 Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, conferred on him its honorary Christus Vivit award, awarded by the faculty in recognition of his many years of exemplary leadership in church music and lifelong contribution to the worship life of the Church.  In 2011 Concordia University Chicago bestowed on him the honorary doctor of letters.

From 1974 to 1991 Bender served as Director of Music at Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1991 he was called as Minister of Music to his home congregation, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School in Des Peres, Missouri, where he continued to serve until his retirement in August of 2021. In his years at St. Paul’s, he  oversaw a large, comprehensive parish music program and administered a concert series.  He is highly regarded among his peers for his mastery of the many skills needed in music ministry, his broad knowledge, a humble manner, and his exceptional sense of humor.

Mark Bender

Mark Bender is a published composer of choral and organ music, accepting several commissioned projects each year.  He has a passion for helping children and adults unpack the Biblical, confessional, and liturgical understandings found in the texts of the hymns of the Church. To that end, he has authored dozens of hymn studies for use in his congregation’s school music curriculum and adult Bible classes.

For three consecutive terms (1995-2004, Bender was appointed to the Commission on Worship of The Lutheran Church---Missouri Synod, serving as its chairman during the final term. He was a member of the Liturgy Committee for the LCMS Hymnal Project, which produced the Lutheran Service Book, published by Concordia Publishing House in 2006.

Mark Bender and his wife, Ann, a piano teacher, reside in Ballwin, Missouri and are the parents of three grown daughters.

Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, Volume 2

Dr. James Freese found his passion for hymnody and organ music at an early age through his time studying at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church and School in Milwaukee. He attributes much of his early inspiration to his first mentor: his fifth-grade teacher, organist and choir director, Mr. Frederick Meier. Under Mr. Meier’s instruction he was inspired to become a teacher and church musician. Seven years later, in 1973, he was part of the last graduating high school class to come out of Concordia College in Milwaukee, and his path towards church musicianship truly began.

Dr. James Freese

Dr. Freese received a bachelor’s degree and Master of Church Music degree from Concordia University Chicago. After graduation, in 1979 he accepted a Call to return to his roots, and he became the day school teacher, organist, and choir director at his home church and first alma mater, Mt. Calvary in Milwaukee. While at Mt. Calvary, he became a member of the LCMS Commission on Worship from 1987-1995. He remained at Mt. Calvary for 21 years before a position opened at Concordia University Wisconsin.

In the year 2000 he followed God’s Call once again and took up the position of director of the Master of Church Music program and Parish Music program. In 2008 he earned his D.Mus. degree in organ performance from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

For 22 years in his position at Concordia, Dr. Freese has been able to inspire passion and enhance the skills of both organ and church music students. He retired June 2022.