Music’s Role in Forming Community at a Four-Year Liberal Arts College

The issue of Liturgy entitled “Communities of Musical Practice,” guest-edited by E. Byron Anderson, looks at many aspects of how music shapes –– and is shaped by –– worship in a variety of communities. What follows is an excerpt from Lorraine Brugh’s essay on chapel worship at Valparaiso University in Indiana. –– Melinda Quivik

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The Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University is a laboratory of sorts. It is a Lutheran academic chapel and retains Lutheran liturgical tradition and Lutheran staff. Just as Valparaiso University is an independent Lutheran university, so also is its chapel. It is served by clergy from both the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). For generations the chapel’s life has developed future church professionals, training them, and then allowing them leadership roles in worship.

 The Chapel of the Resurrection

The Chapel of the Resurrection

The chapel community is not a congregation; there isn’t a membership roster. Rather, people come and go as they wish. Some belong to other congregations in the area; some attend while they are Valparaiso University students or employees. For many it is an informal church home; in actual practice it is an ever-rotating worshiping community.

One of the difficulties of planning music for this community is identifying, “Which community?” The transient, academic community is in residence for nine months, away for the summer, and normally returning across four years. These students come from a variety of backgrounds, often with no previous experience of the Western liturgical tradition. While often open and eager to learn new songs and liturgical music, a German chorale may be as unfamiliar as a global song. They will learn both at Valparaiso, and one may become as familiar as the other. What they learn at the chapel may comprise the whole of their musical formation in worship.

Many of the faculty and alumni community live in the Valparaiso vicinity and come to the chapel because of the attention to fine liturgy, music, and preaching. They know best, and cherish, the traditional German and Scandinavian traditions of Lutheran song. They are open to the new song, for the most part, but expect a balance with what they know as “the tradition.”

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This educationally focused site carries the possibility, perhaps even the expectation, that much communal formation happens through education. We expose the community to the widest array of liturgical and musical choices. For students this is part of their formational and vocational preparation. For others, it is the price of worshiping in the university chapel.

One way to describe our worship practices is to note the variety in the eight services we have each week. Monday through Friday no classes are scheduled during the time when we gather for a twenty-minute Morning Prayer service that varies each day. During any given week one is likely to find a Service of Prayer around the Cross, a formal Matins service, a contemporary praise band service, and a hymn and reflection service. On Sunday evenings we use the Holden Evening Prayer service; Wednesday evenings, a contemporary service with communion. And then there’s Sunday morning. . .

Dr. Brugh’s full essay in Liturgy 33, no. 4 is available by personal subscription and through many libraries.

Lorraine Brugh, professor holding the Frederick J. Kruse Endowed Chair in Church Music and Director of Chapel Music at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana, is also, for 2017–2019, the Director of Valparaiso’s Cambridge Study Center in England.

Lorraine Brugh, “Communal Formation at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana,” Liturgy 33, no. 4 (2018): 13-20.

David Turnbloom