Central Lutheran Church is celebrating the memory of its longtime organist Janice C. Newell with a hymn fest on Sunday.
Newell, who died from cancer last year, was the church’s organist for almost 20 years.
Music director Paul Brueggemeier said the congregation wanted to do something to honor Newell and her love of singing.
“Janice very much believed in congregational singing, and she loved that people here were singers,” Brueggemeier said.
In 2009 the church began using a new hymnal with hymns and songs that weren’t traditionally Lutheran but part of Christian history, Brueggemeier said. Sunday’s program includes 17 hymns from all over the world, including Denmark, Spain and Zimbabwe.
“Janice slowly but surely began introducing all these new hymns to us,” Brueggemeier said. “It made it part of our common language to be able to sing them.”
Newell was planning a hymn festival when she discovered she had cancer.
“She died before she could have the festival, so now we are doing it in her memory,” Brueggemeier said.
Central Lutheran has also installed a new carillon in Newell’s memory.
Brueggemeier said the church has never had bells before.
“People in the neighborhood have commented on how much they like hearing it,” he said.
The church has done more neighborhood outreach over the past couple of years, including a series of summer family barbecues that attracted between 25 and 40 people from the neighborhood.
Like many other churches, Central Lutheran is trying to maintain a congregation that is a blend of young and old and not decreasing in size. Brueggemeier said that congregations used to grow as peoples’ families grew, but that’s no longer the case.
“We have to do more neighborhood outreach,” he said. “There are hundreds of people who are unchurched within our neighborhood. We would like to invite them to be Christian.”
The church has a clothing and food bank, and just recently adult volunteers have started mentoring students a Roosevelt Elementary School.
About Sunday’s program Brueggemeier said there’s no need to be intimidated by the somewhat unusual selection of hymns.
“Anyone who’s a churchgoer in Spokane will know these hymns,” he said.