Lutheran House anniversary celebrated at Sacred Song

In the history of Lutheranism, 125 years may not be a long time. In Chautauqua, however, it’s certainly something to celebrate — and that’s exactly what the Lutheran Denominational House plans to do.

This weekend’s Sacred Song Service will add to those celebrations at 8 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater with a program titled, “A Mighty Friendly Fortress.”

Institution organist Jared Jacobsen said that the title is a play on the classic Lutheran hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

“Marlie Bendiksen, who helps me with archival stuff, kept coming across references to the Lutheran House as ‘a mighty, friendly fortress,’ ” he said. “And I thought, ‘You know, that really does represent what that house is all about.’ It just feels like a warm, friendly, fuzzy place to be.”

Jacobsen said the program will include a brief history of Lutheranism from Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, which ignited the Protestant Reformation and eventually led to the denomination’s presence at Chautauqua.

“I think it’s probably safe to say that, if there was no Protestant Reformation, there would be no Chautauqua,” Jacobsen said.

The musical portion of the program will include both versions of “A Mighty Fortress,” both the well-known “foursquare” melody and the original tune, which Luther adapted from a drinking song.

“Music is really synonymous with the Lutherans, so we didn’t have to help Jared [arrange the service] much,” said Ardyce Gustafson Rigg, communication chair for the Lutheran Chautauqua Association. “Luther said, ‘Music is a fair and lovely gift of God. … Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor.’ Lutheran worship provides opportunities for worshippers to give praise to their Lord and celebrate the proclamation of the Gospel through congregational song.”

According to Janet Enders, the Lutheran presence in the Institution was first found in the home of the Rev. and Mrs. Isaac Baker at 28 Foster in 1890. The Lutheran Chautauqua Association was formed the same year.

The lot on Peck where the Lutheran House now stands was purchased in 1911 for $2,200. The house itself was dedicated on July 9, 1925.

“It’s been a nice place to come and stay,” said Enders, who has taken part in the Chautauqua Lutheran community since 1940.

This season, the Lutheran House has welcomed Jerry and Sue Keppel as host and hostess and sponsored vocalist Xiaomeng Zhang and pianist and choral performer Joshua Tan as Chautauqua Scholars, said Rigg.

The house also held a cake and ice cream celebration during their Tuesday Social Hour and a House Blessing given by the Rev. Anne Schmid and the Rev. Steve Broome during Week One.

Celebrations will continue at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 26, in the Lutheran Denominational House with a public ice cream social.