Kenya Hymnal Project
In April of 2008, Deaconess
Sandra Rhein wrote an essay for the World Relief and Human Care—Theology of
Mercy Contest, entitled “Hymnody as Bodily Care to the Church in Kenya.” This is
some of the beautiful content from her essay:
in the form of hymnody is unique to the church, combining music and the Word in
a way that supports both body and soul. The church on earth is revealed where
it serves Christ in His poor and suffering ones, feeding and clothing them and
bringing healing to their wounds. Grief and despair affect not just the spirit,
but also the body. The devil uses poverty and persecution to drive God’s people
to despair, crushing the spirit, and bringing sickness and death. Music has the
power to drive away evil and to heal both body and soul.
hymnody to the precious body of Christ, specifically to the suffering church of Kenya,
would be a clear and effective form of human care and diakonia. Worry and despair, as the cause of many
bodily afflictions related to depression and stress, can be overcome by the
voice of the Gospel in hymnody. Consequently, providing hymnody, as part of a
comprehensive solution and in conjunction with other forms of care, can be a
fundamental way to care for the bodily needs of our brothers and sisters.
Deaconess Rhein did not win,
but Bishop Walter Obare of Kenya
read the paper and asked to meet her on his next visit to the U.S. His son,
Isaiah, was studying at CTS for an advanced degree when the Bishop visited in
September 2008 and he introduced Sandra and the Bishop. Almost immediately, the
Bishop asked Sandra to work with his son, Isaiah, on developing a hymnal for Kenya.
Of course, Sandra said yes, but she had no idea what this would mean and soon
found out that there were obstacles at every turn. Nevertheless, things moved
The first official meeting for
the Kenyan Lutheran Hymnal took place on the CTS campus, November 3, 2008, with
Bishop Obare; CTS President Dean Wenthe; CTS Dean of Chapel, Dr. Grime; Pastor
Isaiah Obare, CTS Dean of International Studies, Dr. Quill; Deaconess Rhein and
Kantor Resch present. This is when the Bishop said with great fervor, “We need
a good Lutheran hymnal with a Kenyan (African) touch.” He spoke eloquently and passionately
at great length about what this would mean for the Lutheran Church in Kenya.
It was the first of many inspiring meetings that held up this beautiful vision.
The result that day was that:
- Dr. Wenthe established the Kenyan Hymnbook Project Fund as a part of the International
Studies Office at CTS.
- Dr. Wenthe encouraged
Professors Grime, Quill, Resch, Just, Pless, Masaki to lend their LSB experience to this project.
Next, Bishop Obare called a meeting
for February 2, 2009, to be held at Matongo Lutheran Theological College, Kenya
, to established the ELCK Hymnal Commission. That historic meeting resulted in
the appointment of the following individuals to the ELCK Hymnal Commission:
The hymnal committee meets to discuss its contents
- Joseph Tom Omolo – Chair and Theological advisor
- Philip Auma – Music advisor
- John Obaga – Secretary and music advisor
- Philip Ptiso – Music advisor
- Sandra Rhein – Coordinating editor, deaconess intern
An Advisory Board to the
Commission was also established:
- Bishop Walter Obare
- Dr. Timothy Quill
- Rev. Kantor Richard Resch
- Dr. Paul Grime
then, amazing work has been done, bringing us to the exciting point where we
can see a beautiful resource, just waiting to arrive on the scene for a church
hungry to receive it.
must be said that without Deaconess Rhein’s daily, conscientious, meticulous,
caring and loving work on this hymnal, it is doubtful that this would have ever
come to this point. She was the only person in place to keep everyone else
working, and she did it through gentle, masterful guiding and encouragement of
busy people who helped her to see this through. And while it is true that
Deaconess Sandra Rhein deserves enormous credit, she would most likely say in
response, THANKS BE TO GOD!
should be acknowledged that Dr. Timothy Quill and the CTS International Studies
Office have also been crucial in each step of setting up meetings, workshops
and dealing with logistics in a complex process. Without this help, we would not be at this