Prayers Rise Up

Incense sticks of bamboo.

Liturgical purists will scoff.

But since I doubt very many of them are reading this blog, I will come right out and say it: I love Holden Evening Prayer.

If you are not a Lutheran of a certain stripe, you are probably scratching your head right now.  Holden Evening Prayer (or “Holden”, as the initiated often call it) is an evening prayer setting written by Marty Haugen for the worshiping community at Holden Village, a retreat center in remote Washington state.

“Isn’t that the lost act of Damn Yankees?” one of my Facebook friends quipped.  And he has a point–there is something just a little jazz hands about Holden.

But it is also one of my first Lutheran memories.  My first Lutheran Lent (my family joined an ELCA church when I was 13) was set to the music of Holden Evening Prayer, as were many of the Lents that followed.  On Wednesday nights, whether at my first Lutheran church, the Lutheran church I lurked at in college, or the Methodist church where Lutherans and others gathered in Milwaukee, I let my prayers rise up like incense.  I sang the prayers that stayed with me through the week, as I hummed them while doing the dishes, reading the newspaper, walking to class.

One of my favorite things about liturgy is the way it carries our faith through time and space.  I love that the liturgy I sang in Evanston, Illinois and Northfield, Minnesota and Milwaukee, Wisconsin is one I can sing in rural Litchfield and rural Cosmos, too.  I love that when I came home from singing it last night, I came home to post after Facebook post by people who had just sung it, too.

Most of the folks at First and Beckville have not been singing Holden Evening Prayer for all of their Lutheran lives.  This is only the second year that I have led it.  So, our prayers are rising up more tentatively than usual.

But they are rising up alongside the prayers of congregations across the country, singing the same liturgy and praying the same prayers.  And, jazz hands or no, there is something very lovely about that.



Filed under Ministry Matters

18 responses to “Prayers Rise Up

  1. Joy Alsop

    I LOVE Holden, too. :


  2. I have seldom had opportunity to participate in a liturgical service. However, the few times I did, once I understood what it was about, were powerful and lasting experiences. Thanks for sharing this.,


  3. At 4 years of hearing it around him, my Micah is starting to sing pieces of it, not on Wednesday’s at that Methodist congregation but in the car and while he’s playing at home, and getting ready for bed.


    • I love it! Zoe was doing a little call and response this week, by which I mean repeating random phrases / snatches of melody as she can. She was also doing a lot of running.


  4. Keith

    Me too… great post, Pastor.


  5. Amy Reumann

    Just did Holden last night after several years without and really enjoyed it. Although I’m glad I didn’t know the Damn Yankees comment at the time…


  6. I wish TLC and WLJ would be able to do it. I love it. I have the music at home when I need a little liturgical moment and the ELW won’t cut it. 🙂


    • What do they do for Lent, Lindy? I have been impressed by my folks’ willingness to give it a go. If we had midweek Advent services, we could really build our Holden skills!


  7. Kirsten

    Love this post. And you know I love liturgy 🙂


  8. Jen Kiefer

    Love this 🙂


  9. mandatruchinski

    Maggie, you really gotta take the family up to Holden to experience it at the source. Pastors get one free week each year! But just a heads up – persons of another certain Lutheran stripe call it Vespers 86 so watch out!


    • We would love to get up there, Manda! Mike went as a child (teenager), and Mike’s parents used to try to convince my parents that we should all go together. They were wrong about that, but I think at least the Cumings family should make the trip! I will file away “Vespers 86” for future use.


  10. Holden Evening Prayer is one of my favorites! We always used it for Lent as well at my home church, and it was almost as much a part of Lent for me as Soup Suppers and sitting in a sanctuary with no light coming through the windows.

    It’s funny that you mention “jazz hands;” when I was in college, my campus ministry group once attempted Holden, but due to our lack of musicians, we found a cassette recording released by the publishers in the 90s. They had the synth sparkles in the backgrounds. It was 90s-tastic, and a little painful 🙂


    • Oh, NO. I don’t know exactly what “synth sparkles” are, but it is an upsetting idea. My organist tried to convince me to use a CD version this year, because she thinks her playing is not good enough (it is absolutely good enough, and so much better than a recording, especially if it’s the same one you describe). Live accompaniment is always, always better.


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