Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Candlebearers and the cross bearer, left, led the processional into the nave at a special morning service yesterday at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu at 1730 Punahou St. Some Honolulu residents said they found solace in the church's familiar rituals and music.

Church comforts
with ritual, music

Worshippers filled the Lutheran
Church in Makiki for Christmas

By Leila Fujimori

Many longed for tradition on the first Christmas after the Sept. 11 attacks, and some Honolulu residents found it in familiar ritual and music at one very traditional Makiki church.

"It feels wonderful" to be in church on Christmas, said 82-year-old Makiki resident Wilma Tornow, after a special morning service at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu yesterday.

"It wouldn't be Christmas if you didn't go to church," her sister Norma Tornow, 78, chimed in.

Choir and congregation members' angelic voices filled the church to its rafters with "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and other traditional Christmas music, hymns and Gregorian chants, accompanied by a 30-foot-high German-crafted organ with impressive tin pipes set in Swedish oak.

The Lutheran Church of Honolulu choir sang the processional hymn at a special morning service yesterday.

Chorale members wearing white smocks over long blue garments marched in a procession led by a cross bearer and two candlebearers through the church.

In a traditional Christmas mass, members knelt before the altar, ate unleavened bread and drank wine from a silver goblet, which serve as reminders of Christ, whose birth they celebrated.

"After Sept. 11, people are really looking for some core things," said Carl Crosier, a 29-year member of the church and its music director. "We continue to hold onto the good things of tradition."

Crosier, a self-described "born and bred Lutheran," said the "Prayer of the Church" recited during the service "brought me back to my childhood, when I was this high," gesturing waist-high.

Paul Benco, 21, dressed in a red T-shirt, shorts and slippers, assisted with the communion offerings. Among the 40 parishioners and 16 choir members in attendance, Benco said he was there to "celebrate Jesus' birth." The Punahou Street church, where he went every Sunday with his parents, provides him "a comfort zone kind of place," he said.

"Sometimes, I take it for granted, these church services that occur every Sunday," Benco said. "I really appreciate these opportunities to share this time with other people, friends and family."

Age is no barrier to the bond he shares with older congregation members, he said.

Chuck Huxel, 70, a Presbyterian convert, said he was drawn to the church because of the pastor's visits, the music, the liturgy (prescribed ritual) and the fellowship.

"The beautiful traditional service ... is a blessing and something we have to face for our future," Huxel said.

Pastor David Barber urged his parishioners to allow God, who became flesh as Jesus Christ, to continue to enter their lives by sharing food with the hungry, visiting the sick, and giving comfort to the broken and dying.

The church, which held services in German until 1935, retains its German and Lutheran tradition with its 1,604-pipe organ and choir, which still sings German hymns and performs Gregorian chants.

Music has long been an integral part of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu and dominates the services. The church's first organist, Henry Berger, composed "Hawaii Pono'i."

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