The Wisconsin Conference GOSPELLERS is hosting the Westend Gospel Singers from Eberswalde, Germany for their third Wisconsin tour. From September 15–29, 2014, the 35-member choir is touring Wisconsin and Chicago, performing concerts in churches of the United Church of Christ. (Concert schedule) This tour is a fruit born of the relationship of full church communion that the United Church of Christ in the United States and the Union of Evangelical Churches in Germany have enjoyed since 1983. The relationship has yielded inter-church exchanges, youth trips, joint study ventures, joint mission trips, and choir tours. This choir tour is sponsored by the Wisconsin Conference UCC, under its partnership with a Landeskirche (provincial church), the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz
The Westend Gospel Singers were started 16 years ago as a congregational initiative in Eberswalde, a city lying in former East Germany. Presently in that part of Germany, where the communist regime (1945-1989) sought intentionally to wither the church to nothing, only 12% of the population counts itself Christian and many of that group are elderly. Initiatives like this choir offer a means to acquaint people with the Christian faith, enliven worship, and draw young people into the church. Actually most singers in the choir are not members of the Eberswalde congregation. However, the Christian experience of the choir has led a number to be baptized and active in the church.
This choir is part of a broader gospel choir movement that has spread across northern Europe, particularly in the Germanic, Scandinavian, and Baltic countries. Germany boasts 2000 gospel choirs; in the Berlin area alone there are 50. Acquaintance with gospel music has a long history in Europe. The Fisk University choir toured in Europe during Reconstruction and Dietrich Bonhoeffer shared with his German seminarians the gospel music he encountered while working as a pastor in Harlem. However, the modern gospel movement is of more recent origin. (See “A Word from Eberswalde Germany …”.)
This tour in 2014 grows out of a continuing relationship. The Westend Gospel Singers came to Wisconsin in 2006 and 2010; The Gospellers, a gospel choir from the Wisconsin Conference UCC visited Berlin-Brandenburg during July of 2008 and again in 2012. The Gospellers sang with others. On the 2008 German tour, the Gospellers always sang with other choirs, five times with the Westend Gospelsingers alone. By transcending differences of language and culture through singing gospel music together in a common tongue (English), these choirs have experienced the power of choir fellowship. The result is pure joy.
The German choir is touring the eastern half of the state, singing at nursing homes, in concerts, and for worship. Hospitality is being provided for our German friends by members of UCC congregations. UCC congregations and institutions are serving meals, at which the Westend Gospel Singers will give a PowerPoint presentation about their home and homeland. The last weekend of this tour, they travel to Chicago, where they will to be hosted by Trinity United Church of Christ and engage with UCC congregations involved in the gospel scene of that city.
Support for this tour comes from a variety of sources. The Wisconsin Conference (UCC) handles the finances and provides office support. Substantial in-kind contributions will come from individuals, especially members of The Gospellers, as well as congregations. Cash will come from multiple sources: a surplus left over from the 2012 tour, registration fees for the workshop, and proceeds from concerts. However, housing, transporting, and touring 31 persons for two weeks in an expensive venture. We are seeking further donations from individuals and congregations wishing to encourage this ministry of music and international exchange.
If you would like to support this innovative ministry financially, make a donation securely online through the Wisconsin Conference at http://bit.ly/1opGdnc. Or send a check with “Gospel Ministry” in the memo line to: attn: Tracy Hauge, Wisconsin Conference UCC, PO Box 435, De Forest WI 53532-0435.
For more information contact: Rev. Fritz West. Tel. (651) 433-4058 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org