I wanted to tell you about the incredible St. John’s Lutheran Church campus here in Bakersfield, CA where we attended a hymn festival by S. Wayne Foster, the Ken Medema presentation and Hyunju Hwang’s organ recital.
The church is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the multiple buildings on this 34-acre campus are only 6 years old. Everything looks brand new! There is a large Sanctuary where one part of the congregation worships in a more “traditional” manner, using a tracker pipe organ by Werner Bosch. The organ was actually located in a building previously used by the congregation and it took them six weeks to move it to this new facility. It was in this building that we had a hymn festival. Because the organist is hidden behind a Ruckpositiv, there were three large video screens mounted around the room with a live video feed to see the organist clearly.
Then there is another building with a large auditorium (perhaps seating 800 or so). This facility has multiple huge video screens and a large stage area where another part of the congregation takes a more “contemporary” approach to worship. That’s where we saw Ken Medema and his powerful storytelling and music presentation.
I went to a separate conference center for a workshop on AGO chapter growth and development and we had a catered dinner in a large gymnasium in yet another building. There was also a large children’s center building and an education center.
When we asked a local AGO member how big the congregation was, we expected an answer like 6,000 — and were shocked to learn that the congregation numbers only 1800. I can’t even imagine such a campus in Hawaii — perhaps the First Presbyterian Church comes close with its golf course, but St. John’s is an amazing complex of large buildings.
The hymn festival we attended yesterday afternoon was built around the festival of Pentecost. S. Wayne Foster played the complete “Prelude sur le thème du Veni Creator,” in separate sections of the program, alternating with congregational hymns for Pentecost. There was also a choir which sang a couple of anthems plus a brass and percussion added to the hymns. This was the third time we sang the commissioned hymn “BAKERSFIELD,” this time with brass and percussion, and was the grandest rendition yet.