Wednesday, December 7, 2011


For about a year now, the church where I attend has had a steady and active choir again. Our directors put a great deal of time into selecting the pieces we will sing and in considering how we will sing them. They also encourage our singing individual solos, duettes, and the like. What is the purpose of a church coir? First and foremost, its singing assists congregational worship. If the pastor wishes to introduce a new hymn, he may call upon the choir to sing a verse or two so that everyone gets used to the new tune or words. Many choirs lead the chanting of the introit (entrance Psalm selection) or may sing the gradual between the readings of Holy Scripture. At Holy Cross in Kansas City, we sing many selections from the hymnal along with a few arrangements our directors find and hand out to us. An arrangement may emphasize some phrase or theme the hymn wishes to drive home to us which ordinary singing may not always catch. AS we sung “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” on Sunday morning, we raised our voices to a louder volume on the chorus because the hymn bids us to rejoice that Emmanuel, God with us shall come as He promises. We sing in celebration of His first coming and anticipate His impending return. When a choir sings, it does so with discretion. It is not performing in worship as in a consert or added bit of Sunday morning entertainment. That is why churches have traditionally used choir lofts. The congregation needs to hear the Law and Gospel rightly divided and sung with as little distraction by the choral appearance. I understand that not all churches have choir lofts. This is sometimes due to their size or because of the architectural style. Nevertheless, the choir is not on stage, per se, when assisting the congregation in worship. It is appropriate in churches for the choir to sit and sing in the back. After all, its members face forward with the rest of the congregation toward the chancel with its altar, cross, lectern, pulpit, and baptismal font. Divine worship is when heaven comes to us in the Word and Sacraments. (AC VII, see also Ex. 19, 1 Kings 8, Is. 6, 1 Cor. 11:23-25, and Rev. 7) To worship, our Lord draws us, His people. The choir members participate in the presence of God with everyone else there gathered. (corum Deo) Now, permit me to tread on thin ice. For as a congregation worships, so its choir members take liberty when conducting themselves. I have already mentioned that the choir assists the congregation and should not draw attention to itself. I do well to follow this advice myself as I am quite expressive when I sing and admit I may at times fall short of this expectation. Solos have become popular in many types of services. The pace changes a bit when one person sings as opposed to a choir or a whole congregation. We are drawn to a person whom God has gifted with the talent of singing well. Even so, that man or woman does not become a star-studded icon when lifting his or her voice in praise. He or she still assists the whole congregation by enunciating certain themes or phrases that fit with the weekly readings and sermon for the day. With all that said, how should choirs prepare for assisting congregational participation in worship? I admit I enjoy the fun and laughter of practices. WE make oopses and mistakes as we acquaint ourselves to a new hymn or choral anthem. We do well, however, to remember our Lord is using our voices to sing His praise and to help our friends and neighbor to do the same. One professor of mine at the seminary suggested that choirs prepare for six weeks to sing a given hymn or arrangement. After all, we do have busy lives, so meeting more than once a week to practice may prove to be a challenge. Six weeks is an ideal but not always practical solution. Even so, we do well not to fall into a rush-rush haste into the last minute. Our manner of practice will, no doubt, affect the reverence with which we sing in church. Some of my favorite minutes of the week are those leading up to worship as the organist plays a prelude. Whether I am singing in choir or sitting with the congregation as a whole, I take this time to look over the hymns. Often, the prelude is an arrangement of something we will sing, so it provides an extra help when preparing to worship in the Name of our Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our choir often sings at the beginning of the service—as a call to worship. Our director often reminds us to wait about three seconds after singing the final note to put away our music. While people are not usually looking at us, they can hear if a dozen or more members ruffle a page or cclose a binder afterward. Again, we do well to have discretion when assisting the congregation in worship. We do not proclaim ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as His servants. (2 Cor. 4:4-5) Our words, our singing, our music is not about us. It proclaims Jesus Christ who opens up our lips to sing His praise with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. In closing, I emphasize again this post considers choral participation in worship. Our Lord does use choirs in public conserts and soloists for entertainment in other settings. He gifts musicians of all kinds to go into the public square and reach today’s youth and adults in many ways. I pray that our Lord wil use such evangelism to reach the unbeliever and to encourage fellow Christians. He works through music as a means of drawing people to His house of worship for the forgiveness of our sins. Many of us will attend both midweek and Sunday services at this time of the year. Our Lord promises that His Word will dwell richly among us—in our songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. (Col. 3:16) Rejoice! God is with us always in His Word and Sacraments, in worship and devotion, till He comes again.

More To March Than Madness

March brings more than March Madness to MCB. From March 3-6, we have the privilege of meeting with our State representatives in Jeffereson City. We call this time Legislative Days. As our affiliate's new chairman for health, education, and welfare, I am looking forward to these days, and I hope you also are. Stay tuned as I will be getting in touch with each affiliate president and committee representative with names of people you will want to meet in Jefferson City. As much as possible, I will also try to update you on legislation which will impact us and about which we will advocate. It's never too early to think in this direction. I look forward to our ongoing work together as we go to Jeff City, Washington, DC and beyond.

Progressive's Christmas Party

How are you or your MCB chapter celebrating the Christmas holidays? For the Progressive Council in Kansas City, we are having a party/meal together up at the Hereford House at Zona Rosa. This is in addition to our PCB regular monthly meeting, which will be at the public library, 14 East 10th Street here in Kansas City, MO, on December 17, at 10:30 AM.

Reviving The Blog

I know that this blog has been inactive for a couple years. Let's call it a long hyatus, or extended sebatacle. Now, though, I am back blogging daily on this and other sites as well. Remember that here we discuss politics, blindness, and Missouri Council issues.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

President Obama's Disability Policy

Have you all wondered what, specificly, President Obama has to say about policies regarding people with varying disabilities? Read this article from THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, published January 20. It follows:
> Obama must address needs of blind, disabled
> January 20, 2009
> While President Obama will have to grapple with one of the worst
> economic slumps in the past 50 years, two raging wars in the Mideast,
> and a host of other pressing problems, we strongly urge him not to
> forget the critical needs of a large but often overlooked community,
> people who are blind or have other severe disabilities.
> Already this group is coping with an unacceptably high unemployment rate
> of 70 percent. In addition, the aging of the nation's massive baby boom
> generation in the years ahead will mean a virtual explosion in the
> numbers of Americans facing vision loss. This will place even greater
> demands on our national health care delivery system.
> To help ease this situation and better anticipate the needs of the
> future, the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually
> Impaired proposes the following Blindness/Disability Agenda for
> President Obama and the new Congress:
> Strengthen federal initiatives such as the Ability One and
> Randolph-Sheppard programs, which help people with disabilities become
> employed, providing products for the federal government and operating
> vending facilities on federal property, respectively. Capitol Hill,
> incidentally, can become a model Randolph-Sheppard location through the
> setting up of vending facilities in House and Senate office buildings
> and other facilities in the nation's capital.
> Increase funding and accountability for rehabilitation programs, which
> help people with disabilities become employed.
> The new president needs to be committed to funding enforcement of such
> far-reaching laws as the Americans for Disabilities Act and Section 504
> of the Rehabilitation Act by the Equal Employment Opportunity
> Commission, the Department of Justice and others.
> A huge barrier to employment for people with disabilities is
> transportation. Therefore, we recommend the enhancement of such programs
> as the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) and New Freedom Initiative
> to encourage communities to create and expand transportation services
> for people with disabilities.
> If we're going to "talk the talk" about employing people with
> disabilities, then agencies should "walk the walk." Agencies receiving
> federal funds must make a concerted effort to hire and retain employees
> with disabilities.
> Go beyond the traditional, 9-5 type jobs when helping people with
> disabilities find employment. Look at programs which can help people
> start their own businesses and work at home.
> The federal courts have ordered the United States Department of the
> Treasury to make our nation's paper currency independently identifiable
> by people who are blind. President Obama's treasury secretary must be
> committed to carrying out this court order as expeditiously as possible.
> In 1973, Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
> (IDEA). This act has been amended several times since then. When IDEA
> was passed, it stated that the federal government would provide 40
> percent of the funding needed to provide a free, appropriate public
> education to students with disabilities. President Obama must make it a
> priority to raise the level of federal funding for IDEA up to 40 percent
> from the current around 18 percent within four years. Among other
> things, this funding would help increase Braille literacy among children
> who are blind or visually impaired.
> Technology is advancing faster than any of us can fathom. Yet people
> with disabilities, particularly those who are blind or visually
> impaired, are being left behind because much of the technology is not
> accessible. President Obama must work for federal policies that will
> ensure that people with disabilities are able to take advantage of all
> that new technology has to offer, at the same time as everyone else.
> Along these lines, the new chief executive can commit to working with
> Congress to reintroduce H.R. 6320, "The 21st Century Telecommunications
> and Video Accessibility Act." Pedestrians who are blind or visually
> impaired are being put at great risk due to the popularity of hybrid
> (quiet) cars which when operating at speeds under 25 MPH, make virtually
> no noise. Because of this, pedestrians who are blind or visually
> impaired cannot hear these cars when they are stopped or when they are
> operating at slow speeds. President Obama needs to be committed to
> finding a solution so these cars can be heard by pedestrians who are
> blind or visually impaired. He can show this commitment by asking his
> secretary of transportation to research this issue and come up with
> solutions.
> Championing these measures will greatly enhance the quality of life for
> millions of disabled Americans. We hope that our new president will
> strongly support them!
> --Janet P. Szlyk, Ph.D.
> Executive Director
> The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
> Copyright (c) 2009, Chicago Tribune <
> Dominic Calabrese
> Public Relations Director
> The Chicago Lighthouse
> 312-997-3662

Do you want some tax breaks with the State? Here's some upcoming possibilities?

"MO Disability Policy/Law Listserv"
HB 323 - Home Access Tax Credit
by Rep. Sutherland
HB 323 has been introduced in the House. This bill is similar to SB146 that
Senator Dempsey
is sponsoring with some differences. Senator Dempsey’s SB146 preserves the
credit as "refundable" (meaning that even a very low-income person who doesn’t pay
state taxes can still get the credit if
the person has out-of-pocket home access expenses).
HB323 would remove the "refundable" status of the credit. Instead persons could claim
the credit only up to the amount of state taxes they owed that year. If their expenses
amounted to more than the taxes owed, they could carry the credit forward up to five
tax years. But again, persons who don’t earn enough to pay state taxes would no longer
be able to benefit.
does remove the $100,000 statewide cap on the credit, so this provision would allow
many more Missourians to claim the credit
as does SB146
It would also add modifying kitchens and adding another room to accommodate a family
member with a disability as eligible home access costs
for which the credit could be claimed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January's Blind Outreach Meal of the Month

Come, everyone, to Holy Cross Lutheran Church on January 31, 2009 from 12:00-2:00 PM. Join your friends, acquaintances and unmet neighbors for lunch!

Our speaker this month is going to be Peggy from Audio Reader. She also does audio description for live plays around town.

Her most recent speaking engagements with the blindness community include a presentation to First Steps for the Bli, another grassroots blindness support network in Kansas City.

Our menu will include chili and sandwiches along with cookies for dessert.

Hey, yo may even get to ask a pastor any question that's been on your mind about the Bible. You might see someone you haven't seen in years. You will have a great time!