A Cup of Blessing

For twelve years I have played piano for the Gloria Dei Hispanic Mission congregation, which holds Spanish-language worship services at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Valparaiso, Indiana.

For several years during the traditional Via Crucis procession on Good Friday, my husband and children and I served as musicians while the Gloria Dei congregation and community followed the Way of the Cross through downtown Valparaiso.   We used to joke that we belonged to the finest Lutheran mariachi band in Indiana.

Over the years the Lutzes have provided worship music for Gloria Dei baptisms, first communions, weddings, and quinceañeras–and attended many a fiesta afterward.

This morning I was the only Anglo at the Gloria Dei service.  Most of the communicants take individual cups, but I know that when Pastor Tomás offers the chalice,  his wife and sister-in-law will drink from the common cup with me.

I cherish this gesture, and I remember another cup of blessing and another pastor’s wife.

In his memoir Awakening to Equality: A Young White Pastor at the Dawn of Civil Rights, my father-in-law, Karl E. Lutze, wrote of his experience serving a black congregation in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in 1946:

The book cover features author Karl E. Lutze as officiant and his wife Esther at the communion rail

The book cover features author Karl E. Lutze as officiant and his wife Esther at the communion rail

Esther and I were both surprised and thrilled when, on the Sunday that followed her first Sunday with me, the attendance leaped from twenty-three to thirty-four.  Next day, while Mr. Hooper was working his garden patch, I went out to chat with him, still excited about the upswing in our attendance.  I thought surely he would agree with me that my preaching was “finally taking hold.”  Not wishing to hurt my feelings, he explained, “Your sermons have been fine, but people have been hearing about Mrs. Lutze.”

Then I learned that my predecessor’s wife–as was the custom of all families of white Lutheran pastors serving in African American communities in the South–would worship with the nearby white congregation on Sundays when the Lord’s Supper was celebrated.  “Mrs. Lutze stayed with us and drank from the Holy Cup with us.”   (University of Missouri Press, 2006)