Post date: Apr 27, 2016 6:55:8 PM
Dear People of God,
“I’ll do this until they can find someone else to do it.” I’m told that’s what Betty Kramlich said in 1976 when she was first asked to play the organ and piano for worship here. And now, 40 years later, she is still our excellent organist/music director. Betty has also done her share of “pinch hitting” as choir director over the years. To put things in perspective, I will have been here 13 years as your pastor this summer. This is a decently long time, but nothing close to Betty’s 40 years at the keyboards! Think how many pastors have served here in that time: Dick Borrud, Al Bjerkestrand, Michael Dicks, Paul Braafladt, Roland Swanson, David Drogemuller, a couple of interim pastors and some guy named Dennis.
I remember talking to Betty by phone before I even arrived in Ellensburg. She asked if I had any certain hymns I wanted for my first Sunday here. I said I was happy to let her select the hymns for worship and she said, “We’re going to get along just fine!” And we do. I have a pretty good ear and I love Christian music, but I can’t read music. So, truth is, after 14 years of doing a so-so job of picking hymns in 2 previous congregations, I am very happy to let someone with a whole lot more musical ability and knowledge pick the songs.
And Betty does such a great job of selecting and playing the music for worship. I always appreciate that she strikes a great balance between familiar songs and new songs. Did you know that before we attempt to sing a new song, she will often play it during the offering or at another time, so that we are acquainted with the tune? Very sneaky and smart! We are still discovering new and interesting songs in our red ELW hymnbook. I appreciate that we sing many different versions of the liturgy on Sunday mornings. I remember that when it came time to introduce the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship book (ELW), Betty expertly and patiently helped us to learn our way around in it. I really enjoy the way she leads us in Holden Evening Prayer on Wednesdays during Advent and Lent. She plays it with ease of course, but there are actually 6 flats in parts of it! And her preludes before worship on Wednesdays and Sundays always set just the right mood. She and Ralph often lead us in the singing of Holden Evening Prayer. Betty has certainly played for many, many funerals and memorial services. She and Ralph sometimes sing duets on Amazing Grace or other favorites. They celebrated their golden wedding anniversary this year. They are still making beautiful music together after 50 years.
One thing that always amazes me about Betty is that she can carry on a conversation with you while still playing the organ or piano. For folks like me who can’t play the piano, don’t read music, and have trouble chewing gum and walking at the same time, this is mind-blowing. I often say that music and kids are two definite strengths of First Lutheran Church. And Betty is certainly a huge part of the music here. When people visit here, some will say, “Wow, this congregation really sings!” It’s true that we are a singing congregation. And a large part of that is thanks to a very capable musician who really knows how to play and to lead the singing as we praise and glorify God together. Touching on the over 15 songs in the Book of Revelation in a sermon a few weeks ago, I mentioned that Christian music is often called the fifth gospel. We have Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Christian music. We so appreciate Betty’s incredible gift of music and for sharing that with us here at First Lutheran for 40 years. And we pray that Betty will continue to be our organist and music director here for just as long as she wants to keep at it.
I do hope you will join us for lunch in Betty’s honor on Sunday May 1st after worship. We won’t be “roasting Betty”, but if you have a favorite story about Betty and her music here, we will have a little “open mic” time.
Peace in Christ, Pastor Dennis