This Sunday, members of Northwestern’s Honors Program fall seminar took the work they’ve been doing all semester and presented it to the community in honor of Veteran’s Day.
The service took place at First Reformed Church at the Sunday evening service and was hosted by Dr. Heather Josselyn-Cranson and students in her Great War and Music class. Dr. Josselyn-Cranson and students have been planning the service throughout the semester.
Over the course of the semester, students have been learning about the First World War in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the war’s beginning in 1915. Though the history of the war was a topic of discussion, the primary focus was on the music and composers active during the war time period.
Each student in the course was designated to a role in putting the service together, ranging from poster design to the selection of the tunes to be placed with the hymns. The class worked together to produce an hour long service by combining the elements of each person’s job.
“I believe that the Spirit works through communities,” Josselyn-Cranson said. “As we all contributed our ideas, suggestions, voices, prayers, and other material, we become a community in worship planning. The service was much richer than it would have been if just one person had put it together.”
Featured in the service were hymns written during the First World War, prayers found online and written by students, and Scripture readings that fit with the overall theme.
“It was a very fitting way for us to combine the things we’ve been studying,” Sonya Hagberg said. “It incorporated wrestling with war and peace and really putting it all together at the end.”
When the time came to really gather ideas, students selected a list of their favorite hymns. From there, the top eight hymns were selected and each student was assigned a hymn to introduce during the service.
“We wanted to show what each of us found meaningful in studying the war,” Josselyn-Cranson said. “I think we did that in the service through the hymns we selected.”
The performance was well-attended by members of the community, college students and professors. Students were approached by veterans at the end of service, thanking them for putting the service together.
“The veterans were super appreciative,” Kali Wolkow said. “They were very receptive and grateful for what we had to say.”
Though the service may be over, the professor and students involved in the course and attendees of the service alike are continuing to learn.
“I think I learned more than anything that human nature stays the same,” Josselyn-Cranson said. “Those who wrote the World War One-era hymns we sang expressed a variety of opinions about the war, all of which we can sympathize. Like them, we miss our departed loved ones, and wonder what their life is like now. Like them, we witness human frailty and violence and grieve that God’s Kingdom has not yet come. Like them, we experience the world around us as testimony to God’s great loving kindness, and we are grateful. Although the words we sang were 100 years old, they express our prayers and praises, too, in a timeless way.”