Kenya Hymnal Project


In April of 2008, Deaconess Sandra Rhein wrote an essay for the World Relief and Human Care—Theology of Mercy Contest, entitled “Hymnody as Bodily Care to the Church in Kenya.” This is some of the beautiful content from her essay:

Music in the form of hymnody is unique to the church, combining music and the Word in a way that supports both body and soul. The church on earth is revealed where it serves Christ in His poor and suffering ones, feeding and clothing them and bringing healing to their wounds. Grief and despair affect not just the spirit, but also the body. The devil uses poverty and persecution to drive God’s people to despair, crushing the spirit, and bringing sickness and death. Music has the power to drive away evil and to heal both body and soul.

Bringing hymnody to the precious body of Christ, specifically to the suffering church of Kenya, would be a clear and effective form of human care and diakonia. Worry and despair, as the cause of many bodily afflictions related to depression and stress, can be overcome by the voice of the Gospel in hymnody. Consequently, providing hymnody, as part of a comprehensive solution and in conjunction with other forms of care, can be a fundamental way to care for the bodily needs of our brothers and sisters.

Deaconess Rhein did not win, but Bishop Walter Obare of Kenya read the paper and asked to meet her on his next visit to the U.S. His son, Isaiah, was studying at CTS for an advanced degree when the Bishop visited in September 2008 and he introduced Sandra and the Bishop. Almost immediately, the Bishop asked Sandra to work with his son, Isaiah, on developing a hymnal for Kenya. Of course, Sandra said yes, but she had no idea what this would mean and soon found out that there were obstacles at every turn. Nevertheless, things moved ahead.

The first official meeting for the Kenyan Lutheran Hymnal took place on the CTS campus, November 3, 2008, with Bishop Obare; CTS President Dean Wenthe; CTS Dean of Chapel, Dr. Grime; Pastor Isaiah Obare, CTS Dean of International Studies, Dr. Quill; Deaconess Rhein and Kantor Resch present. This is when the Bishop said with great fervor, “We need a good Lutheran hymnal with a Kenyan (African) touch.” He spoke eloquently and passionately at great length about what this would mean for the Lutheran Church in Kenya. It was the first of many inspiring meetings that held up this beautiful vision. The result that day was that:

  • Dr. Wenthe established the Kenyan Hymnbook Project Fund as a part of the International Studies Office at CTS.
  • Dr. Wenthe encouraged Professors Grime, Quill, Resch, Just, Pless, Masaki to lend their LSB experience to this project.

Next, Bishop Obare called a meeting for February 2, 2009, to be held at Matongo Lutheran Theological College, Kenya , to established the ELCK Hymnal Commission. That historic meeting resulted in the appointment of the following individuals to the ELCK Hymnal Commission:

The hymnal committee meets to discuss its contents

  • Joseph Tom Omolo – Chair and Theological advisor
  • Philip Auma – Music advisor
  • John Obaga – Secretary and music advisor
  • Philip Ptiso – Music advisor
  • Sandra Rhein – Coordinating editor, deaconess intern

An Advisory Board to the Commission was also established:

  • Bishop Walter Obare
  • Rev. Isaiah Obare
  • Dr. Timothy Quill
  • Rev. Kantor Richard Resch
  • Dr. Paul Grime

Since then, amazing work has been done, bringing us to the exciting point where we can see a beautiful resource, just waiting to arrive on the scene for a church hungry to receive it.

It must be said that without Deaconess Rhein’s daily, conscientious, meticulous, caring and loving work on this hymnal, it is doubtful that this would have ever come to this point. She was the only person in place to keep everyone else working, and she did it through gentle, masterful guiding and encouragement of busy people who helped her to see this through. And while it is true that Deaconess Sandra Rhein deserves enormous credit, she would most likely say in response, THANKS BE TO GOD!

It should be acknowledged that Dr. Timothy Quill and the CTS International Studies Office have also been crucial in each step of setting up meetings, workshops and dealing with logistics in a complex process. Without this help, we would not be at this point.