Dr. Charles Kniker and Dr. Lynn Zeigler each have over forty years of ministries in a variety of ecumenical settings. Charles is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC) with a specialty in Religion and Education, a longtime professor at Iowa State University, and a former President of Eden Theological Seminary. Lynn is Professor Emeritus of Music from Iowa State University. She has been a church organist serving at the Duke University Chapel as well as UCC, Presbyterian, and Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) congregations in the United States. She has also served Swedish, German, and English-speaking Lutheran churches in Geneva, Switzerland. In several of these positions, she directed choirs as well. Charles and Lynn, colleagues and writing partners, live in Iowa.
Brenna: We are thrilled that you are joining our community of Member Publishers! What excites you about having your hymn collection reach our License Holders?
Charles: Our primary purpose is to write congregational hymns and worship service responses. Comments from “test” churches emphasize we offer “fresh” words that convey comforting as well as meaningful and challenging messages.
Lynn: We believe we offer singable tunes that are lively yet not so different that singers are turned off. Almost one-half of our songs can be sung to traditional tunes. We recognize there are inherited tunes that congregations still want to sing.
Brenna: Can you tell our users more about yourselves?
Charles: As an ordained minister, I have served congregations in Missouri, California, New Jersey, Iowa, Texas, and spent a year as a missionary in Honduras. I hold degrees from Elmhurst College, Eden Theological Seminary (BD), the Graduate Theological Union (MA) and a doctorate in religious education from Union Seminary and Teachers College, Columbia University. While at Iowa State, I began the journal Religion & Education. I have authored six books and have published a number of articles on religion and education. I am a member of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada.
Lynn: In terms of my musical education, I hold organ performance degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music degree from Northwestern University. After two years of study with organist Lionel Rogg at the Conservatory of Music in Geneva, Switzerland, I was awarded the Premier Prix de Virtuosité, the highest performance degree given in Europe. During those years, I won several first prizes in European organ competitions. During my career I made 14 concert tours throughout Europe. I have appeared on Eurovision (European television) and have made numerous recordings for Dutch, Swiss, Danish, and Norwegian radios.
At Iowa State University, I was University Organist and taught organ, harpsichord, and music theory related classes. I received the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activity.
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Brenna: I have been quite taken with your social justice oriented hearts and how that passion informs so much of your work. Can you tell us more about how your work evolves around the struggles of our greater global community?
Charles: My experiences as a missionary in Honduras, inner-city churches, and prison ministry have influenced my theological actions. We feel it is necessary to recall Christ’s mandate to visit those who are jailed. Our hymn “Prisoners by Choice” urges reform of our penal system. Our communion hymn “One and All” acknowledges “all” to include those of diverse sexual orientations.
Lynn: Both of us are parents and grandparents as well as teachers. The persistent issue of bullying in schools, coupled with a growing number of teen suicides, prompted us to write “Let Me Be a Friend.” I wrote what some might call a “non-hymn” tune for the text, based on what my daughter Christine said was her intention when she began high school – to be a friend with everyone. We developed four versions of the song: (a) Courage, (b) Kindness, (c) Advocate [against bullying], and (Witness) for a variety of public audiences and church settings. The Advocate version employs the melody in a calypso/soca arrangement.
The Sandy Hook shooting moved us to write “Once Again” which calls the church to stand for meaningful legislation and actions to reduce gun violence. In addition, living in Geneva, Switzerland, for three years, I wanted our tunes and texts to reflect other traditions as well as the legacy of music from our European heritage.
Brenna: In summary, what is the purpose and structure of this hymn collection?
Lynn and Charles: We want to reach out to disciples of all ages through our curriculum and presentations. Hymns are a vibrant teaching tool. We are writing songs for children as well as for adults to better understand their faith. We know many Christians continue to have difficulty articulating what they believe. A greater emphasis by churches on congregational singing would help immensely.
Let Me Be a Friend, “Witness” version, Charles and Lynn’s favorite tune
Performed by Anson Woodin, second place winner at the 2016 National Association of Teachers of Singing
Awake to Change, a hymn for Advent
One and All, a hymn for Communion
To learn more about Songs for Disciples, visit their collection on OneLicense.net and their webpage: www.songsfordisciples.com.
Cover photo: this image is available for purchase through shutterstock.com.