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German Songs Bring Back Memories

Hansel, Jeff. "German Songs Bring Back Memories." Bismarck Tribune, 3 December 2001.


"Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht! (Silent night, holy night!)," was sung by more than 200 worshipers brought together for the 25th annual German Advent Christmas Service in Bismarck Sunday.

"I'm a German from Russia. To me, it's like Christmas again as a child," said Lorraine Moos of Mandan, who attended the service along with her husband, Harry. "To me it's the old singing of the songs and trying to pray in German again." Moos said she sometimes forgets the German words she learned as a child, but she enjoys trying to remember them and she enjoys the Christmas program sponsored by the Dakota Pioneer Chapter of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society.

The society holds a service offered in the German language each year on the first Sunday of December. The service is held at a different Bismarck or Mandan church each year. Because of the number of people who attend, the services are held at large area churches. This year's service was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. For many, the traditional German songs bring back memories immediately.

"We sang them every year," said Rev. Theodore Bader, who traveled from Parkston, S.D., to preach in German the Old Testament sermon, Behold Your King Comes to You.

Bader, a retired pastor who grew up in the German Congregational churches, said when he began preaching in 1949, he would preach two sermons in German and one in English in the North Dakota towns of Hazen, Zap and Golden Valley. He later preached German in Medina and that was the last place he preached in the language.

Until a few weeks ago, when he attended a Germans from Russia meeting, Bader said, "I hadn't preached German for 40 years!" But by the end of the meeting, he had four invitations to do just that.

"Today was just my second time," he said Sunday. But he said while preparing the sermons and reading in German again, "it was amazing how fast some of that stuff came back."

On Sunday, a man playing "mit Dudelsack" (with bagpipes) began the service by leading the Central Dakota Children's Choir into the sanctuary.

People who organize the services here and in states that surround North Dakota, Bader said, "are trying to keep alive some of the traditions of the German people."

"It does make you feel like Christmas," said Ed Zuern of Bismarck, who organized the gathering.

"You grew up with the language and you remember the carols," he said.

Willi Winger, of Bismarck, said he enjoys the service. Winger said he is a German who was born in southern Russia. He said he had no trouble understanding the sermon.

"I understand every word," said Winger, who said he has lived in Bismarck for almost 50 years. But he said he wishes he understood every word of English as well as he does German.

Before beginning the sermon, Bader told the congregation in English, "The promise is that the Messiah comes, not on Dec. 25, but when we prepare him room in our lives and in our hearts."

Reprinted with permission of the Bismarck Tribune.

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