Feast of Paul Manz (October 29)   1 comment

Above:  Luther Rose

Image Source = Jed


PAUL MANZ (MAY 10, 1919-OCTOBER 28, 2009)

Dean of Lutheran Church Music

Among Lutherans, he was the dean of church music.

–David Cherwin, Organist, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2009


He re-stimulated creative hymn playing.  He was playing around, but these [delightful and well-crafted] pieces [into which he introduced improvisations at Mount Olive Church and introduced at hymn festivals nationwide] affirmed the extraordinary musical sophistication he had.  He left a legacy in the pieces that are being used regularly.

— John Ferguson, Professor of Organ and Church Music, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, 2009

Relying on ecclesiastical authorities to name saints is, in itself, insufficient.  If I were to follow that strategy alone, I would not recognize Paul Manz as a saint.

Paul Manz (1919-2009) died at the age of 90 years.  Ruth, his wife of 65 years, predeceased him by a year.  They had four children:  John, a Lutheran minister; Peter; Michael (died in 2006); and David, who died at birth.  The couple also raised the orphaned children of Ruth’s brother and sister-in-law.  Thus Mary, Anne, Sarah, and John Mueller joined the household.

Paul Manz, born in Cleveland, Ohio, began his life as a musician with piano lessons at age five.  While attending Concordia High School in River Forest, Illinois, he took private lessons with premier organists.  The saint earned his master’s degree in organ performance at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.  Then he taught at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and at Macalester College, St. Paul.  He also served as chair of the Department of Music at Concordia University, St. Paul, for nineteen years.  For 37 years (until his retirement in 1983) Manz served as organist and Director of Christian Education at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Minneapolis.  In 1956 Manz left for Europe for a year on a Fulbright Scholarship.  The church gave him the year off with pay.

Manz became one of the leading organists in the United States.  In fact, he was officially among the 101 Most Notable Organists of the Twentieth Century, according to the American Guild of Organists in 2000.  Other honors included the Alumni Merit Award from Northwestern University, the Confessor of Christ Award from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, the Gutenberg Award from the Chicago Bible Society, the Wittenberg Arts Award from the Luther Institute, and honorary doctorates from St. Olaf College and Valparaiso University.  Manz was also on an official list of the ten Most Influential Lutherans.

Manz was part of the liberal wing of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS).  From 1969 to 1976 a civil war raged in that denomination.  Manz and Mount Olive Church were among those who formed the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) in 1976.  The AELC participated in the 1987 merger which formed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  This background explains the 1983-2009 part of Manz’s life.  In 1983 Manz relocated to Chicago, where he taught at the Lutheran School of Theology, which had ties to Seminex, founded as Concordia Seminary in Exile.  He retired from the Lutheran School of Theology in 1992.  And Manz made quite an impression.

The church and the world were blessed beyond measure by the talents and gifts Paul Manz shared with our seminary community.  His legacy of teaching and his music will continue through our graduates to touch the lives of future generations.   His tireless effort, generating support for our institution through hymn festivals, was a mark of his remarkable ministry.  We give thanks to God for the good fortune of having known Paul and his beloved Ruth as members of the Seminex and LSTC communities.

–James Kenneth Echols, President, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, 2009

Manz, while in Chicago, attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Luke, where he served as cantor.  That parish has established the Paul Manz Institute of Church Music.  Manz retired from his role in that congregation in 1999.

I learned of Paul Manz a few years ago, when Dallas Bono, choir director at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, selected the saint’s most famous motet for the choir to sing.  “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come,” published in 1954, has a powerful backstory.  John, son of Paul and Ruth, was three years old and in the hospital with double pneumonia and a high fever.  His survival was uncertain.  Ruth paraphrased verses from Revelation 22 and Paul composed the music.  John survived.  As I write these words he is on staff at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Paul Manz’s last parish and the site of his funeral.  And it was appropriate that, as the elder Manz, unable to speak, lay dying, his family members sang the motet as they surrounded him.

The words of the motet follow:

Peace be to you and grace from him

Who freed us from our sins,

Who loved us all and shed his blood

That we might saved be.

Sing holy, holy to our Lord,

The Lord Almighty God,

Who was and is and is to come;

Sing holy, holy, Lord!

Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein,

Rejoice on earth, ye saints below,

For Christ is coming, is coming soon,

For Christ is coming soon!

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come,

And night shall be no more;

They need no light nor lamp nor sun,

For Christ will be their All!








Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Paul Manz

and all those who with music have filled us desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior,

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from the Proper for Artists and Writers, Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728


For Further Reading:








One response to “Feast of Paul Manz (October 29)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of All Christian Musicians (October 30) « SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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