Matt is on sabbatical from his teaching job in Minnesota this year, so he is in Martin, teaching English and music at the Lutheran Academy. He is a volunteer through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Global Mission program. He is enjoying working with Slovak students and his many new colleagues at the gymnasium!
I suppose you go to Lutheran worship services at the Lutheran church in Martin. What appeals to you?
First, I am so grateful that there is a translator each week. When I enter the church, the usher gives me a headset so that I can listen to everything that is said, in English. I appreciate the hard work of the volunteers who provide this valuable service for the English speakers.
In many ways, the church service reminds me of church when I was growing up at Elim Lutheran Church in Marshalltown, Iowa. There is a real feeling of reverence, I think, that I don’t always feel at some more contemporary services. I love the familiar words of the liturgy, words I’ve heard weekly throughout my life.
Although it is smaller, my home church has a similar altar and communion rail, and the pastor stood inside the rail, sometimes with his back to us. Maybe that doesn’t seem important, but it triggers memories that I had forgotten. I remember the intimate feeling of coming forward to Communion with just 12 people kneeling around the altar, and I remember lots of singing and good organ music.
Lutheran worship services seem to have a different liturgy, as you know from your church. You have noticed that we sing a lot ☺. What are your thoughts about it?
I love to sing and I love to hear people sing. It is beautiful to hear the pastor here sing parts of the liturgy and chant the psalms. It sets the words apart from everyday conversation. It’s great!
You are a musician; you play very well the trombone and I believe you play it with joy. You may have heard that “he who sings, prays twice.” Words of St. Augustine had mastered even Martin Luther, who considered the music and singing the word of God for the most precious gifts – gifts to celebrate God. What do you think?
Who can question St. Augustine and Martin Luther? Of course they’re right! Music can express a wide range of human emotion. And even the psalmist invites us to use our voices and instruments to praise God.
Why do you think the person needs faith? Why should we look for and ask for it?
Without faith, everything we do in the Church would be meaningless. Jesus’ death and resurrection are central to our belief. We believe that this promise of resurrection is true. In the Small Catechism, Luther says that “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.” Faith is a gift from God. As humans, we question and doubt at times, but this gift of faith sustains us individually and as a church.
How do you see the faith of young people today? What are today’s young people different from your generation (how were you when you were young)?
I don’t think that much has changed. There are many believers, some who question, and always some who reject. I’m just beginning to get to know the students in Martin, but I hope that, as we get more comfortable with each other, I can find out more about their faith and their questions. It takes time to build that trust.
Do you think it is good and necessary, whet young people are “forced” to go to church on Sunday by their parents?
I’m not a parent, so I have no expertise in raising children! But since you asked, perhaps a time comes in an older child’s life when that force is harmful. We teach children about God, give them his word, and we pray for them. What more can we do? (I’m really asking, because I don’t know!)
In your opinion is there a non-violent way of “nudge” in to a live faith the independently and critically thinking adult?
I think so. This question makes me think about people I know who witness by the example of their lives. They may be somewhat quiet about their faith, but those who know them know that their strength and love grow from their faith. It seems like a powerful witness to me!
What advice would you give to parents whose children (teenagers) spend hours on the Internet, Facebook or playing computer games?
Another parenting question? I’m just not qualified! I don’t think any of these things are necessarily bad, but it’s also important for all people, not just children, to interact with others, to get outside, to exercise, and all the rest.
I suppose that PC games does not interests you much ☺. What activities are among your favorites?
I’m not too old for PC games! I have some word games that I enjoy playing on my phone. It’s fun to play with friends who are in the U.S. Maybe some don’t even know I’ve left! The games and the connections continue on!
Profile of Matt Hafar
Dr. Matthew Hafar is a member of the music faculty at Rochester Community and Technical College, in Minnesota. He is a graduate of St. Olaf College, and holds a M.A. in trombone and Ph.D. in music theory from the University of Iowa. At RCTC, Dr. Hafar teaches music theory, appreciation, world music, and brass instruments.