From the Pastor's desk


Recently, I’ve had a few members ask me about the history of Holden Evening Prayer Service, the worship service we are using Wednesday evenings through the season of Lent. At Good Shepherd, this will be the sixth consecutive year we have used Holden. We’ve used Holden along with scripture and brief reflections. This year we are reflecting on “Freedom from Fear.” Using the gospels and the many times Jesus tells his disciples and followers “Do not be afraid,” in the coming weeks we’ll explore Freedom from Circumstances, Freedom from Death, and Freedom from the Unthinkable.

Last year, Dean Olson shared a reflection and history of Holden that I think is worth repeating. An edited version follows.

                                                                   Pastor Tom Hillertz

Origins of Holden Evening Prayer

By Dean Olson

Holden Village is a Lutheran retreat center in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state.  It operates under a special wilderness use permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service.  Anyone is welcome to attend Holden Village as a guest or volunteer, but you’ll probably need to plan ahead, plus make a reservation.  I have been fortunate to spend a week there on three occasions. However, I have not visited Holden since the early 1980s.  It would be wonderful to go again

The Village has an unusual origin.  It used to be a copper mining camp.  In the early 1960s, a man from Seattle named Wes Prieb bought the property from the mining company for $1.  It was a dump of a place. 

Car, boat, bus, feet: you’ll need them all to get to Holden.  But once you’re there, everything is very comfortable.  The village has running water (snowpack and glacial), indoor plumbing, and hydroelectricity from Railroad Creek below.  Further, it has a dining hall, worship center, ice cream parlor, hike haus, bookstore and gift shop, library, plus a hot tub or two.  My favorite was the pool hall and bowling alley where you need to set your own pins.  Meals are served in the dining hall at the stroke of a bell 3 times per day, and guests stay in chalets or dorm-like lodges.  An abundance of classes, discussion groups, book studies, presentations, and workshops are held frequently.  You can see brilliant stars in a dark, black, sky, and appearances by the northern lights are not unusual.  It functions year-around and can receive 20 feet of snow in the winter.  Some colleges hold winter terms here (Augustana, Rock Island, IL).  In the summer, Vespers are every night, and that brings us back to Marty Haugen.

“Marty Haugen, (born December 30, 1950 in Wanamingo, Minnesota), is an American composer of liturgical music.”  So begins the Wikipedia page on Mr. Haugen.  Holden Evening Prayer was composed by him while on sabbatical in the Village during the winter of 1986.  Haugen was raised an ALC Lutheran, but is currently a member of the United Church of Christ.  He has a bachelor’s from Luther College (Decorah, Iowa) and a Master’s in pastoral studies from the U. of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN, my home town).  He currently resides in Eagan, MN.

One of Haugen's most well-known hymns is "All Are Welcome", sung around the world by various Christian congregations.  (One of Pastor Toms favorites)

Haugen has written several liturgical settings for the ELCA. These include Now the Feast and Celebration, (written in collaboration with then campus pastors at Pacific Lutheran University Susan Briehl, Dan Erlander and Martin Wells), Unfailing Light, an evening communion service (written in collaboration with Pastor Susan Briehl), Holy Communion Setting Two for Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW), and an evening prayer setting, Holden Evening Prayer, originally written for Holden Village.”

Finally, this contribution from Marty Haugen himself on his website ( ) noting the 30th anniversary in 2016 of the worship setting:

“Holden Evening Prayer (or "Vespers ’86" as it is still known at Holden Village) was written during the winter of 1985-86 when I was living with my family at Holden.  As each part of the vesper service was written, it was prayed with the community as part of evening worship.  The final version represents a very real collaboration with the winter community at Holden.  I believe that one of the reasons it continues to be used is because it reflects the very real prayer of a particular community. 

When we sing Holden Evening Prayer, it’s engaging to think of the winter setting in the Cascade Mountains that inspired it.  It’s very fitting that we use it in the wintertime for Lent.  Much like the twists and turns of the scenic, mountain switchbacks one travels to get to Holden Village, Haugen’s creation has followed an unusual journey to be in our hands each Lent.  Holden Village just might be as close as you can get to God’s Heaven on Earth.  If you ever get a chance to go, go.  While there, remember Good Shepherd during Vespers ’86 and the singing of Holden Evening Prayer.