Nevada County man played part in publishing popular service |

Nevada County man played part in publishing popular service

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WHAT: Holden Evening Prayer. 20-minute musical worship service offered for Lenten observance

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursdays through March 21. Free soup suppers at 6 p.m. in church Fellowship Center

WHERE: Peace Lutheran Church, 828 W. Main St., Grass Valley (near downtown)

INFORMATION: 530-273-9631 or

A Nevada County man played an instrumental role in publishing a prayer service now used by thousands of churches around the English-speaking world.

Holden Evening Prayer, a short but moving Christian service using music, chanting and dramatic contrast of light and dark, is held Thursday evenings in weekly observance of Lent at Peace Lutheran Church, Grass Valley.

Lake Wildwood resident David Baker is a retired minister and member of Peace.

But he and his wife Gloria had been married eight months when they took jobs in spring 1985 at the remote Lutheran retreat center of Holden Village, in Washington state’s Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.

David ran the bookstore, and Gloria was secretary to the director, David Baker recalled.

What ensued was “the best 15 months of our life,” Baker said.

They stayed through the winter, part of a caretaker population of about 70, Baker recalled.

When snow socked them in, residents traveled by snowmobile from the former copper mine down a switchbacked road to the village of Lucerne on Lake Chelan. From there, residents and visitors still travel 20 miles by boat to the town of Chelan and the highway out of the mountains.

“The winter community is very close-knit,” Baker said.

Holden had one requirement of residents: That they attend evening prayers, Baker added. The tradition dates to Christianity’s Jewish roots.

One resident that winter was young composer Marty Haugen. Director Elmer Witt asked Haugen to write an evening worship service, and Witt gave three guidelines:

“It had to be short, it had to be simple, and it had to be singable,” Baker said.

At the premiere of what then was called Vespers ’86, a woman holding a candle at the back of the darkened building sang the opening line, “Jesus Christ, you are the light of the world.” She sang two more rising versicles, moving forward each time, as congregants sang in response.

“Then she sang, ‘Joyous light of heavenly glory,’ and all the lights came on,” Baker recalled. “I’ll never forget that.”

Baker was so impressed that he encouraged Haugen to publish the work.

“I thought I could sell it in the store,” Baker said.

A few days later, Haugen took his material by boat to a printer in Chelan, which sent 100 copies back to Holden Village. They flew off the shelves, Baker said.

Members of a traveling ministry connected to Holden Village taught what became known as Holden Evening Prayer to Lutheran congregations around the country, and its use spread.

Haugen went on to become an important composer of sacred music, a recording artist and hymnal editor for GIA Publications Inc. in Chicago. Today, Haugen’s service remains a big seller at GIA, which has shipped 10,000 orders of Holden Evening Prayer all over the United States in the past three years, said a customer service representative.

On Thursday evenings through March 21, Peace Lutheran Church will present Haugen’s 20-minute service, followed by 10-minute messages of faith by congregation members. All are welcome.

To hear a clip of Holden Evening Prayer by Marty Haugen, click on the link below, then click on item No. 13, “Service of Light/Evening Hymn.” http://www.

Grass Valley resident and freelance writer Trina Kleist can be reached at or 530-575-6132.

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