Liturgical Uniformity, An Illusion?

Started by RogerMartim, May 05, 2010, 05:50:34 PM

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RogerMartim

I realize that there is no such thing as liturgical uniformity within the Lutheran Church, no matter which branch.

I relocated to the Midwest nine years ago after several years on the East Coast. In all this time, I am still church-shopping. Part of the problem is that I am looking for a church that was similar to the one that I belonged to back East and I don't think that I am going to find it. The closest thing that I've come to is an Episcopal Church but quite simply I do not see myself as becoming an Episcopalian.

I believe that good liturgy requires all five senses; to be sure, some senses are utilized less than others. The reason I believe this is that I have a deficiency in one of my senses and so I have to rely on the others to make up for it. But I am digressing.

Whether it be the SBH, THL, LBW, LW, ELW or LSB (am I missing any here?), liturgical resources of the two main branches of American Lutheranism, there is a prescribed liturgy which gives us an identity as Lutherans, not to mention an identity with many other non-Lutheran churches. It used to be that a person could go to almost any Lutheran church and it would be the liturgy from one of the worship resources listed above.

Recently I went to an LC-MS church here in my city that I had never been to. There was absolutely nothing recognizable about the service. The pastor did not wear any vestments and was only in a suit and tie (actually a sports coat and tie). The church had dispensed of its fine organ and in its place was a band with singers to accompany the completely unfamiliar hymns or songs as they are called. Some members of the "choir" looked they were wannabe entertainers each holding microphones. There were no pericopes assigned to the Sunday that I was there. There was only one reading which obviously was chosen by the pastor to preach on. He preached for about 45 minutes. There happened to be communion on that particular Sunday but it was merely a blip in the service, kind of like, oh, there's one more thing to do. Later on I found out from others that over half the congregation had left when this pastor started doing things the way he preferred. He was called to St. Louis for a hearing to discuss his unique style of worship but passed muster after a long and protracted review.

Then I went to my nephew's confirmation at an ELCA church. It was the same thing—completely non-liturgical. Decidedly it was a much more "liberal" church even within the ELCA for this part of the country. Although the hymnal was not used, as it rarely is, the hymnal that was in the pew racks (for lack of a better description as there are no pews) is that of the United Church of Christ. It looked remarkably similar to the LBW but its language is very inclusive. Again, there was no liturgy, the pastors did not wear vestments unless a suit and tie can be considered thus. My brother-in-law and several other people got up during the "Pastor's Talk" and went to the back to get a hot steaming cup of coffee to bring back to the seat. Again, there was the choir singing songs with its repetitive one-liners and splashed on a big overhead screen. It's almost not unlike reading Hallmark greeting cards. Again, communion was something like out of the ordinary but it is done anyway.

I could go on and on, but ironically there is a small church which is about ten miles from me. It holds the most promise as being faithful to the Lutheran liturgical tradition. It serves mostly the rural communities and many of the congregants there are farmers, even some wearing their bib overalls. On Ash Wednesday I went there for the noon service. I was intrigued to see that the pastor kept disappearing and I didn't know where he went, but as it turned out, he was jockeying back and forth between being the celebrant and the organist! As a poor church, it doesn't have the resources to "print everything out" in the bulletin. The hymnal is used to follow the liturgy and there was the communion liturgy which was followed in all its integrity and not at all hurried. To me, it was the proper distinction (or congruity) of Word and Sacrament.

I wonder if nowadays there isn't sort of a dependency on the bulletin that isn't overblown rather than the hymnal. In this way, it gives a "freedom" to do whatever. I know that the "Word" should be heard rather than following along in the bulletin, but I make an exception for that as hearing impairment is much more prevalent than realized, not to mention that the speaker doesn't always enunciate, and again, not to mention that some readers are drama kings or queens. But for goodness sakes, everyone is reading "The Lord's Prayer" rather than saying it. Why does that need to be printed? Does it take 50 or 60 years of your life that you need to still read the Apostles' or Nicene Creed? I see no heads uplifted in the proclamation of our faith. Rather I see noses buried in the bulletin.

Well, I better get off my soapbox but I'll be curious if any of you feel these same frustrations that I have been having.

RogerMartim

Richard Johnson

Quote from: RogerMartim on May 05, 2010, 05:50:34 PM
But for goodness sakes, everyone is reading "The Lord's Prayer" rather than saying it. Why does that need to be printed? Does it take 50 or 60 years of your life that you need to still read the Apostles' or Nicene Creed? I see no heads uplifted in the proclamation of our faith. Rather I see noses buried in the bulletin.


I share your agony, and coping with it is something I dread about retirement.

As for this specific issue, though, don't blame the bulletin. People could just as easily be reading the Creed and the Lord's Prayer with nose buried in hymnal.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

edoughty

Quote from: RogerMartim on May 05, 2010, 05:50:34 PM
I realize that there is no such thing as liturgical uniformity within the Lutheran Church, no matter which branch.

I relocated to the Midwest nine years ago after several years on the East Coast. In all this time, I am still church-shopping. Part of the problem is that I am looking for a church that was similar to the one that I belonged to back East and I don't think that I am going to find it. The closest thing that I've come to is an Episcopal Church but quite simply I do not see myself as becoming an Episcopalian.

I believe that good liturgy requires all five senses; to be sure, some senses are utilized less than others. The reason I believe this is that I have a deficiency in one of my senses and so I have to rely on the others to make up for it. But I am digressing.

Whether it be the SBH, THL, LBW, LW, ELW or LSB (am I missing any here?), liturgical resources of the two main branches of American Lutheranism, there is a prescribed liturgy which gives us an identity as Lutherans, not to mention an identity with many other non-Lutheran churches. It used to be that a person could go to almost any Lutheran church and it would be the liturgy from one of the worship resources listed above.

Recently I went to an LC-MS church here in my city that I had never been to. There was absolutely nothing recognizable about the service. The pastor did not wear any vestments and was only in a suit and tie (actually a sports coat and tie). The church had dispensed of its fine organ and in its place was a band with singers to accompany the completely unfamiliar hymns or songs as they are called. Some members of the "choir" looked they were wannabe entertainers each holding microphones. There were no pericopes assigned to the Sunday that I was there. There was only one reading which obviously was chosen by the pastor to preach on. He preached for about 45 minutes. There happened to be communion on that particular Sunday but it was merely a blip in the service, kind of like, oh, there's one more thing to do. Later on I found out from others that over half the congregation had left when this pastor started doing things the way he preferred. He was called to St. Louis for a hearing to discuss his unique style of worship but passed muster after a long and protracted review.

Then I went to my nephew's confirmation at an ELCA church. It was the same thing—completely non-liturgical. Decidedly it was a much more "liberal" church even within the ELCA for this part of the country. Although the hymnal was not used, as it rarely is, the hymnal that was in the pew racks (for lack of a better description as there are no pews) is that of the United Church of Christ. It looked remarkably similar to the LBW but its language is very inclusive. Again, there was no liturgy, the pastors did not wear vestments unless a suit and tie can be considered thus. My brother-in-law and several other people got up during the "Pastor's Talk" and went to the back to get a hot steaming cup of coffee to bring back to the seat. Again, there was the choir singing songs with its repetitive one-liners and splashed on a big overhead screen. It's almost not unlike reading Hallmark greeting cards. Again, communion was something like out of the ordinary but it is done anyway.

I could go on and on, but ironically there is a small church which is about ten miles from me. It holds the most promise as being faithful to the Lutheran liturgical tradition. It serves mostly the rural communities and many of the congregants there are farmers, even some wearing their bib overalls. On Ash Wednesday I went there for the noon service. I was intrigued to see that the pastor kept disappearing and I didn't know where he went, but as it turned out, he was jockeying back and forth between being the celebrant and the organist! As a poor church, it doesn't have the resources to "print everything out" in the bulletin. The hymnal is used to follow the liturgy and there was the communion liturgy which was followed in all its integrity and not at all hurried. To me, it was the proper distinction (or congruity) of Word and Sacrament.

I wonder if nowadays there isn't sort of a dependency on the bulletin that isn't overblown rather than the hymnal. In this way, it gives a "freedom" to do whatever. I know that the "Word" should be heard rather than following along in the bulletin, but I make an exception for that as hearing impairment is much more prevalent than realized, not to mention that the speaker doesn't always enunciate, and again, not to mention that some readers are drama kings or queens. But for goodness sakes, everyone is reading "The Lord's Prayer" rather than saying it. Why does that need to be printed? Does it take 50 or 60 years of your life that you need to still read the Apostles' or Nicene Creed? I see no heads uplifted in the proclamation of our faith. Rather I see noses buried in the bulletin.

Well, I better get off my soapbox but I'll be curious if any of you feel these same frustrations that I have been having.

RogerMartim

I realize this is an hour-and-a-half drive (one way) for you, but-- if you need a good liturgy "fix" (as I used to, occasionally), I suggest Mount Olive in Minneapolis, on Chicago Ave. South.  You will, without fail, find worship by-the-book and including all your senses. 

Even if you don't go *often* I urge you to go occasionally for the festivals.  They do liturgy very well.

http://www.mountolivechurch.org/

LutherMan

Quote from: RogerMartim on May 05, 2010, 05:50:34 PM


Whether it be the SBH, THL, LBW, LW, ELW or LSB (am I missing any here?), liturgical resources of the two main branches of American Lutheranism, there is a prescribed liturgy which gives us an identity as Lutherans, not to mention an identity with many other non-Lutheran churches. It used to be that a person could go to almost any Lutheran church and it would be the liturgy from one of the worship resources listed above.

Recently I went to an LC-MS church here in my city that I had never been to.
RogerMartim
Did you mean TLH, The Lutheran Hymnal?
1941, CPH.

Dave_Poedel

Mr. Martim:

On behalf of the liturgical congregations of the church catholic, I apologize for what is passing as Lutheran in your area.  While I cannot provide you with material support in finding the Mass celebrated as the Confessions describe, please know that you are in my prayers, that our Lord would direct you to the Means of Grace celebrated with reverence, that your soul and body may be nourished.

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