Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lutheran worship really has changed

I am preaching off the lectionary this week so I thought I would share some reflections on worship:

To celebrate our 275th anniversary as a congregation, we have been worshipping with elements from previous hymnals this Easter season.  As we’ve done this, I have been struck by how much worship has changed, especially over the past two generations.  This surprised me because I consider our church relatively traditional.  I have a great deal more sympathy for those of an older generation, who grew up using the Black and Red book, and who may struggle with elements in our worship service today.  Consider how the following elements of worship have undergone changes.

B & R bookToday
InstrumentExclusively organOrgan, but also piano, drums and even guitar
HymnsOften German chorales with 4-part harmonyMany Methodist/"American" hymns, but global hymns often written for unison singing
BaptismMainly infantsPeople of all ages; appears more frequently in lectionary and liturgy
Confession and ForgivenessIntense rite with conditional absolutionUnconditional absolution; perhaps no C&F, perhaps Thanksgiving for Baptism instead
Holy CommunionHandful of times per year; for confirmandsEvery week; for children, some congregations Baptism optional
Participation by lay people
Role of pastorPastor reads, prayers and preachesNumber of people involved in almost every aspect of worship
Role of choirChoir leads congregation;
primary way to be involved
One of many ways to be involved in worship
VolumeSilence permeates worship, including before serviceSocial aspect of church emphasized, e.g., Passing of the Peace
ScriptStick to what is written in worship bookPastors, even lay people, more likely to deviate from Rubric/Script, or not even use one
PietyInward and repentantTherapeutic and Praise

Perhaps when commenting on piety, I come too close to offering my own diagnosis here instead of simply laying out the facts.  We cannot turn back time and I am not suggesting this.  Yet as we move forward in our congregation (and likely others as well), it is really helpful to remember that long time members of this (and other congregations) have experienced significant shifts in their lifetime of how God is worshiped in our sanctuary.  We may still have a traditional worship, but it is markedly different than the traditional worship of 1960.