Worship paradigms

In his January letter regarding the new Lutheran Service Book, Mr. Timothy R. Dahlstrom asks whether a similar resource might be available for those involved in contemporary-style worship. The LCMS Commission on Worship has included consideration of diverse worship in its current work, and it plans to make available more resources in that area in the coming years. A response to 2004 synodical Res. 2-04, which directs the commission to “initiate a process leading toward the development of diverse worship resources,” has been completed for presentation to the 2007 synodical convention. The report materials will include specific recommendations regarding contemporary Christian worship resources for the Synod that are set for potential im-plementation in the next triennium.
Dr. Gregory J. Wismar, Chairman
LCMS Commission on Worship

Timothy Dahlstrom, in his commendation of the Synod’s Commission on Worship for its efforts in producing the Lutheran Service Book, continues with an inquiry as to where might be found “a similar resource” for “those involved with contemporary-style worship.” His reasoning is, “People coming into our congregations who have not been raised in a traditional worship environment . . . may find our traditional worship, beautiful though it is, foreign.”

I appreciate Mr. Dahlstrom’s concern with reaching the lost, and hope that all of us in our Synod share in that concern. But such unfamiliarity with “our traditional worship” would only continue and be perpetuated in our own congregations (of all places!) should his wish be realized. The world, and even many Christian communities, has one thing to offer in regard to the paradigm for public worship; we in the Missouri Synod have quite another. The testimony of our history as a church body, the history of Christianity in general, and thus even our resultant very identity show themselves in our liturgical, “traditional” worship, in style and substance.

The array of resources and subsequent potential for variety among congregations, while operating according to the above pattern, is vast. We have three major hymnals and a supplement, all readily available. The used market also offers resources. The LSB itself features the work of authors ranging from Paul Speratus to Twila Paris (and only five hymns apart in the book). Furthermore, our pastors (presumably all of them) have been instructed in Lutheran worship at the seminary level and are (or should be) expounding what they’ve learned upon the members of their flocks. Finally, by introducing those new to our congregations to our historic worship identity and practice, although unfamiliar at first, will prove edifying as this identity, over time, becomes theirs too.

Not that worship has to be the same everywhere in all its details; even the Lutheran Confessions acknowledge that. Still, the practice of our congregations embracing our rich, historic tradition, and our resultant identity, is an important way we as Synod can “walk together.”
Rev. Paul E. Gramit
Clinton, Mass.

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