VBS Kids Singing “Morning Prayer” is Quite a Contrast to Convention Worship, by Pr. Rossow

I left the convention early and am back in Naperville to help out with our VBS and our brand new Creationism Camp that we started this year for the community and for our own jr. and sr. high school kids. We brought creation science author and camp coordinator Kimberly Jones in from Texas for the week to lead the camp. I also wanted to get back for the first meeting of our ad hoc Feasibility Committee tonight which is beginning discussions on how we might add a new music rehearsal and youth building to our campus. What I want to share with you though is an interesting comparison and contrast in worship.

I got in late last night but forced myself to get up to make it to our 9 AM VBS chapel and what a blessing it was. I was struck by the contrast with the convention worship.

Several years ago we started doing Morning Prayer and, later, Service of Prayer and Preaching, in our Day School Chapels. We sing an occasional song out of All God’s People Sing but for the most part the kids sing out of the Lutheran Service Book. This is the first year that we have jettisoned the typical dumbed-down VBS chapel and music and replaced it with “Morning Prayer.” What a contrast I experienced going from the convention worship that for the most part blended “contemporary” and traditional music to what I got this morning in VBS chapel, just singing out of the hymnal.

The hymnal really works well with children. For the first seven or eight years that I was here at Bethany I did not change the local custom of catering to the children in chapel with all sorts of happy little ditties. Since moving to the hymnal we have noticed that the children actually sing louder and better. The children actually learned Morning Prayer before the congregation did and when we first started doing it for the entire parish I could hear the childrens’ voices leading and teaching the adults. Of course it does not hurt that our Cantor teaches sight-singing in the primary classrooms. Here are some observations that struck me at VBS chapel this morning.

  • The singing was marvelous. Many of our helpers are teens from our St. Andrew Society (acolytes). I noticed one of them doing the typical VBS lean-and-help move with one of the children in her class. The difference was that even though she had to set her hymnal down, she kept on singing the Venite because she has it memorized from Day School chapel.
  • Associate Pastor Schumacher was fully vested for the service sending the signal to the kids that this is real church. The children were far more quiet and attentive than at our old campfire style VBS devotions.
  • One of our mothers came in a little late and delivered her child directly to the pews where his class was sitting. On her way back up the aisle I saw her speak the words of response to the reading – Thanks be to God. She was not planning on staying for the service but even for the short moment she was there, she was able to participate from her memory of our singing of Morning Prayer in other settings in the parish.
  • The VBS theme is Creation (which dovetails with the Creationism Camp) and so the children sang the Catechism songs for the first article. (The Catechism songs were written by our Cantor and are available on CD at CPH, item # 790004 and with an accompanying songbook.) It was so wonderful to hear the children at VBS learning the catechism through song. It is after all, vacation Bible school.

We have not totally banned “contemporary music” at Bethany. The antiphon for the psalm of the day was “O Lord, Our Lord, How Majestic is your Name” (copyright Meadowgreen Music, 1981) but here is the catch. The verses were chanted by the children antiphonally with one of the chant lines from the Lutheran Service Book. Yes, children can chant psalms. They’ve been doing it for years at Bethany and doing it very well. On occasion we use some “contemporary” music  in our highly varied but hymnal-based worship here at Bethany but we incorporate it into the liturgy rather than blending liturgical and “contemporary” worship (which leaves you with nothing but that obnoxious third and unknown substance which is what was concocted for the worship at the synodical convention) or even worse, replacing liturgical worship with “contemporary.” We are Lutheran, not some blended denomination or worse yet a MethoBaptiCostal denomination.

It did not even matter that our Cantor is not here. Our Associate Cantor Susan Gavin filled in wonderfully. (That’s not surprising since she is a BJS member.) Our Cantor, Phillip Magness is still down in Houston. Those of you at the convention may see him sitting in the peanut gallery in the back right section of the hall Tweeting away for Cross Focused Leadership for Missouri. (Now that I am away from the convention I am finding those tweets helpful since I do not have time to watch the convention on live streaming video.) Phillip put the VBS liturgies together and Susan is executing them. I would also like to acknowledge our Day School teaching staff who are playing a large role in the Creationism Camp and our VBS Director Patty Pedigo who has dovetailed the camp seamlessly into the VBS. How is this for seamless cooperation between church and school – our Day School staff actually wrote our entire VBS curriculum this year!

The convention was great, but it is good to be back home, at home in the hymnal with the children of the parish singing it out with joy.

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