New BJS Column: Video Samples of Authentic Worship, #1 The Procession of Light

(by Pr. Tim Rossow) This is installment #1 of a new BJS series on Authentic Lutheran Worship. We will be posting videos from parishes around the LCMS in order to illustrate authentic Lutheran worship and hopefully to inspire you and your parish to enrich your worship.

This is an example of the service of light with procession (Evening Prayer, Lutheran Service Book,  p. 243)  from Bethany Lutheran Church, Naperville, Illinois (Pastor Timothy A. Rossow, Cantor Phillip A. Magness). We use it at all of our midweek services.

The Christ candle is processed much like a processional cross with the congregation facing the candle and turning to follow it as it passes them. Notice how well the congregation sings the responses. Also notice how the acolytes genuflect after the candles are lit. They are taught that lit candles symbolize the presence of Christ so they bow before the candles are lit and after they are extinguished but genuflect after they are lit and before they are extinguished.

It never ceases to amaze me that the world and countless LCMS churches chase after all sorts of pop music to enliven the church service when the liturgy is already so rich with movement, candles, variety in music, various postures, and the like. The procession of light is one of our members’ favorite parts of the liturgy.

Be sure to tell us what you think we are doing right in the procession of light, how we may improve it and for sure, share your knowledge of the history of this rite and what you do in your parish with this procession.

If you would like to share a video of a rite or some educational liturgical tip please go to the “contact us” tab at the bottom of the page and e-mail Pastor Rossow.

Remember that we have a description of the parts of the liturgy at http://steadfastlutherans.org/liturgy, also linked under our Regular Columns under the Liturgy section.


Comments

New BJS Column: Video Samples of Authentic Worship, #1 The Procession of Light — 20 Comments

  1. I note two things: The first being the acolytes genuflecting but the pastors not. This is inconsistent. If the acolytes, so to the pastors. Second, through all of my study on evening prayer, the paschal candle is not to be used for it. (If this isn’t your paschal candle, I apologize.) It should only be used throughout the Easter season, baptisms, and funerals. The Service of Light should use another large candle, preferably on a stave. (If I remember all my sources correctly, “The Altar Guild Manual” “Lutheran Worship, History and Practice” and I think maybe the LSB Altar Book.)

    Now these are nitpicky things. But if we can nitpick on all things non-liturgical, than we are allowed to do so with all things liturgical. :-)

    Now the positive: I love the procession with light. It adds much to the service. It sounds as if the congregation knows the service, of which I am currently teaching it to mine. They even know to turn towards the procession and do so naturally.

  2. Rev. Strawn,

    No problem with nit-picking. That is part of what this is about. Thanks for the suggestions. I know we talked about the candle issue years ago when we introduced this rite but I cannot remember what our rationale was. I will check with the Cantor.

    Pastors do genuflect at other points in our services. I think this is a hold over from when we were doing service of light before we had acolytes start to genuflect. We will look into it.

    TR

  3. Pastor Rossow,

    In many ways I find it a shame that the Paschal Candle isn’t used more often. It is a feature that can stand out in its placement at the font. (That is unless you have lots of baptisms.) It has always seemed an odd thing to have a candle and not light it. I don’t find your usage a horrible abhorrence, just that it is outside the standard usage. We have adapted our Christmas “Christ” candle for this Evening Prayer purpose. We had discontinued its use due to the Advent wreath being taken down before Christmas Eve. It has allowed this gift to the church to be used more frequently than it had.

    As far as the genuflecting: that’s not a part of either my or my congregations piety.

    Thank you for sharing your video, besides the two things that I mentioned, this is identical to our service of light. Oh the blessedness of unity in practice!

  4. Since becoming a member of an ELDoNA parish, I have not commented here since switching a few months ago; for I have no longer need to participate in LCMS debates and have no business “stirring the Missouri pot.” However, I have to say that I really enjoy posts like this and hope that they indeed become frequent at BJS. Missouri and Wisconsin both remain in our prayers. May you all have a blessed Advent Season.

  5. It never ceases to amaze me that the world and countless LCMS churches chase after all sorts of pop music to enliven the church service when the liturgy is already so rich with movement, candles, variety in music, various postures, and the like.

    I couldn’t agree more with that statement. As a recent convert to Lutheranism, I am saddened and puzzled by the life long Lutherans who do not cherish at best and distain at worst historic liturgical practices. I just don’t get it!

    When I was a Baptist, I would invite people to church but ALWAYS with the caveat; you’ll have to excuse the corny music, the silliness of the pastor, the middle aged song leader who thinks he’s a vaudeville entertainer, etc. I’ll sadly never forget the Christmas Eve service that began with what can only be described as a “Little Mermaid, Under the Sea” treatment of a traditional Christmas hymn.

    Now that I’m a Lutheran in a liturgical church I now longer have to make excuses when inviting people to church. I’m happy to invite people to our services! I feel confident explaining why we do the things we do. I love telling others how our worship is tried to 2000 years of church history.

  6. @Anonymous #7
    God’s blessings to you in Lutherandom. I once heard a pastor say, “Former-Baptists make the best Lutherans, for they feel as though a five-hundred-pound weight has been liftted off their shoulders.” I certainly can identify as a former-Methodist, who gave up on God, because I could never do enough to satisfy Him. Every time a televangelist led the “accepting Jesus prayer,” I hoped that it “took” this time and that I was sincere enough. Little did I know that Christ Jesus already took care of that for me.

    Thanks be to God that He found you a liturgical Lutheran home. Those of us that are not “from the womb” Lutherans have, I believe, a better appreciation for what we have and will fight even harder to keep the Word and Sacrament-centered liturgical Divine Service, for we well-know the alternatives.

  7. @boogie #8
    Thanks be to God that He found you a liturgical Lutheran home. Those of us that are not “from the womb” Lutherans have, I believe, a better appreciation for what we have and will fight even harder to keep the Word and Sacrament-centered liturgical Divine Service, for we well-know the alternatives.

    Those of you who came from “entertainment” sources in search of something more solid, and were taught Lutheran doctrine do appreciate it better than many who have taken it for granted all their lives and never thought about what it all meant.
    They are the ones to jump over to the e__a to get their backs scratched and their egos inflated. (Or they invited Rick Warren, et al. to teach them to be non-denom while insisting that they are Lutheran.)

  8. @Anonymous #7

    Anonymous :
    Now that I’m a Lutheran in a liturgical church I now longer have to make excuses when inviting people to church. I’m happy to invite people to our services! I feel confident explaining why we do the things we do. I love telling others how our worship is tried to 2000 years of church history.

    Sadly, I think the reason many lifelong Lutherans dislike traditional worship is because they simply do not understand the richness and history of it: consistency, variety, cohesion, etc.

  9. @Concerned Seminarian #12

    Or a typical rebellion form parents. It happens in the world where children wish to be different from their parents. Lately, I find it has gotten severe, out of control, and with an utter lack of respect to ever consider or come back to what their elders have taught them. With the plethora of options, people can find find something appealing and remain in their ignorant bliss.

  10. Concerned Seminarian :
    Sadly, I think the reason many lifelong Lutherans dislike traditional worship is because they simply do not understand the richness and history of it: consistency, variety, cohesion, etc.

    @Concerned Seminarian #12

    I have definitely noticed this and is does cause me to have concern for my children. I catechize them try to teach the importance of of the historic liturgy, but it does worry me that they will at sometime be assimilated into “lifelong Lutheran culture”.

  11. @Anonymous #14

    If you are interested, there is a CPH children’s book which goes through the entire Divine Service I to explain why we do what we do in worship. It is called Worshiping with the Angels and Archangels: An Introduction to the Divine Service. I remember that when I was in high school and was first introduced to Contemporary Worship I was all for it because I did not know enough of the “why?” behind the traditional liturgy. Now that I know more about it, I am far more inclined toward traditional worship.

  12. I have a copy of (i)Worshiping with the Angels and Archangels: An Introduction to the Divine Service(i) that was given to me. It is a wonderful resource. Though I recognize that it probably is intended for younger readers, there are plenty of teens, young adults, and full grown Lutherans that could benefit from reading it. It is my opinion that the LC-MS has been experiencing a widespread lack of liturgical explanation and education for many years that has contributed to the wholesale adoption of non-Lutheran worship practice in many parishes.

  13. @Tim #11

    I grew up with every kid in confirmation having to handle acolyte duties a certain number of times a year (boys and girls). We do not have acolytes at our present congregation. I asked about having them and it was explained to me that the role of acolyte was traditional reserved for young males in the congregation who intended to go into the public ministry. A sort of home-church internship with an eye toward further education and ultimately ordination. Hence no acolytes unless there was a young man who was seriously considering the pastoral office.

  14. That’s a fine practice.

    We make it optional and so get kids who are really commited to it. They call their own substitutes, they sing the liturgy, they are wonderful. They get very good training and support from the Cantor.

    TR

  15. I think the rubric calls for pausing three times during the processional, as you have done. I have always been more of a “proclaim while you move” sort of person and sing the versicles while processing slowly down the aisle. While silence is just as integral a part of the text of the liturgy as the sounds of the words, the silence between these sets of versicles has always seemed out of place to me. All six lines (well, seven, if you count the antiphon to the canticle) are a unit building to the crescendo of the canticle proclaiming the presence of Christ – the Light of the World. The longer pauses seem anticlimactic.

    As for the genuflecting, I agree that it seems inconsistent to have the acolytes genuflect but the pastors do not. But I do not know that genuflection is appropriate in a prayer office. There are certain gestures and postures that have historically been reserved for the Divine Service, such as genuflection and standing for the Gospel reading. When it is a non-Eucharistic service, the rubrics are pretty clear that the congregation remains seated for all of the readings (see the Altar Book rubrics for the Readings in the services of Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline). There aren’t any rubrics in LSB for genuflection that I have seen (though I haven’t yet read all of the editions cover to cover), but that is primarily because of the five liturgical postures (standing, sitting, kneeling, genuflecting, and prostrating), we have only recognized the first three for the past several generations (and I fear that kneeling is becoming an endangered species).

    I love the Evening Prayer liturgy. I started attending the Tuesday Evening Prayer and Thursday Compline services at the Seminary even before I started attending the Sem. (I did undergrad at Washington University, just a few blocks away.) Blessings to you and your congregation for utilizing this service on a regular basis.

  16. Thank you! I hope Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville and other churches will share more examples of all traditional Lutheran divine service practices throughout the church year.

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