Great Stuff — Word and Music or Word and Sacrament: Which Ministry is it?

June 11th, 2012 Post by

Another great post found on This We Confess by Pastor Woodford:

 

The argument that often continues among Lutheran brother pastors is the nature of our worship. In my own district there remains a distinct divide among the brothers regarding various perspectives on worship and the way that worship shapes ministry. Contemporary or traditional, vestments or jeans, paraments or video screens, formal or informal—which one is best, which way is right? Some feel one can attract more people. Others feel one is more proper.

Sadly, the divides have become so significant that various parties have been formed, labels have been given, names have been distributed, closed meetings take place, and animosity only grows. Though not formally affiliated with any group, I have been labeled one way by one group, and another way by a different group. But the only label I desire is the one given me at my baptism—redeemed.

Nonetheless, I realize this often happens when political movements are afoot. Our district is nearing a convention. Elections will be taking place. Troops need to be rallied. Propaganda needs to be distributed. Allies need to be forged. Both sides do it. Power is at stake. The thought is, “If our guy is elected our problemswill be solved.” However, “power” does not create theology. Not if we are being honest. That belongs to God’s Word alone. Power simply creates the illusion of control. And when we crave it too much, it becomes dangerously intoxicating.

Certainly the church needs solid, compassionate, pastoral leaders. My prayer is that they will stand on the power of the Word and not their position of power as they lead. But back to the topic at hand.

As of late, the worship debates seem to surround one central subject—the issue of music. Contemporary advocates feel that a “contemporary” form of worship provides a greater appeal and attraction to the people of our contemporary world. Therefore the use of a less formal, less ordered, contemporary music based worship setting is employed. This often includes higher volumes of music produced by electronic pianos, guitars, and drums.

Traditional advocates argue that bringing too much of secular sounding music into the realm of the sacred distorts and disorders the means of grace being given in worship. In short, the argument is that the musical setting and the emotional atmosphere it creates becomes the central element of worship rather than the truth of God’s Word and Sacraments alone.

This is an interesting development for Lutherans. The debates about music in the church are a curious one. Historically Lutherans have understood the central elements of worship and ministry to flow out of Word and Sacrament, where they were ordered and celebrated in a formal manner:“The Church is the assembly of saints in which the Gospel is taught purely and the sacraments are administered rightly.” (Augsburg Confession VII).

In short, music was not a central identifying mark to the Church. But it seems to becoming one today. Churches are evaluated and critiqued not so much upon the objective presence of the Word and Sacraments being purely taught and rightly administered, but on the subjective appeal and presence of musical forms. To be sure, musical excellence and quality should be a concern in our worship services. But it will be alarming if music becomes the defining element of Lutheran worship.

Do you see the potential shift that would take place? “Word and Sacrament” ministry would become “Word and Music” ministry. The theological and practical implications would be significant. If the sacraments become second to music how would such ministry shape the beliefs of our people? Will the sound of music now be the manner in which people believe they encounter the love of Christ? Will the emotional appeal of a particular instrument or song be the manner in which people believe God comes to us?

Please note I’m including all instruments here. The reality is that music, whatever the instrument, whether organ, violin, trumpet, French horn, guitar, piano, or drums, cannot, does not, and will not ever forgive sins! But the Water and the Word of baptism does, likewise with the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Lord’s Supper. If music has become more prominent than the sacraments, I believe we have a problem. And if music has become more desirable than the sacraments, I know we have a problem.

In my book, Great Commission, Great Confusion, Great Confession I argue that the Church would be well served to emphasize Word and Sacrament ministry by a return to the historic liturgy of the church. However, I am amazed at how some people think this means I am simultaneously advocating the use of a specific musical instrument. I believe this to be evidence of just how conditioned or uninformed people (on both sides) are about the liturgy.

As I express it in my book, “there is flexibility, within limits, where uniformity cannot be legislatively imposed, but where there are indeed non-negotiables (both theological and structural) to Lutheran liturgy”(p.182). But no where do I advocate for any particular instrument. In fact, I offer the following in a footnote on p.179:

Lutheran Worship has room for use of multiple different instruments. However, music, whatever the instrument, is always meant to be in service to the liturgy and is to never displace or surpass in prominence the means of grace given in the Divine Service. Thus the following description remains helpful for any musical use in the worship setting: “Music in the Lutheran tradition is noted by the following adjectives: doxological (it focuses on praising the Trinity),scriptural (the texts are rooted in God’s Word), liturgical (it fits into the ordered Divine Service within the pattern of the Church Year), proclamational (it communicates the Gospel of Jesus Christ), participatory (the congregation actively sings), pedagogical (it teaches the truth of God’s love and forgiveness in Christ), traditional (it is built on the best of the past), eclectic (it employs styles and practices from various sources that aid the Gospel), creative (it eagerly explores new expressions), and it aspires to excellence (it desires and seeks to give God the best).” Maschke, Gathered Guests, 265.

My point is that our worship must, above all, be preoccupied with the Word and Sacraments. If our fascination with music and its various forms supersedes this in anyway, then I believe we will have indeed changed the marks of the Church from “Word and Sacrament” to “Word and Music.” If this happens, it is sure to lead us down a very hazardous and foreign theological road. What do you think?

As always, this blog aims to move past partisanship and demonizing of those who disagree, and endeavors to thoughtfully, honestly, and collegially, foster the goal of talking about the mission of the Holy Christian Church and what it means to be authentically Lutheran, while “discipling all nations” in the 21st century. For those willing to enter the fray, I welcome your constructive thoughts and reactions.

Yours,

Rev. Woodford

 

Rev. Woodford has published the book Great Commission, Great Confusion, or Great Confession? and was interviewed on Issues Etc a couple of weeks ago.


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  1. Art Casci
    June 11th, 2012 at 08:39 | #1

    Recently I became painfully aware of one great and overlooked casualty of the Worship Wars. Our day school is calling a principal. The last call we issued was to a man whose preference is for “contemporary worship.” He came for the post call interview. I explained to him that we are a people who use approved Lutheran services and hymns and that we do so with the conviction that this is the best way to pass on the faith to the next generation. He returned the call and one of the stated reasons was he wanted his family to GROW IN WORSHIP. Also, in phone conversations with two execs he made a point that worship was a big consideration. Can anyone imagine having this conversation 30 years ago? We have not only divided our church but we have divided our church workers who now must consider not only a call to serve but must take into account their own worship proclivities. This is sad beyond telling.

  2. Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier
    June 11th, 2012 at 09:41 | #2

    I had a similar experience. A member of a sister LCMS congregation moved to our area. We are the only LCMS congregation in town. He played in the rock band at his privious church. The first Sunday he only showed up only for Bible Class. The next Sunday he showed up for the Divine Service. After the service, he wanted to know if we had a rock band service. I explained why we use the liturgies from the Lutheran Service Book. He never came back. I didn’t have any local contact information, but I had a record of his home congregation. I called his pastor and was told that he had decided to attend “another” church in a different city. This is not an LCMS church. The pastor also informed me that this man requested that his contact information remain confidential. Keep in mind this man was a member of an LCMS congregation.

  3. Rev. McCall
    June 11th, 2012 at 09:47 | #3

    music is the new sacrament it seems.

  4. Art Casci
    June 11th, 2012 at 09:54 | #4

    Brian,

    Wow…truth is stranger than fiction. Someone needs to do a thorough study of how worship has altered us permanently. A study needs to be done of people like you mentioned above. What happens when they move, look for a new congregation and instead of looking for a confession of faith are searching for an experience. What church do they go to? When it comes to calls the job of our DPs is now doubled because they have to take worship into consideration. We have created idiosyncratic services that require special training that our seminaries do not not should give. It is sad beyond telling how divided we are. This is what comes of 30 plus years of listening to church consultants who eat the fruit that grows on a certain tree in California.

  5. helen
    June 11th, 2012 at 10:01 | #5

    @Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier #2
    Keep in mind this man was a member of an LCMS congregation.

    Maybe, but it was more important to him to be a member of a “rock band”.

  6. Dave Likeness
    June 11th, 2012 at 10:17 | #6

    One trend that has developed over the past 20 years in
    large parishes is this: They offer the traditional liturgy
    from the hymnbook at the early service and the contemporary
    worship at the late service. Is this approach an attempt to
    mollify everyone or is it a marketing strategy?

  7. revaggie
    June 11th, 2012 at 10:34 | #7

    When people ask me my worship preference,”traditional” or “contemporary”, I respond. Lutheran as in does it center around the Means of Grace and clearly confess Law and Gospel.

  8. June 11th, 2012 at 11:00 | #8

    @Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier #2

    Just more evidence that pastors who have abandoned Lutheran worship forms are catechizing their people out of the Lutheran church. They are training the next generation of pop-evangelicals. TW

  9. Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier
    June 11th, 2012 at 11:05 | #9

    @Art Casci #4
    My concern is that we are raising up generation after generation that does not know the historic liturgy. When they move to a city, like mine, that does not have a rock band sectarian style worship service, they will end up going to a non-Lutheran church because that is all they have known. To them, that is what a Lutheran church is. And we keep wondering why we are losing the youth.

  10. June 11th, 2012 at 11:17 | #10

    I am looking forward to reading this book with its message on confessional Lutheran ministry.

  11. Rich
    June 11th, 2012 at 11:39 | #11

    Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier :I had a similar experience. A member of a sister LCMS congregation moved to our area. We are the only LCMS congregation in town. He played in the rock band at his privious church. The first Sunday he only showed up only for Bible Class. The next Sunday he showed up for the Divine Service. After the service, he wanted to know if we had a rock band service. I explained why we use the liturgies from the Lutheran Service Book. He never came back. I didn’t have any local contact information, but I had a record of his home congregation. I called his pastor and was told that he had decided to attend “another” church in a different city. This is not an LCMS church. The pastor also informed me that this man requested that his contact information remain confidential. Keep in mind this man was a member of an LCMS congregation.

    Perhaps it would have been useful to tell him that you would like to find a way to put his musical talents to use within the congregation even though you do not have a “rock band.” The fact that he actually came to visit twice seems to have been a statement that he desired to attend an LCMS congregation. If your congregation is like most, the fact that he attended Bible study also set him apart from the majority. So did he choose not to come back, or did you simply drive him away?

  12. Art Casci
    June 11th, 2012 at 11:53 | #12

    revaggie :
    When people ask me my worship preference,”traditional” or “contemporary”, I respond. Lutheran as in does it center around the Means of Grace and clearly confess Law and Gospel.

    The very question “traditional” or “contemporary” betrays ignorance about what the Divine Service is. Nothing is more contemporary than encountering Christ in the spoken Word, the sung Word and the signed Word. Christ present, Christ given now for forgiveness of now sins. It does not get any more contemporary than that. It is not about instruments, it is about means of grace and sacramental living.

  13. Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier
    June 11th, 2012 at 11:59 | #13

    @Rich #11
    To be clear, he only attended one service. The first time he came late and only attend Bible Class that is scheduled after service. I assumed that he would return. He did not. He intentionally left no contact information and told his pastor not to give me the contact information. I was not given an opportunity to have any dialogue about using his musical talents. Also, understand that he decided to attend a non-Lutheran church in another city. That city also has only one LCMS congregation. Like our congregation, they do not have a rock band. He chose not to attend that LCMS congregation either. I don’t think you could say that I drove him away.

  14. #4 Kitty
    June 11th, 2012 at 12:53 | #14

    @Art Casci #12

    The same response could be used for almost any positive adjective such as relevant, creative, expressive, meaningful, exciting, etc,. Just insert the one you want into the following:

    Nothing is more ______________ than encountering Christ in the spoken Word, the sung Word and the signed Word. Christ present, Christ given now for forgiveness of now sins. It does not get any more __________ than that.

  15. Jill
    June 11th, 2012 at 13:35 | #15

    Just a note of encouragement – I have noted in my circles, there are more and more young people left empty by “pop-evangelicalism” and it’s emotional worship and returning to a love of the liturgy.
    Like myself! I am in the process of becoming a member at a confessional Lutheran church…after leaving the Southern Baptist church I’ve been attending for a decade. My two main reasons for this shift? First, of course, the working of the Holy Spirit in my heart to come to a correct understanding of the Sacraments (the first time I took the Lord’s Supper with full understanding that it was the BODY and the BLOOD of my Lord was one of the single most beautiful and humbling moments of my life. So much more than the symbol I was taught it was!). But my second reason had to do with the “worship experience”. After sitting through the traditional Lutheran liturgy, I came to terms with the truth – THIS was worship. So reverent, so Christ-centered, so much richer than the “rock-band” worship at the Baptist church I attended. Keep in mind, the Lutheran church I am joining offers a “contemporary” service…but I MUCH prefer the traditional services. The pastors were somewhat surprised to hear this, but I’ve found amongst my 30-something peers a similar love for liturgy. Just thought I’d share my experience.

  16. “LC-MS Quotes”
    June 11th, 2012 at 13:44 | #16

    Dr. Kurt Erik Marquart (1934-2006)…

    I think it is very, very sad that we now have this custom of changing the liturgy every five or ten years. That can only cause deep confusion. I think in our age of great instability and change, it would be ideal if all of us from childhood on could go to church and hear the same liturgy when we’re baptized–before we can even understand it–and when we’re confirmed, when we’re married and so on, and when we’re 70 and 80 years old and still have the same liturgy we remember growing up with. There’s strength in that.

    I hate to have thrust into my hand at the last moment these wretched printed pages–new, just done, the print is still wet–some new liturgy. And at least some of our Synodical departments really give our pastors a bad example by printing new fangled liturgies for every little good cause that they can think of–you know, refugee Sunday. All these things are quite worthy causes in themselves, but they’re not a reason to write a new liturgy. This is a dreadful abuse.

    I’m reminded of what Solzhenitsyn says, the great Russian prophet and a deep Christian. He said he remembers–you know in Russia it’s a crime to teach children religion under 18–he says, “I remember as a child, about four years old, being taken to the liturgy once.” He said, “It made such a deep impression on me–the heavenly, the solemnity and the heavenly chanting of that, it was obviously something so awesome–made such a deep impression on me, that no amount of personal suffering or intellectual argument later were able to wipe them out.”

    I wonder how many of our children will grow up with such memories of their services. And we need to be conscious of that. The way we conduct our services is a testimony of what we as a church and a congregation believe is there taking place. So we shouldn’t play with it and have a new thing every week.

    And C. S. Lewis once said, “I can pray with almost any service so long as it’ll stay put. But it’s got to stay put if I’m to put my worship into it.” He said, “It’s like dancing. As long as I’m still counting steps, I’m not really dancing. But once I can do it automatically without thinking, then I can enjoy it.” And so worship ought to be something that I know, I know what’s coming, there are no surprises, then I can put my devotion into it. But I’m trying to anticipate what unexpected thing he’s going to do next, then it’s difficult to put your worship into that.

    “Luther Lecture Series: Luther the Liturgist”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN
    1983

  17. June 11th, 2012 at 16:19 | #17

    “Music ministry” is waayy sooo passe! To keep up we should be asking if a church has a good Data Center Ministry (DCM) replete with a Sacred Texting Leader (STL) in the Digital Divine Service (DDS). Besides, in the DDS everyone is connected to their iService app and listens to whatever music they want. No big deal!

    Your church doesn’t have any of this yet? Well, for a couple million dollars I can consult with your synod and bring it in.

    /Tongue planted firmly in cheek

  18. Art Casci
    June 11th, 2012 at 16:24 | #18

    Jim Pierce :
    “Music ministry” is waayy sooo passe! To keep up we should be asking if a church has a good “data center ministry” replete with a Sacred Texting Leader in the Digital Divine Service (DDS). Besides, in the DDS everyone is connected to their iService app and listens to whatever music they want. No big deal!
    /Tongue planted firmly in cheek

    There must be an app for that! The i generation reaches its pinnacle as each worshiper puts their ear phones in and listens to whatever service “blesses them”.

  19. Pastor Charles McClean
    June 11th, 2012 at 20:17 | #19

    @“LC-MS Quotes” #16 How I wish that all our pastors would “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the deep wisdom in these words of Kurt Marquart of blessed memory! It is simply astonishing how so many of our pastors and congregations have embraced a completely alien religion together with all its works and ways. Even during the most difficult days of the “synodical controversy,” our churches remained united in worship. To be sure there was variation in the use of vestments and ceremonial, but the rites in The Lutheran Hymnal were in use virtually everywhere and so you knew what to expect when attending a Missouri Synod congregation. Can anyone doubt that this now almost unimaginable state of affairs was in fact the intention of our Synod’s Constitution from 1847 until whenever it was that the purpose of achieving the highest possible degree of uniformity in practice was replaced by talk of respecting “responsible” – such a question begging word! – variation? I suspect that that unfortunate change in the Constitution was made after the accelerating collapse of unity in practice, an effort to put the best face on catastrophe.

  20. JunkerGeorg
    June 11th, 2012 at 21:35 | #20

    Pastor Charles McClean @ #19,

    “Even during the most difficult days of the “synodical controversy,” our churches remained united in worship. To be sure there was variation in the use of vestments and ceremonial, but the rites in The Lutheran Hymnal were in use virtually everywhere and so you knew what to expect when attending a Missouri Synod congregation.”
    —-

    Yes, what you say is true. But then again, back then they didn’t have personal computers, word-processing programs, midi/mp3 files, etc. In light of that, perhaps one of the most stupid, naive assumptions of our times is the notion that media/technology is always “neutral” (i.e., the “It doesn’t matter what it is, just how you use it” mantra.) Heck, my time wasted online blogging and writing this is case in point! I mean, I even know older conservative bronzie type pastors who are falling for the projector screen with that false notion in their head. But I rant.

  21. June 12th, 2012 at 07:42 | #21

    This problem is not a recent development. A while back, my congregation had a gray haired pastor from another larger congregation fill in for Pastor Gary. This pastor complained about today’s pastors for spending too much time “on the computer” (which it turns out he has nothing but his imagination to draw that conclusion) because his generation of pastors were “out there working to evangelize” and “working to make the service more accessible to the neighborhood).

    We have got to admit that WE did this to ourselves. We not stop blaming an ephemeral “they” for our troubles and start realizing we laid the ground work for this in the previous generation. People today are only doing what the previous generation did, only more of it because it’s all they know.

    For instance, with all due deference to people who are coming into the LCMS after “learning to rightly understand the sacraments”, you appear to me to have nothing new going on for you other than you assented to a different set of doctrines. Your understanding of everything changes only when you begin to understand God’s mercy in Jesus Christ, the justification that flows from that, and the propitiation won for you. As everyone who is converting to Lutheranism should be able to say, “I did not come to a right understanding of baptism by studying baptism. I came to a right understanding of baptism via understanding Justification”. Same goes for nearly everything else. Your whole understanding of fellowship changes, the Lord’s supper, congregational life, worship, ministry… everything changes.

    So what we need to do is, in addition to better preaching, is real catechesis. Maybe what we need is to learn what it means to be Lutheran, or learn to drop the name altogether.

  22. Art Casci
    June 12th, 2012 at 12:16 | #22

    You folks have me going on this subject now. Another item that has not helped our worship discussions is the “Outline” worship that was put forth a good number of years ago and I believe was even restated by Pres. Harrison. By outline worship I mean that what constitutes Lutheran worship is an outline of elements: 1. confession of sins 2. Creed 3. Scripture readings 4. sermon 5. prayers and if there is communion then 6. communion. I do not recall the exact outline but it is something like that. This is absurd on the face of it. If someone asked me for my sermon and I give them an outline, I have not given them my sermon. So also with worship. An outline is not the service. The Divine Service is in fact Five Biblical texts set to music: the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei and the Nunc Dimittis. These sung texts are strategically placed to walk us through our entire life of faith each Sunday and serve to bring Christ to us. We begin as beggars pleading for mercy. Then comes the good news of great joy sung by the angels that God has heard our cry and sent Jesus. The Sanctus announces that the Lord has come to His Temple and is now present among us in the Bread and Wine. The Agnus Dei tells us why He is now present in the Bread and Wine…to take away our sins. Once we have received this gift we are like Simeon, ready to depart this life and be with Christ. To these five pieces of Scripture/music we add the sermon and the Creed. The sermon the living voice of Christ calling His sheep and bestowing on them the gifts, forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. The Creed unites us with the church catholic. We are not a sect but catholic to the core. This is the divine service.

  23. “LC-MS Quotes”
    June 12th, 2012 at 13:24 | #23

    Dr. Kurt Erik Marquart (1934-2006)…

    “Luther was brought in a way that for him regular devotions and regular services are just part of a way of existing. We need today to study a way of how to keep the Church from flying apart into little groups and individuals that really don’t gather around the Word and Sacraments at all, but at best gather around spaghetti suppers and bowling leagues and other things that are more important. So the Church needs to be gathered around the Word and prayer above all.”

    “Luther Lecture Series: Luther the Liturgist”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN
    1983

  24. Chris Winston
    June 16th, 2012 at 17:59 | #24

    Great discussion, great comments – I’d like to suggest some further reading, if I may. “Key Words in Church Music” ed. Carl Shalk (CPH) and “The Church Musician” by Paul Westermeyer. Great resources to help defend the proper place of the historical liturgy and to get an understanding of Luther’s mindset in liturgy.
    Here’s is something that needs to be understood about music in worship in relation to Luther’s understanding. Above all, music should be participatory. To accomplish this, from the beginning, the music of the church music be carefully crated. Ranges, key signatures, melismatic vs. syllabic texts, interval leaps, etc. These things have been for many years part of the understanding of what creates a quality melody that is singable vs. a piece for solo voice.
    The main problem with current rock and roll style church music is that it is a solo performance piece from the beginning.
    You can have a great band, put it on the screen, have a bouncing ball, whatever. The music must be first thoughtfully constructed as a piece for the congregation to sing or the congregation will not.
    Here’s another thought. We are spending millions of dollars across the synod for PA systems, band equipment, CCLI licenses, projectors, screens, lights, etc., to accomplish this. How about refocusing the money towards talented music directors who would like to devote their lives to helping the people sing God’s song? Every year, we graduate many students with amazing skills who have spent their lives studying to prepare for a music ministry position. And what do these people get from the church after graduating with advanced degrees? Substandard salaries and poor working conditions. Poor music of any style is unacceptable in church. But I know that if we don’t support the young people coming out of the universities with real jobs and real salaries, then this fight is already lost. The contemporary worship lot pays well and generally to people with a lot less training.
    Here’s what you guys can do to help… and I mean it. If you have a great music minister, thank him or her. Then, look at the salary and what you are expecting of that person. How does it compare to say the AGO or ALCM salary guidelines? Does the pastor of your church take the time to meet w/ the music director weekly and clearly outline the message and the reading on which it is based? Does the director know at least 4 weeks in advance the topic? (Pastors out there, there is more angst created in your music ministry by poor planning by the pastor than anything else I’ve ever heard.) It takes weeks to get a choir ready, to order music, to rehearse the bells, etc.
    Ok – I’m rambling, but this is close to my heart. I have an 12 year old son, and he is expressing interest in studying the organ alongside his piano studies. He would be a wonderful music minister. Will there be an LCMS who needs him 10 years from now to lead? Or should I just have him join a rock band and practice in the garage. (BTW – I am a director of music for an LCMS church in Texas, 14 years here)

  25. Chris Winston
    June 16th, 2012 at 18:03 | #25

    To Jill #15. In our church, the 8:00 service is liturgical. We have seen a dramatic increase in young families at this service. I would say that the greatest push for contemporary worship (in our church) is from the 40yrs old and above.

  26. Chris Winston
    June 16th, 2012 at 18:10 | #26

    Rev. Woodford – from “Key Words in Church Music” Carl Schalk “At its most fundamental level the Lutheran musical tradition was the product of Luther’s legacy, example and theological leadership….The hard won freedom of the Gospel was not to be surrendered to a new legalism. This new freedom rested on Luther’s radical understanding of authentic worship of God (Gottesdienst) as faith, that is, trust in God’s promises and therefore, like the Sacraments, God’s gracious gift and not human action….as a communal priesthood, all the faithful whatever their station, education, or means were called to express and nourish the faith in the community gathered in his name. Just as attentive listening was expected, so was communal response. And sense it was so obvious to Luther that music was perfectly suited to a “cultus” of faithful prayer, praise and thanksgiving, he devoted his energies to making the hymn an indispensable means for congregational expression, accessible to all levels of society.

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