My Apology for Misspeaking and Clarification on the Worship Issue from the Harrison Installation, by Pr. Rossow

I had a brief conversation with a member of our congregation the other day, Cheryl Magness, wife of our cantor and she helped me to understand that I used a poor choice of words in my post last Saturday about the music at the Harrison installation. (You can read Cheryl’s excellent blogpost on the service and celebration by clicking here.)

I apologize for calling the psalmody the “low point” of the service. That really was a poor choice of words. Those of you who read my posts regularly, know that words are not my strong suit. Ideas and courage don’t seem to be a problem but finding the right words to express those ideas courageously does not always come easily nor eloquently.

It would have been more appropriate to say that “the psalmody presented some liturgical issues that are worth addressing” or some such language. I most likely offended some with my poorly chosen words and so I apologize. No one has expressed any concern of being offended but I do thank Cheryl for helping me to see how the chosen words were not the best way to express my concern.

I would also like to use this opportunity to clarify the point of my criticism of the psalmody. I will say again, the musicians were great. The soloist, the pianist and the choir executed the music wonderfully. I even appreciated the style of music. I am more accepting of a broader range of musical styles in the liturgy than you might think. Basically, I favor all types of folk music and the psalmody was sung in an American Black folk style as best I can tell. (By the way, “contemporary worship” is not folk music. It is pop and entertainment music. It is a style that is not intended for the folks to sing but for performers and that is one of the reasons why worship styles such as the new one being tried out at Concordia Seminary St. Louis, are not beneficial to the Gospel. More on that in future posts.)

I have two concerns about the psalmody at the Harrison installation, one small and one larger and crucial one. The small issue is that the song did not fit well with the rest of the music of the service. It was all Anglo-Saxon music. Had there been some Hispanic, Chinese, African or other folk music from the LSB mixed into the service, I think the Black American folk psalmody would have been more appropriate. But that is a small point.

The crucial point has to do with the vocal improvisation. During the third verse the soloist improvised words over the choir’s “Amens.” I am OK with a descant improvisation or an improvisation on one of the main themes of the text using the words of the text, but singing totally new, totally improvised words is a concern. If anyone is going to do any verbal improvising in the Divine Service, it ought to be the called and ordained one who has been trained how to preach the Word. I improvise every Sunday when I preach because I preach from an outline. I follow the outline closely but there are times when I improvise on the themes of the outline but I have been instructed on how to handle the word and have been called by the congregation to preach it publicly.

This makes me hark back to my contemporary worship days. Believe it or not, years ago I started a contemporary service in one of the most conservative parishes in the synod. One of the things that really got me was the way in which the singers could not help but introduce their songs with what amounted to little mini-homilies (even if they were only 45 seconds long). I talked to the musicians several times about this. Even though they respected me, and I them, they just could not help themselves. I came to learn that this is nearly intrinsic to contemporary worship. It is the nature of the beast. I have been to several other contemporary services where this was also common place.

Vocal improvisations are of the same nature. They are mini-sermons. I do not know how else you would categorize them. Of course our hymns and spiritual songs are also mini-sermons but the pastor knows what is in them and there are no unsupervised words to be spoken when they are sung. I like the sound and energy of American, Black, folk, spiritual music but the improvisation is a concern. What will the improviser sing? Will the words be edifying and in keeping with the pure gospel? What if something is said that is not pure? Will the pastor interrupt the service and address it? That last question illustrates why we ought to do without vocal improvisations. There is no place in the Divine Service for non-ordained folks to be improvising proclaimed words. The liturgy has existed for 2,000 years without such and ought to continue that way. Bring on the Black folk music (with appropriate texts) but sans vocal improvisations.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

My Apology for Misspeaking and Clarification on the Worship Issue from the Harrison Installation, by Pr. Rossow — 42 Comments

  1. Nice analysis. It’s not about any particular culture, but about uncalled preaching, even if in a micro-sermon.

  2. ” If anyone is going to do any verbal improvising in the Divine Service, it ought to be the called and ordained one who has been trained how to preach the Word. “

    Pr. Rossow, that is exactly right and was a point I had made in the earlier thread on this topic over exhortation. If there is going to be any “mini-homilies” given or brief impromptu urgings to “praise” in the divine service, then these should be coming from the ordained pastor who is trained in God’s word to instruct, encourage, and urge the congregation.

    I think that what happened in this case is an unfortunate faux paus and will hopefully not become routine.

  3. Pastor Rossow,

    Regarding what you wrote –
    “It is a style that is not intended for the folks to sing but for performers and that is one of the reasons why worship styles such as the new one being tried out at Concordia Seminary St. Louis, are not beneficial to the Gospel.”

    – if I’m not mistaken, Pastor Wilken has been in communication with a man at St. Louis and received more information on that issue (on the discussion under your earlier post on Obare’s sermon). You may wish to communicate with him or them on this issue.

    Or perhaps I am misunderstanding what you are referring to.

  4. Rev. Eckert,

    Good point.

    I have seen the order of worship. It is not “way out there” but there are some problems.

    It will get posted on the site in a day or two and then we can have a discussion of it.

    TR

  5. Like I mentioned in the other post…

    “it is rarely about leading worship, but showing off. I can’t stand when these bands decide to do riffs at the end. When does the song end? How many times are we going to repeat the last line? Even if the words are printed or projected, where are the notes? For those who can read music, we could help the “energy” level because we know where the tune is going and don’t have to fumble around guessing the pitch. So then, how can the congregation participate comfortably and feel a part of the company of saints?

    I just see the costs easily outweighing the benefits…”

    I think this is performers getting caught up in themselves. And I say performers, because many praise teams I have experienced have little to no “church” training, in theology, doctrine, et al. Do they know when many Christian songs on the radio have non-Lutheran messages? Do they know where and how to fix them? Do they know some can’t be fixed without butchering them that they just won’t work? Why do they need to draw attention to themselves and away from Christ, which is why we are in sevice to begin with?

  6. Thank you very much for your humble and clarifying “apologizing” post. I was not offended, but rather confused with your earlier remarks. I didn’t get why you said what you said. Now I do. I have to admit that I did not catch on to the improvising done during the psalm. Harry thought that that might have been the problem. Now I’m going to have to fess up to him that he was right again. Darn.

  7. I have served as parish musician in the African-American community now for 9 years. I was trained in classic church music, historic liturgy, sacraments, etc., and served a wonderful congregation with a rich liturgical heritage prior to accepting the position I have now.

    I understand how this type of improvisation can be uncomfortable. Yet it is a part of the urban church, even in the LCMS.

    I concur with Ms. Magness’ comment on her blog, and don’t know how to say it any better:

    I would encourage those who found the piece to be out of their stylistic comfort zone to consider that it was a Biblical, liturgical, authentic expression of the piety of many within our synod.

    It’s not something that is easily grasped if you have not been exposed to it. My comfort level might be higher as my little choir has sung with this soloist. In the way that some pastors are gifted with preaching without notes or a script, so some musicians also have this gift. Some happen to be vocalists.

    Believe me, there have been instances where I have been uncomfortable with this type of “riffing.” Yet the soloist is a professional musician with a solid Lutheran background and I would welcome her riffing in my current congregation. I would not say that about just anyone! This gift is not given to just anyone.

    I agree that the service as a whole could have been more cross-cultural and would have made this one song stand out less. Yet I am thankful that this song and it’s musicians were included in the service.

    I would also note that this musical expression is seen in the urban church as a thank offering to God for his blessings and not a means to draw attention to oneself. Also, an individual’s response to the musical offering of lifting hands, speaking an “Amen” or clapping is seen as a thank offering and not as a glorification of the musicians.

  8. Iggy,

    I accept Cheryl’s point about the style but cannot accept the riffing. If it is descant or improv. on/with the words of the text then fine but extemporaneous riffing that results in the proclamation of new words is not acceptable. I know several fine Lutheran women who know more theology than some pastors but I would not let them serve communion or preach. This decision ought not to be made based on the singer’s theological acumen. BTW – it is also not about women. The same could be said of laymen.

    To say that it is a cultural style does not make it acceptable. The Corinthians had this little cultural thing about speaking extemporaneously in the Divine Service and Paul had a problem with it. The mature Luther understands the solution to be that only those with the gift of prophecy are to speak and of course he assumes that those are the pastors.

    TR

  9. Hey, Pr. Rossow,

    Thank you for your feedback.

    I would never consider this style prophecy or preaching. I consider it an audible expression of thanksgiving. The folks in the pews of my congregation would see it that way as well.

    Also, I totally agree with you on who should serve communion and preach. Even to the point where I am most comfortable with the pastor alone distributing the elements. It keeps the waters from getting muddy. The 2004 convention muddied the waters enough!

    I would like to know the specific portions of the letters to the Corinthians you are referring to before I comment on the reference.

    Much respect,

    Iggy

  10. Boaz,

    I would like to here your description of the service. What types of instrumentation was used? Were there songs/hymns from the hymnal?

    What was unique about it? Why was it done? Is the current “style” of worship at the chapel incomplete and in need of supplementation?

    Private, 3rd Class
    Liturgical Police Brigade #666
    TR

  11. Iggy,

    I Cor. 14:1-4 adn the whole section on prophecy and speaking in tongues.

    The early Luther saw this as an unleashing of lay authority. The later mature Luther realized that unless the “prophets” were considered to be the pastors, this would be absolute chaos.

    I wish I could give you the Luther reference but I do not have it handy.

    TR

  12. Boaz,

    Worship is important to Christians. We like to talk about it. My experience as a parish musicians is that almost everybody has strong opinions about worship and do not hesitate to express them. When I was a young cantor, it bothered me. My mother then said, when I was lamenting the complaints: “Don’t people have anything more important to talk about than what they sang in church?!”

    Then it hit me. It is GOOD that people care what they sing about in church. My Baptist mother didn’t get it – but I finally did! Thanks be to God that Lutherans care about the Lord’s Song. It is a good and glorious thing!

    The folks in my parishes who didn’t like this or that weren’t trying to “police” me: they were engaging in the mutual consolation and conversation of the brethern. My conversations with many members of the body of Christ have made me a better musician, and even a better person.

    Now, in the 21st century, the consolation and conversation continues “on-line”, as we “blog” and “facebook” each other. This isn’t “policing” anyone.

    The only authority any of us have is the authority of the Word.

    Let us continue to reason together, for the sake of the Church.

  13. @Iggy Antiochus #13

    Iggy,

    Leaving music aside for the moment, would you feel comfortable with people standing up in their pews during worship and “riffing” a praise to God? If the temptation to respond is “That would be disorderly!” then why is it orderly for a musician to “riff” during worship?

  14. Isn’t it interesting how much backpedaling we find in an attempt to be polite and kind — and how everybody rationalizes and “Lutheranizes” such things? Conservatives really need to chill out and open up.

    Obviously there’s nothing wrong with it — and the Magnesses should keep on doing it in their own church church — with the congas. Keep on with ad-libbing, ex corde, blessings and praises! Powerful! Meaningful! Feelingful! You can’t prove that there’s anything “wrong” with it. Therefore, who is anyone to criticize it — especially when we’re all just trying to get along?

    We should all just accept such things and be nice because there’s room enough in the LCMS for everybody and every kind of personal expression of spirituality in worship — as long as the people who are doing it are NICE people.

    It’s all about EMPOWERMENT, people. If we don’t have the power to express ourselves in worship, then where DO we have any power? You can’t keep me from expressing the spiritual things I feel in my heart when it comes to worship! Especially women. Maybe they shouldn’t preach or lead/conduct the liturgy — unless they are singing it. Why, haven’t you ever heard the choir sing the Aaronic benediction (a perennial favorite) and the words of institution instead of the pastor?

    Whatever the case may be, we can certainly INTERPRET these things in such a way that they will conform to the Lutheran Confessions and the Scriptures. It wasn’t so bad. What’s bad is being critical because THAT is divisive, unkind and unfriendly.

    (Isn’t anyone sorry that Rev. Rossow had to apologize for calling it the low point in the service . . . because it _WAS_ the low point in the service?)

    It’s just that it’s not nice or polite to say so — so, thanks for the apology. It was really nice.

    If anyone can find a point in the service that was lower, please feel free to post it. While we’re at it, let’s put in a hierarchy of things in the service from lowest to highest.

  15. @Daveed #22

    Daveed, two things:

    1) my husband plays the congas on occasion (in fact, he’s going to do so tomorrow when our adult choiir sings Thomas Keesecker’s “When in Our Music God is Glorified”) and sometimes he improvises on the piano or organ on hymns. I don’t do either of those things, but we both do offer praise and receive blessings at church (along with confessing our sins and receiving absolution and hearing the Word and the preaching and partaking of the sacrament), so I guess you’re right on two out of four. I’m not sure where you got the idea that there is any ex corde prayer in our services–you would have to ask Pastor Rossow about that, as our pastors are the ones who lead the prayers.

    And yes, we are all one family and I think it is good to be kind in the way we work through these things. But no one, and certainly not Pastor Rossow, said anything about accepting and tolerating all in the name of getting along. Have you been reading this site for the last few years?

    The discussion of these important questions in our church is a worthy undertaking. But so is caring for our sisters and brothers in Christ by carefully considering the words we use as we do so.

    “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”–Luther’s Small Catechism, Eighth Commandment Meaning

  16. @Daveed #22

    This cuts right the the heart of the problem.

    Paul writes in Corinthians 14:26-40 about orderly worship. He admonishes that speakers (of tongues) need interpreters or are to remain silent. Also that onyl afew peopel should speak, and ONE AT A TIME. Improving over the AMnes endermines this principle. When the Amens are sung, do parishoners respond, contemplate, or are they forced to try to hear what new words are being spoken? Are they being confused as to what they are to do, and how to participate in service? Verse 33 “For God is not a God of disoder but of peace.”

    Backing up to Chapter 12 is One Body, Many Parts. SOME are called to be apostles, some phophets, teachers, etc. We all have are part in the Bod yof Christ, and ALL of us CANNOT BE THE LEADER. Scripture, Confessions, and our LC-MS polity call for selected individuals to be the spiritual head or our communities.

    There really is NOT room for ALL kinds of spirituality in the LC-MS, or even Christendom. JW’s deny the divinity of Jesus, the Catholics focus on the earthly power of the Pope, other Protestants zero in on different aspects of God. And what about Jews? Muslems? Hindus? Wiccns, Gnostics, shamans?… Satanism, humansim, mysticism? There is a spiritaul line that CANNOT be crossed

    One major problem with adlibbing is that instead of leading, like musicians think they are doing, are actually excluding the laity from participating in the song. The common pew sitter will have no idea where the song is going or how it will end. So are they being uplifted with everyone, or being entertained at? And improvs usually lengthen songs, and therefore service. Like it or not, this is problematic in congregations with multiple services and education hours. Others will be coming in expecting their programs. But now the service is running long, bumping into later start times, and preoccupying the pastor from other duties. That is poor stewarship. Ecclesiastes 3 “There is a time for everything…”

    Empowerment plays right into Satan’s hand. It always comes back to the Garden. Gen. 3:5 “…you will be like God, KNOWING goo dand evil.” (emphasis mine) Pride, envy, covetness, whatever, what Lucifer’s downfall, then Adam and Eve’s, and now ours. We all wish to be like God, to BE god: in control and deciding things. But the truth is we are God’s CREATURES, CREATED for a purpose. We have our roles, and should not be greedy for things that are not ours, an dquite frankly, some of which will never be.

    And to interpret things? Spin them? Play fast and loose with words and their meanings? Back to Genesis 3, “Did God really say?…” God gives us His Word. Scripture teaches us and guides us, showing what propoer living, and the GOOD life, are all about. Dancing with the Devil is a game we will ALWAYS lose. It really isn’t that we have to believe Satan, we just have to miss the mark to lose salvation, and distractions can easily do that. Remember, a near miss is still a MISS.

    So what are we doing to focus our attention of Christ? What are we doing because it makes us feel good, better, important? Are we willing to submit our lives to Jesus, or do we choose to live in the dillusion of “I am me, hear me roar?”

    Look at our history. How many times did Israel open up and was inclusive to their environment? How many prohets did God send? The Northern Kingdom was scattered. The temple was destroyed. And many Jews could not even hear Jesus when God Himself walked among the people.

  17. @Jason #24

    Jason, this was a piece of music. Much of what you say about length and multiple voices and lines and exclusion of the congregation could be said about much of the classic choral repertoire that is sung in our churches. Our choir is learning the St. Matthew Passion to present on Palm Sunday this year. Taking your comments at face value, I would assume that you would object to that as well. Frankly, taking your comments at face value makes me wonder if you would see the choir as having any legitimate role in helping to lead the service.

    I think much of this comes down to trust. We are a people that largely do not trust one another nor our pastors to make the right choices. That is why there is so much discussion of this one song in the installation service. We are so frightened and shell-shocked by some of the things we have seen in our churches that we can’t even trust our new president. I am praying that in time, especially under the leadership of that humble, faithful leader as he seeks to conduct us in kindly conversing with one another, that the mistrust and fear will start to subside and that we will truly see a new era in our church.

  18. “I apologize for calling the psalmody the ‘low point’ of the service. That really was a poor choice of words. Those of you who read my posts regularly, know that words are not my strong suit. Ideas and courage don’t seem to be a problem but finding the right words to express those ideas courageously does not always come easily nor eloquently.”

    I find it interesting that the host of a blog would say that he can’t find the right words at times. As one who has all too often had to ask the webmeister to delete a contribution to BJS, I can sympathize with Pr. Rossow. On the other hand, I’ve had to disciipline myself to let the draft of my postings sit for a minute, and hour, even longer, to make sure that my choice of words is appropriate and not offensive. I have often had to pause with my finger poised on the “send” or “submit” pointer, as I re-read my posting, yet sometimes I still have regrets. Writing for a public venue such as BJS ought to give all of us pause, editors especially. The length of the correction in this case is a clear demonstration of how important it is to choose ones words most carefully in any circumstances.

    As far as the psalmody being the “low point”, I did agree with Pr. Rossow, but I winced when I read his words. So what to do? The correction is adequate, and better conveys Pr. Rossow’s thoughts and opinon. “Low point” was no doubt an overstatement. But at the very least, the psalmody created a sense of discomfort among many of us, and that is probably due largely to the extempraneous conclusion. But I wonder if a personal and private apology to Mrs. Nunes might not be in order, as well?

    So, there is something to be said for minimizing extemporizing during the divine service and in worship in general. “Ex tempore” may be necessary at times, however those times ought be be few and far between. If it is necessary, the duration of such extemporizing ought to be brief. We have all heard prayers, especially the “wejus” prayers that go on and on. We have been to funerals where people are invited up to say a few words about the dear departed (a truly offensive and reprehensible custom), and decide to preach a sermon of their own, or try to be a comedian. (I’ve seen people go into the pulpit and/or lean casually on the altar as they delivered their funeral “schtick.”) God is a God of order, and the Divine Service ought to be orderly. There are plenty of other opportunities for free form and extemporizing in other venues, all under the umbrella of “church.”

    In response to “Daveed” (#22), I do not think it helpful to “rate” the worship service. A good friend of mine warned me about going to worship and sinning–judging the hymns, or the choir, or the sermon, for instance. We do such things naturally, but ought not to go with such intentions. Even if a particular element is the “high point” or “low point”, it’s best to keep such judgments to ourselves. It’s one thing to say, “Great sermon, pastor.” It’s quite another to rate the elements of worship. As one who has extreme difficulty with such discipline, I speak from bitter experience.

    Johannes (gee, it feels good to be a curmudgeon again)

  19. Daveed @ 22

    You say, “We should all just accept such things and be nice because there’s room enough in the LCMS for everybody and every kind of personal expression of spirituality in worship — as long as the people who are doing it are NICE people.

    It’s all about EMPOWERMENT, people. If we don’t have the power to express ourselves in worship, then where DO we have any power? You can’t keep me from expressing the spiritual things I feel in my heart when it comes to worship! Especially women. Maybe they shouldn’t preach or lead/conduct the liturgy — unless they are singing it. Why, haven’t you ever heard the choir sing the Aaronic benediction (a perennial favorite) and the words of institution instead of the pastor?””

    There certainly is not room for “Spirituality in the Divine Service.” We come to be served by God and our worship is to receive His gifts. It is not about what we do, but what God does.

    It is also not about our “EMPOWERMENT”. We respond to God by His words, not our words. If one wants “EMPOWERMENT’ one goes to the local Penticostal church and receive only the law. We are blessed in the Lutheran Church to receive the full Gospel, God’s blessings in the Divine Service. We bring nothing, we are sinners coming, in humility, to receive what God gives. It is not about us, it is about God. I don’t understand how one can be Lutheran and not understand that.

  20. Daveed :
    Isn’t it interesting how much backpedaling we find in an attempt to be polite and kind — and how everybody rationalizes and “Lutheranizes” such things? Conservatives really need to chill out and open up.
    Obviously there’s nothing wrong with it — and the Magnesses should keep on doing it in their own church church — with the congas. Keep on with ad-libbing, ex corde, blessings and praises! Powerful! Meaningful! Feelingful! You can’t prove that there’s anything “wrong” with it. Therefore, who is anyone to criticize it — especially when we’re all just trying to get along?
    We should all just accept such things and be nice because there’s room enough in the LCMS for everybody and every kind of personal expression of spirituality in worship — as long as the people who are doing it are NICE people.
    It’s all about EMPOWERMENT, people. If we don’t have the power to express ourselves in worship, then where DO we have any power? You can’t keep me from expressing the spiritual things I feel in my heart when it comes to worship! Especially women. Maybe they shouldn’t preach or lead/conduct the liturgy — unless they are singing it. Why, haven’t you ever heard the choir sing the Aaronic benediction (a perennial favorite) and the words of institution instead of the pastor?
    Whatever the case may be, we can certainly INTERPRET these things in such a way that they will conform to the Lutheran Confessions and the Scriptures. It wasn’t so bad. What’s bad is being critical because THAT is divisive, unkind and unfriendly.
    (Isn’t anyone sorry that Rev. Rossow had to apologize for calling it the low point in the service . . . because it _WAS_ the low point in the service?)
    It’s just that it’s not nice or polite to say so — so, thanks for the apology. It was really nice.
    If anyone can find a point in the service that was lower, please feel free to post it. While we’re at it, let’s put in a hierarchy of things in the service from lowest to highest.

    I highly recommend you read Dr. Gene Veith’s fine work, “Postmodern Times.”

  21. @Cheryl Magness #26

    @Cheryl Magness #26
    Cheryl, in reference to your comments (22 and 27), it seems appropriate how the installation service ended with LSB 828 “We Are Called To Stand Together”. It’s not just getting along but it’s confessing, same saying, the Christian faith we all believe. I appreciated reading, in this matter, your posting the meaning of the eighth commandment.

    Now that Pr. Harrison has been elected into office as LCMS President, we have the joy of trusting His discernment just as we witnessed it during his leadership of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. Our Lord will continue giving him the gifts to sheherd the LCMS. As Bishop Obare rightly said, Pr. Harrison is now called to be the servant of servants. We have the joy of saying, Thanks be to God!

  22. @Cheryl Magness #26

    I actually believe and support choirs in church, vocal, bells. etc. I like them becue they are typically set WITHIN the service, as in a time to contemplate, or hear a “message” so to speak. We take a silent moment during confession of sins, likewise we can absorb what choirs do. The key is we know that is what is going on. And the choirs do not deviate from the script. My experiences are that these (dare I say it) “traditional” musical pieces are often chosen to support the message and theme of the day. I also do not feel that they try to show off and beg for the attention of their musical gifts. Praise worship styles and groups that wish to embellish I find too often convey attitudes that they can do better than what they are told. Getting back to body life, are the musical performers playing with the team, or are they glory hounds? It may not be causal, but it sure seems to correlate highly.

    You are correct when it comes down to trust. Playing team sports (high school and recreationally) is like that. When I play softabll, I sometimes need to throw a runner out. I will aim the ball at a spot and will launch it before I even look. I am trusting my teammate to get into position to catch the ball and tag the opponent out. We do this successfully when we know our parts, and then play them to the best of our ability, not when we try to do others people’s jobs or tasks that are not within our scope.

    I truly wish you and your choir the best for choir on Palm Sunday. And I also pray for the ushers, elders, Altar guilds, acolytes and all who give their service to God each week. Pastors can’t do everything by themselves. Let us all support our spiritual shepherds so they have the peace to hear God and not be distracted into giving terrible sermons. We are all in this together to follow our Lord Jesus, some as leaders, some as followers.

  23. ” I didn’t close and html tag properly”

    I’m not as smart as y’all and don’t know how you make your posts fancy with bold, italics, etc. Is there a primer somewhere?

  24. As per taste, yes I found the psalm setting in question distasteful, but then I don’t personally care for that kind of ‘gospel’ music. Likely that is part of culture. Yes, musically I don’t care for it. And yes, it stood out like a sore spot from the rest of the service.

    But, the music style itself is not just an indifferent thing either. Anything that makes the focus too much about the music is wrong headed. The Divine Service is where we receive God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, and then WE -as a corporate congregational body- reflect our praises to God.

    This doesn’t excuse more ‘traditional’ musical styling either. As an organist, I never play pieces or introductions that put the focus on the organist. I am simply there to assist the congregation in their joint reflection of God’s gifts first given to us. It is not about standing out. If members of the congregation are offering me praise because of my organ technique, then I know I have made a misstep. I am simply there to support the congregational worship life. The same is true with a choir. They are there to reinforce the congregation. We may have them sing by themselves, such as the Psalm, or during offering, but again its always in support of the service, not making the focus about them.

    So yes, I would avoid a ‘performance’ of The Passion during the Divine Service. Let’s do it in the afternoon, apart from the corporate life of the church. That’s not the point. And yes I would avoid having such a psalm up front in view of the gathered congregation, whereby the focus is on the singer or the ensemble performing, thus eliciting applause. That’s not the point. I would likewise avoid a chancel drama during the Divine Service. All these things take away the corporate praise of the church. This makes the congregation into a spectator while watching others ‘do’ the praise, which is the very thing the congregation should be doing as a corporate body.

    I also refuse to play an organ recital as a ‘service.’ Let’s call a thing what it is. An organ recital is a performance, so let’s just have a recital. There’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s not try and devise it so it appears to fit within a worship service.

  25. @William Kope #28

    Agree with you, Mr. Kope. “EMPOWERMENT” is nothing but a postmodern anthropocentric buzzword for “I”. How would anyone feel empowered by confessing “I, a poor miserable sinner…” Goodness, how un-PC.

    I knew a person in a LCMS congregation who felt so empowered that she felt herself totally unable to “consciously” sin ever again. Last I heard she was comfortably dwelling amongst the law-pounding Pentacostal community. If one insists on being “empowered” he or she might want to go to the nearest Pentacostal assembly ASAP and not attempt to inflict this anthropocentric “empowerment” virus on a Lutheran congregation.

  26. @Paul #33

    Paul, I would agree that the Divine Service is not the place for an organ recital. Typically solo organ pieces played during DS are played so as to accompany action (such as during the collection of the offering or the recessional). But I would disagree that a presentation of one of Bach’s cantatas or passions would be a spectator event in the same way that a 15-minute solo organ piece would be. Works such as Bach’s Passions and Cantatas were originally, in fact, written for the Divine Service. They have only come to be equated with the concert hall in the last few hundred years. I think they are a wonderful gift to the church and that it is completely appropriate to present them as they were originally intended to be presented. And I disagree that simply because the congregation is not participating in the singing that they are therefore spectators. Would you say that a reading of St. Matthew’s Passion would turn the congregation into spectators? If not, then why is it different if those words are set to music which is designed to amplify them? I’m surprised that anyone would describe those hearing the Word, whether spoken or sung, as spectators. The Word imparts faith. The point of a musical presentation of the Word is to assist the hearing and meditation of those present. I think the Sunday morning Divine Service, where the greatest number of people are in attendance, is the best place for that to happen. Those who are not singing or playing an instrument but are listening to and meditating upon the words are participants just as much as the musicians are.

  27. Just a comment on Jason’s Comment 24: “The common pew sitter will have no idea where the song is going or how it will end. So are they being uplifted with everyone, or being entertained at?” My aversion [one of them!] to contemporary “worship” songs is the constant repetition of choruses and/or phrases. Even if the worship folder says there will be two repeats, there are usually more, depending on how the band leader feels. I have sat in services thinking “Make it stop!!” when choruses are repeated and repeated. It doesn’t help that the band is in front, using microphones as if they were entertainers! And I am DEFINITELY NOT entertained! I have no problem with choir singing, which is meant to be heard and not sung by the pew sitter.

  28. Janet : Even if the worship folder says there will be two repeats, there are usually more, depending on how the band leader feels. I have sat in services thinking “Make it stop!!” when choruses are repeated and repeated.

    It can be worse. Once in a contemporary service the sign flashed up ‘repeat 7 times’. My husband said out loud, ‘Seven?!’ It’s bad to sing the same short line 7 times, but it’s perhaps worse to know that you are going to have to sing the same line 7 times. Make it stop, indeed.

  29. @Janet #36
    I concur with your aversion to the repition of praise choruses found in many CW worship services. Yet, when repetition or refrains appear in the Divine Service or in in the context of an oratorio such as “St. John’s Passion,” such repetition is done in context. One can follow the musical or liturgical progression and understand why such repetition is necessary. In CW, where mood creation and emotion stand out as the driving point, repetition does not necessitate context and is of a different–often heterodox–theology.

    Present in the various prayer offices such as morning and evening prayer, Matins, and Vespers, repetition is antiphonal and binds the petitions of a prayer together. Present in CW, repetition of praise choruses does more to individualize those in attendance because they can attach their own meanin to each one with their individual “relationship” with Jesus.

    It’s a great gift our Lord bestows on us in the Divine Service and during the prayer offices, even where repetition appears. Every repeat of a phrase or refrain such as “Lord have mercy….” or the like reemphasizes the free grace extra nos our Lord Jesus speaks to us through His Word.

  30. Shawn #9,

    Good to see you checking in here. Sorry to confuse you with the first post.

    Here’s to us men being right again! 🙂

    Harry’s a humble guy, he can handle being right again. 🙂

    TR

  31. @Pastor Tim Rossow #16

    @Iggy Antiochus #19

    Pastor Rossow,

    Could this be the Luther’s thought on 1 Cor.14:1-4 you were refering to in your dialogue with Iggy?

    Here is Luther’s take on 1 Cor. 14:

    “In this chapter [I Cor. 14] St. Paul, thus, often refers to the “congregation,” clearly distinguishing between prophets and people. The prophets speak, the congregation listens. For so he says, “He who prophesies builds up the church.” And again, “Strive to excel in building up the church” [I Cor. 14:4, 12]. Who then are those who are to build up the church? Is it not the prophets, and (as he says) those speaking with tongues, that is who read or sing the lesson, to whom the congregation listens, and the prophets whose duty it is to interpret the lesson for the building up of the congregation? It should be clear that he is commanding the congregation to listen and build itself up, and is not commissioning it to teach or preach. He makes an even clearer distinction when he speaks of the congregation as the laity, and says, “If you bless with the spirit, how can anyone in the place of the laity say the ‘Amen,’ when he does not know what you are saying? For you may give thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified” [I Cor. 14:16f.]. This again points to a difference between preacher and layman. But what need is there for further discussion? The text is plain, and reason tells us that we are not to interfere with an office not our own…. “
    [Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (Hrsg.) ; Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.) ; Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.): Luther’s Works, Vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1999, c1958 (Luther’s Works 40), S. 40:391]

  32. OK! Sorry it took a week to get back here. Things have been hectic.

    First of all, 1 Cor. 14 regarding tongues and prophecy.

    Here me clearly, I do not advocate the use of modern speaking in tongues (glossolalia) or modern prophecy as practiced in the charismatic wing of the Church, including the LCMS. These practices clearly do not meet the Scriptural standards. This includes the practice of tongues as a “private prayer language,” as though it is the Spirit uttering groans. 1 Cor. 14 clearly addresses all of this!

    Where the laity is concerned, v. 5 seems to not exclude them, “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy…” and v. 31, “For you can all prophesy, one by one…” By “all” does Paul mean only clergy? And just how many clergy would Corinth have?

    Just a question, as I really don’t want these practices as the modern church implements them to be introduced any further than they already have.

    Vs. 13-19: Paul speaks about saying “Amen” only in the context of speaking in tongues, but does not exclude it from “five words…in order to instruct others…”

    Vs 23: Paul cautions about outsiders saying that “you are out of your minds” but only in reference to the whole church speaking tongues at once.

    I don’t have any idea what this type of “tongues” looked like in the first century, but the modern practice of speaking in tongues (and prophesying) does not occur in my congregation. I can’t defend it against Scripture.

    So it comes down to is this type of riffing considered tongues or prophecy? I do not consider this particular incidence to be either. I know there are differing opinions on that, and again, I am speaking from the perspective of my experience in my congregation. Neither myself, my pastor, nor our congregants would see this as tongues or prophecy. As I have stated, we see it as an response of thanksgiving.

    I would like to respond to my friend Jim Pierce, who wrote:

    Leaving music aside for the moment, would you feel comfortable with people standing up in their pews during worship and “riffing” a praise to God? If the temptation to respond is “That would be disorderly!” then why is it orderly for a musician to “riff” during worship?

    This type of response of thanksgiving does happen on a rare occasion, usually when our school children sing and we have a ton of visitors. It is usually in response to a song that the children have sung. There might be a moment or two of spontaneous responses of thanksgiving (standing, clapping, “Amen,” etc, not everyone does this, but some do). It calms down after about 30 seconds as the children begin a second song or as the next section of the service takes place.

    Now in my congregation we know this might take place, we are prepared for it, and it does not sidetrack the service or cause confusion. We simply move along to the next part of the service. Paul is concerned about confusing visitors. It’s our visitors that do this! Our congregants are prone to the occasional “Amen” but that’s about it. As it happens in my congregation, it is not disruptive. It does not feel out of place in our congregation. I know that is not the case in every congregation, and I understand where some would show concern.

    There are congregations where things are much more free-flowing. Spontaneous responses of thanksgiving by the congregation and riffing by the musicians are the norm and not the exception. They are in our fellowship. When you commune at your local confessional LCMS church, you are communing at the altar of that urban praise church in the Bronx, that church-growth embracing, liberal leaning congregation in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and that country church in Iowa that hasn’t changed a thing since the introduction of TLH.

    We are all one fellowship. The inclusion of Total Praise, complete with riffing, is part of our denomination. So is contemporary worship as well as emerging/emergent worship. It just so happens that the contemporary and emergent side was not featured. But the gospel music side was. No-holds-barred gospel music. It would have been great to reflect the many cultures of our Synod and her Partner Churches with Russian chant, Ein Feste Burg, the Chinese morning hymn (Greet the Morning Sun), Cantad al Senor and Siyahamba along with Total Praise. We had just Total Praise, though, which gave us a glimpse into some of her urban congregations.

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