Below is the official paper on daily worship at the St. Louis Seminary. It was given to the faculty last Spring but beyond that, this is its first publication. We thank President Dale Meyer for sharing this with us and giving us permission to publish it.
This is the paper that was given to me in hard copy when I was invited to the seminary campus last month to discuss my criticism of the recent addition of small groups and a chapel band (praise band) to the seminary spiritual life and chapel serives.
The first part of the paper is mostly pedestrian. The last section is where most of the action is at. I will be posting a detailed response in a few days. In the meantime I l look forward to all the great comments from our readers on this matter.
In terms of authorship I do know that Dean Burreson wrote the last section. I am not sure about the rest of the document.
Daily Worship on the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Campus
Worship services are offered on the Concordia Seminary campus with a dual purpose in mind. First, worship services are offered to nurture the Body of Christ that gathers on this campus for the sake of formation and education for pastoral, diaconal, and ecclesial service in the church. Thus, liturgical practices that form and sustain students, faculty, and staff in the story of the Father’s salvation of his creatures in Christ Jesus are at the center of campus worship. These practices include remembrance of baptism, the reception of Christ’s body and blood, confession and absolution, rituals that enhance participation in God’s salvific story, and the mutual conversation and consolation of the baptized. Second, as an educational institution of the church worship on the seminary campus provides a forum for modeling biblical, evangelical, and faithful liturgical practice and it allows those engaged in theological formation to learn and assess how those practices can serve the life of the Body of Christ in the world.
Concordia Seminary offers many opportunities for daily campus liturgy and worship established on the foundation of the Word of God and the Holy Sacraments. These opportunities take their shape from Lutheran Service Book and are grounded in the western Christian tradition of Christian worship as that has been handed down through the churches of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. Currently Concordia Seminary gathers for a primary daily chapel service once a day during the week. There are no services offered on the weekends. These daily chapel services last from 11:10-11:30 with the exception of Thursdays when the Divine Service is celebrated from 11:10-12:00. Each week is focused around a cycle of services:
Each Monday the services alternate between Matins and Morning Prayer without sermons. These services are student-led. The readings, which compose a daily lectionary prepared in coordination with the chapel at Concordia Theological Seminary, serve as a form of commentary upon the previous Sunday’s texts from the three-year series of readings. The readings chosen have similar themes or narratives to the various Sunday readings. Mondays allow for regular use of the chief morning services and a regular use of the Psalm of the week.
This year we are engaging a departmentally-led preaching/teaching series on Tuesdays. The focus for the Fall quarter is the book of Malachi with the exegetical department preaching in course through the book. In the winter we hope to offer a catechetical series, and we hope to offer a series focused upon particular homiletical approaches in the spring. Services on Tuesdays are pared back to focus on the preaching. Usually the service consists of the invocation, salutation and collects, reading, sermon, hymn, prayers and blessing. The prayers are communal intercessory prayers offered in bid form by the assembly. Small group engagements also occur three times a quarter on Tuesdays (more below).
Wednesdays provide the opportunity for various contextualized or inculturated services that attend to the various cultural contexts in which the church lives and from which seminary students come. This begins with the various global cultural contexts experienced on our campus, particularly Latino and African. This includes reading, prayer, song, and ritual using languages other than English and cultural forms other than American. In addition, it allows contextualizing the inherited liturgical tradition of the church in terms of the contemporary American cultural context. This includes the use of contemporary instrumentation to accompany congregational song. Wednesdays also provide the opportunity to very occasionally employ oral narrative and dramatic art forms in campus worship. The daily lectionary readings, as noted above, serve as commentary on the previous Sunday readings and allow the preacher to attend to those readings from the vantage point of other biblical texts. Normally the Service of Prayer and Preaching serves as the basis for these forms of inculturation. In addition we strive to engage the broader LCMS with occasional guest preachers on Wednesdays (and at times on other days) and the seminary community with 4th-year student preachers.
The Divine Service is normally celebrated on Thursdays unless transferred to a feast day that falls on another day during the week. The readings are those for the following Sunday, preparing for the festal resurrection day. One of the five settings of the Divine Service is utilized throughout the quarter. For festal days the service is expanded with various festive ritual elements such as Gospel processions, use of banners and streamers, additional instrumentation, incense, the rite of aspersion and paschal blessing, and elements appropriate for the feast day proper.
On Fridays the focus is on the sermon delivered on the biblical reading that is the basis for the homiletical helps prepared for the Concordia Journal. These texts are 9 days in advance of when they appear in the Sunday lectionary, allowing those interested to hear a sermon on that text in advance. Normally the liturgy for Fridays alternates between Responsive Prayer 1 and Responsive Prayer 2.
The Spiritual Life Committee of the seminary, a committee appointed by Dr. Meyer and composed of faculty, students, and staff, decided at the end of the last school year to employ small groups three times a quarter throughout the school year in place of daily chapel as a way of strengthening our life together as the Body of Christ on this campus. Flowing out of our emphasis last year as a campus community focused around life together in Christ, the committee believed that it would be helpful to our life together to gather the various constituencies (faculty, staff, and students) of the campus community together in small groups for reading of the Word of God, conversation of the brethren, and prayer. Because we wanted all the parts of the campus body—faculty, students, and staff—to be able to participate we decided to do this during normal chapel time. This was purely a pragmatic decision that was in no way intended to disparage the benefits of the prayer offices and other liturgical rites. Students’ schedules would have been even more significantly constrained if the small group engagements had been added to the day, such as in the evening. In addition, staff would not have been able to participate as readily in the evening. These are literally small groups of 8-10 people from the campus community. The committee decided to use the simple SOAP model of conversation as a way of heightening our life together. SOAP stands for: Scripture reading, Observation about the text, Application of the text to a life of faith in Christ, and Prayer for the church, world, and one another in light of the text. In these small group contexts the Word of God is heard, the mutual conversation and consolation of one another occurs, and the community prays for one another.
Other Weekly Worship Services
Various services occur in the mornings and evenings on a weekly basis. All of these services are organized and led by students under the encouragement and oversight of the Dean of the Chapel. On Tuesdays and Thursdays (and sometimes daily) Matins and Morning Prayer are prayed at 7:15 am in the Chapel of the Holy Apostles. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays at 10 pm various evening services are held. On Mondays Holden Evening Prayer takes place in the undercroft chapel. On Tuesdays the Service of Light & Evening Prayer occurs in the main chapel. On Thursdays Compline takes place in the main chapel. There are also regular opportunities for dorm devotions and Bible studies organized by the Spiritual Life Chair of the Student Association.
All things in creation were created by God the Father through Christ to serve God and His will. This creedal assertion includes all the various elements of the world’s cultures. A culture entails all of the symbolic elements that provide identity and cohesion to a society and its life together. Christianity, while it has its own culture engendered by the Word of God working in the church’s midst, is not an isolated and self-contained culture. Through the incarnation Christ has affirmed that culture can be redeemed and utilized as God originally intended. Christianity is in constant dialogue with the cultures of the world throughout history and baptizes and employs societal cultural forms so that they serve the ministry of the Gospel. Christianity is both a culture amongst cultures, by virtue of the Word, and yet does not have its own isolated, peculiar culture into which other cultures must be absorbed. The culture of Christianity expresses itself through the cultures of the world.
Historically Christian worship demonstrates the broad cultural tapestry from which Christian worship practices have taken their shape. Thus, contextualizing worship according to the artistic forms of any particular culture in which the church finds itself, especially in a local setting, is simply an exercise in faithful Christian witness. It allows the Gospel to speak in the symbolic forms which a local society understands. The efforts toward contextualization at Concordia Seminary aim to do just that, allow the Gospel to speak in worship in the cultural forms representative of the broad range of cultural contexts that intersect in both the church’s and the seminary’s life represented by such broad cultural categories as: Latino/a, African, Asian, modern and post-modern Anglo. These efforts focus especially on the musical arts, although other forms of cultural symbolism are represented, such as the fine arts and the theatrical arts.
What does this mean in specifics? In terms of modern and post-modern Anglo culture, currently it means that 4-5 times each quarter daily chapel worship is led by a band consisting of such instruments as acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drum set, electronic keyboard and the human voice (vocalists). This band leads congregational song, hymnody, psalmody, canticles from LSB and other hymns and songs not in LSB approved for use in the seminary chapel. [The use of hymns and songs not in synodical hymnals is a long-standing practice of Concordia Seminary. All hymns/songs used must be theologically appropriate within the context of seminary chapel worship]. Often the order of service is the Service of Prayer and Preaching, although we also contextualize Matins and Morning Prayer as well.
Contextualization also extends beyond forms of Anglo culture. At least one week each quarter services are contextualized when students from the EIIT, SMP, and CHS distance programs are on campus. This entails contextualizing the services with the use of Spanish, French, various African, and other languages and ritual elements representative of all the cultures represented in the Concordia Seminary student body. Thus, contextualization is much broader than only giving attention to particular aspects of contemporary Anglo culture.