Video Sample of Authentic Lutheran Worship #3 – The Royal Highway Like You Have Never Seen

(by Rev. Tim Rossow) Authentic Lutheran worship is not the same as repristinating Lutheran worship. Lutheran hymnody can be presented and led in a variety of ways and still be authentically Lutheran.

The attached video of “Prepare the Royal Highway” is from one of Bethany Lutheran’s  (Naperville, Illinois) mid-week Advent services. Some might call it non-Lutheran. It is certainly a lively leading of the hymn but the emphasis is still on leading the congregation. Notice how well the congregation is singing. Cantor Magness (at the piano), is an expert in training the congregation to sing. Even though this may sound like a “pop” presentation of the hymn it really is not. Most “pop” Christian songs are not good for congregational singing and are geared for concerts. The back beat of pop and rock music (the drum set is the usual culprit) also does not lend itself to congregational singing. Instead, this is a setting of the hymn that uses the harmonic vocabulary of our culture and the tonal capabilities of the piano to support the melody.

This presentation is not for every parish. Bethany Lutheran enjoys a wide variety of instrumentation and embraces the catholicity of the Lord’s song and so the congregation readily embraced this presentation of the hymn. Others might not. What this sample of authentic Lutheran worship should do for all pastors and congregations is demonstrate that there is more than one acceptable way to play hymns and doing so can enrich the liturgy and bring an end to the argument that Confessional Lutherans are stuck in sixteenth century mud.

Prepare the Royal Highway – Lutheran Service Book 343 from Cheryl on Vimeo.

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.


Video Sample of Authentic Lutheran Worship #3 – The Royal Highway Like You Have Never Seen — 20 Comments

  1. Notice how nearly every single person has a hymnal open and is singing. Of course, this is the cream of the crop for a mid-week penitential service but the ratio is nearly the same at our regular weekend services. This is one of the advantages of having a trained Cantor. Thye are trained, in most cases, in how to lead the people’s song. We ought to take the Ablaze $$$ and dedicate it to full scholarships for classical, liturgical training in authentic Lutheran worship. It would be a great blessing for the church.


  2. Pastor Tim Rossow :We ought to take the Ablaze $$$ and dedicate it to full scholarships for classical, liturgical training in authentic Lutheran worship. It would be a great blessing for the church.

    Ablaze!(TM) is a mission movement, so the best use for its Fan-into-Flames funds would be to pay full scholarships for our seminarians (and have the future pastors attend chapel and learn the liturgy too).

  3. I didn’t see anything wrong or inappropriate in that video clip.

    In fact, it looked very familiar. It was commented on in a recent Worldview Everlasting (“Still Attending Grandpa’s Church”) video episode.

  4. I liked it! It was very energetic, and the congregation sang quite well.

    Question: I noticed that Phil changed the meter of the hymn from 3/4 (printed in LSB) to 4/4 (the way it was in LW, I think). I know that would throw people who read music (thinking about some of the music-readers in my current situation). Thoughts?

  5. Best construction: the audio pickup was too close to the piano.

    Not so good: our organist doesn’t always get the volume matched to the size of the congregation either.

  6. Also, how about using ABLAZE! money to purchase more hymnals, catechisms, etc. to be used in places like Africa where they are so wanted and needed? How about funding the translation of LSB into more languages so that it can be used around the world?

  7. Well done! Absolutely excellent, and what a joy to see hymnals open and God’s people singing! Praying our Lord’s continued blessings upon the ministry there, Tim!

  8. Helen, I took the video with my little flip camera, which was also recording audio. I was standing behind the choir so yes, was very close to the piano. For what it’s worth, I think the balance between congregation and piano was very good, not heavy on the piano at all. We actually talk about a “sweet spot” in our sanctuary, which is on the opposite side from where I was recording, and Phillip has repeatedly told me that when I videotape I should stand on that side. In this case, I wanted to get a good shot of the piano player, since I think he’s kind of cute.

  9. @Kantor Dennis Boettcher #4

    Hi Dennis,

    We sang that a hymn for years in the LW meter, so when LSB came out people asked if we could just “sing it the old way”. We do it both. I use organ for the compound meter found in LSB/LBW.

    I appreciate the concern about music readers. We have a relatively high level of music literacy in our congregation. Some don’t like my use of alternative harmonizations sometimes because they love singing harmony so much! But they understand that I’m painting the text – and I do give them plenty of opportunities to sing harmony and to sing a cappella. It is important to cultivate music literacy if one desires a singing congregation.

    That said, our hymns are folk tunes, and changes in meter or key aren’t as jarring to the literate singer as are changes in actual tune. So those who have transferred in since we started using LSB haven’t been thrown off. One reason for this may be a change I made from LW to accomodate folks having LSB in their hands: On the refrain in LSB, there is an ascending scale on “to the Lord” that is not in the common meter version found in LW. So I added those notes, which took a couple of times for folks used to the ‘old way’ to get used to. However, it was pretty easy to make the switch because, even though people are looking at a different meter, they are looking at that scale in the book and so want to sing it.

    Having different words there (“Hosanna to the Lord” instead of “Oh, blest is He that came”) also facilitated the learning curve, since the mind works by association.

    For anyone interested in leading the hymn this way, the arrangement is in CPH’s “Hymns for the Contemporary Ensemble”, and has parts for the following instruments: flute, clarinet, saxophone, piano, organ or electric keyboard, guitar, bass. All the hymns in this series (which will continue next year over at Liturgy Solutions) are arranged with flexible instrumentation to accomodate the options available in the various parishes. While I use arrangements from this series on organ sometimes, they are intended for parishes that lead the Lord’s song without organ.

    Tomorrow night, we will use another arrangement from this series for “Creator of the Stars of Night” at our Taizé Advent Vespers.

  10. What is striking to me is that while this is innovative, it should offend no one. It retains the character of the Divine Service. Rev. Fisk used this clip in a Worldview Everlasting video as an example of something that was Lutheran and contemporary.

  11. And no applause! I can’t tell you, having fled the theological waste land of praise band led contemporary worship, what allowing worship through music to reverberate naturally in our minds and hearts without the obligatory whoops and applause associated with rock concerts means to me. I don’t go to church to adore the band.

  12. Did you notice that the young man wearing the green shirt was helping what I presume to be his younger brother follow along in the hymnal?

  13. And no applause!

    Last night (on TV) I came across the Concordia, Moorhead, MN, choirs singing their Christmas concert. Beautiful music, beautifully done!
    They moved so smoothly from one piece to the next that even when they rearranged the choirs, they did so singing and there was NO applause till the last note had been struck on the bells.

    I was in awe of Concordia’s control. Of course, they were in Minnesota… albeit a concert hall … and “hold your applause” was probably stated legibly and audibly to the audience, since they were recording.
    [Texans were being roasted by local music critics decades ago for not knowing when to be quiet at a concert! They still don’t, even in a church presentation.]

  14. I saw bits of that concert as well. I have watched the whole thing in years past. It was amazing how a few hundred kids could sing as one voice. How does that small of a school get so many kids in the music program?


  15. @Cheryl Magness #8
    Phillip has repeatedly told me that when I videotape I should stand on that side.

    “He’s kind of cute.”
    Now, next time, please listen to him, so we can listen to the hymn.

    I don’t, (paraphrasing ‘lusade’), listen to adore the musician.
    [That’s your entitlement, Cheryl.] 😉

  16. @Pastor Tim Rossow #16
    How does that small of a school get so many kids in the music program?
    What were the ELC schools, Concordia, Luther, St Olaf, had/have a reputation for music. [Two of my high school band instructors graduated from ELC schools.] They have good organ programs as well. Also the Norwegians routinely expected their pastors to chant the service, so all the pre-sem boys were in choir.
    When I was at Luther, in another life, our freshman class set a new enrollment record. The total (all four years) was 850. In those days, the Messiah was sung every year by all who wished to participate. Owing to the insistence of music major friends, I sang the Messiah with 400 others. [Non majors like myself were ‘propped up’ on either side by strong singers.] It is the most memorable thing about my college years.

  17. Posted too soon…
    A generation later, my son was first chair tuba in the Texas Lutheran College band, although he majored in communications and was preparing for Fort Wayne.
    (He used that talent in both his parishes, too.) 🙂

    You don’t have to be a music major to be ‘in music’ in their schools, obviously. I would guess many of those choir & orchestra students sing & play for love of it, as my grandchildren do.
    I wish our local Concordia cared more about its music program!

    Too Much Information!? 😉

  18. I got to go to the Christmas Choir Concert Dec 5th, at Concordia, Moorhead this year for the first time. It was in the gymnasium I watched my niece play volleyball in one time. (The acoustics were very good) We were not told not to clap at the beginning. I was amazed, too, that no one did (it was very reverent) until the last note sung. I think the one recorded was done in Mpls, because there was a bus going to it from my town later that week.

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