VBS Noise Reduction – A Good Thing? by Pr. Rossow

I know many of you think of me and other Confessionals as kill-joys but that is just not the case. We here at Bethany Lutheran are committed to the liturgy but that does not mean we are fuddy-duddies. We are very creative and are not averse to having fun. My guess is that we have far more variety in worship than the average LCMS church growth church. For example, we use far more different instruments than the average church growth parish (congas, claves, brass, winds, organ, piano, tambourine, strings, harp, zimbelstern, squeeze box, recorders, timpani, and on and on) it’s just that we shy away from the standard garage band instrumentation inherently associated with the sounds and the infinite, impatient vicissitudes of our narcissistic pop culture, although our liturgical youth ensemble does include a bass guitar on occasion for helping with the rhythm. In addition, our members, including the children, have learned a dozen different liturgies (10 from the LSB, a Marty Haugen liturgy and one our own Cantor composed) all of them using the same basic structure with a variety of music for the ordinaries. That leads me to my point about noise reduction in VBS.

Last year we went to a full liturgical opening for our Vacation Bible School (VBS). It has quieted the children down, which is a real blessing. I am not opposed to loud music, jumping around and having fun but one has to wonder what sort of message that sends to the children when you do that in a room where you also give out the body and blood of the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. It just does not fit unless you are one of the new-fangled evangelicals (Rob Bell, et. al.) who are peddling the new, softer liberalism via their praise bands and contextually sensitive worship and preaching. (I guess both Jesus and St. Paul missed out on the class at seminary about contextualizing the Gospel.) The opening liturgy has quieted the kids down. All through the morning, I walked the halls and noticed a very calm group of kids. I checked with some of the teachers and the director on this and they agreed it set the stage for a more serious group. We have also cut out some classes for the youngest children and that has helped bring a spirit of calm as well. Using the liturgy helps put the “Bible” and “School” back into “Vacation Bible School.” Remember, “vacation” is simply a designation for the time of the program and not a call to do the “Surfer Jesus” program and to throw out the normal way we worship.

We started out the liturgy with a Caribbean folk Alleluia (GIA Publishing) that even included, God forbid, a clap on the off beat. We then did a hybrid liturgy including portions of Morning Prayer (LSB, p. 235) and The Service of Prayer and Preaching (LSB, p. 260) and sang “Go to Dark Gethsemane” – today’s theme was about the young prince’s temptation to not accept the calling to set out on the dangerous odyssey intended to save his father the King – and wrapped it up with a stanza from “Wake, Awake for Night is Flying.” This is heady stuff but because our day school children sing the liturgy for chapel each week it works.

I walked into the sanctuary later in the morning and saw our Associate Cantor, Susan Keller, (who is leading the music for VBS) holding up the Lutheran Service Book and walking a group of children through it so they can learn how to better use it. That was one of the greatest thrills I have ever had. I know, some of you are thinking if that’s a great thrill for him then he must be a stuck-in-the-mud, old fuddy-duddy. You couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have jumped out of an airplane, driven 130 miles an hour on the autobahn, and even led lock-ins (now that’s foolish). Seeing the Associate Cantor teach children how to use the hymnal, without me even asking for it to be done, is a great thrill and it also helps to quiet the kids down so they can read, mark, learn and inwardly digest more of the Word of God during their school vacation.

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