WELS Hymnal Project

Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmetic….and Rites

Several questions on the survey that went out to WELS teachers back in May asked about the use of Christian Worship (CW) and Christian Worship Supplement (CWS) rites in educational settings. I’m happy to be able to share some of the results from that survey and the way they will impact the work of the Rites Committee of the hymnal project.

First, a little quiz. One of the questions asked this:

“Which version of the Lord’s Prayer do you use most frequently in the classroom?”

Between the traditional version (“Our Father, who art in heaven…”) and the modern version (“Our Father in heaven…”), one is used by 56% of those who responded and the other by 44%. Can you guess which percentage goes with each? You’ll find the answer at the bottom of this article.

Second—and my main point—is an observation about how CW and CWS devotions, meditations, prayers, canticles, etc. are being used in classrooms. In short, they aren’t, at least not often.

Really there’s nothing wrong with this. If you’re content with using the opening devotions in Christ-Light, that’s great. If you’ve found a reliable devotion book for your classroom, excellent. And if Chapel Talks provides you with all you need for Christ-centered chapel services, then why look for other options?

At the same time, I can see some benefits from occasionally making use of the hymnal and supplement in chapel or classroom. One is that there are several devotions and meditations that get Scripture into the ears, minds, and mouths of students. The Scripture passages in the CWS meditations, for instance, can be helpful to all ages. Another benefit of going to CW and CWS is that kids can get familiar with what’s in those books. That familiarity can help them participate when they encounter the same prayers, songs, and rites in church services. And finally, the hymnal and supplement can be sound sources of variety, even if teachers want to stick with devotion books or Christ-Light as their go-to resources.

The comments on the survey showed some of the reasons why teachers don’t often turn to CW and CWS for classroom or chapel devotions. One that I mentioned above is contentment with other devotional materials. Another is brevity. Classroom devotions need to be brief, and some commented that even the short Morning Devotion in CW is too long. Those in primary grade classrooms noted that often the language of CW prayers is too complex for their students.

One other factor I wonder about is this: Are the devotions in the hymnal starting to become old hat? They’ve been around for over twenty years now, and maybe they just feel worn out to many of us. (A related question: Do many people know that there are seven short meditations in CWS?)

Moving ahead with the hymnal project, the rites committee will look into possible ways of making devotional rites and prayers more useful for classroom and chapel services. And when the new hymnal is done, we’ll try to ensure that teachers know about the resources that are available.

In the meantime, at the risk of being presumptuous (I’m not in the classroom every day) could I offer a few suggestions for using what you may have on hand in CW or CWS?

  • Use devotions only occasionally. Use a CW devotion or CWS meditation once in a while, maybe one day a week for a quarter. Then come back after a quarter and try a different meditation. These short rites might “wear” a little better if used sparingly.
  • Modify as needed. You don’t need to use rites exactly as written. Shorten devotional rites if you need to. Skip a part if you’re short on time. Rather than using the personal prayers in CW (pp. 134-139) verbatim, try using them for prayer ideas, if not word for word. (Also check out the “Plan for Intercession” in CWS for help in praying for people you might otherwise forget.)
  • Repeat for young worshipers. With younger students, pick shorter sections and repeat them often. For instance, use the opening dialog of CW’s Morning Devotion for a few weeks. Or teach the kids “O Christ, Lamb of God” from Divine Service I or in CWS and sing it once a week. The general Alleluia Verse from Divine Service II might be a good choice, too.
  • Use electronic resources – See if your church has the electronic version of CWS. Try getting an electronic copy of the short meditations for morning or midday. Instead of using (or having to purchase) the books for your classroom, project a copy of the meditation on your screen or Smart board. Create a desktop shortcut so you can use it easily once in a while.

Finally, the answer I promised. The survey said that 44% of respondents use the traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer in their classrooms. 56% use the more modern wording. Perhaps this indicates that there is not a “one size fits all” solution to rites and prayers for devotions and chapel services. Nevertheless, think about making use of what’s available as we await what will be in the new hymnal. And thanks for taking the time to send us your thoughts!

About Jonathan Micheel

Rev. Jonathan Micheel is the Rites Committee Chairman of the WELS Hymnal Project. Micheel currently serves at Prince of Peace in Salt Lake City, UT. Micheel enjoys making worship accessible to those who don’t yet know our Lord. Micheel, his wife Cheryl, and their four children enjoy living and serving in the Western United States.


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