WELS Hymnal Project

Working on Worship in the Church Militant

It’s really no different from the discussion you’ve heard about stewardship. We’d be kidding ourselves to think that a fall stewardship program once a year fully takes care of training Christian stewards. That kind of training takes place on an ongoing basis year after year.

Public worship is no different. That’s rather obvious when viewed against the backdrop of another triennial WELS National Worship Conference taking place this week in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Education about why we do what we do in worship is an ongoing thing, year in and year out. Honing our methodology and fine-tuning our resources are matters that will occupy us until we lift up our heads with joy to see our salvation drawing near at the return of Jesus Christ.

I make these less-than-earth-shaking comments in connection with the posting of the second edition of Viva Vox, now available on our hymnal project website. If you didn’t catch the notice when the first edition was posted about six months ago, Viva Vox is a worship newsletter that was published in the 1950s by editors Rev. Ralph Gehrke and Rev. Kurt Eggert. So many of the topics they covered are topics on which we are still working today. It’s that church militant thing. These matters will be on our plates on a continuing basis until our Lord calls us home.

For example, scroll through edition 1.2, posted here on the hymnal project website. Look at the topics that are covered. Fourteen years after the publication of The Lutheran Hymnal, the wording of Introits and Graduals was already being critically assessed as far as its suitability for the lessons designated for particular Sundays (cf. the report on “The Meeting at Trinity”). The Psalmody Committee of our hymnal project will soon be in the thick of that same type of work as it relates to the 1993 Christian Worship lectionary. “Introit- and Gradual-Songs” mentioned in that report are the myriad psalm songs/settings and gospel acclamations (or alleluia verses) appearing on the Christian worship landscape today. The degree of connectedness between the lessons of any given Sunday or festival (also treated in that report) is something with which the Scripture Committee will wrestle approximately 200 times for the Sundays and festivals of our next hymnal’s three-year series.

The article in edition 1.2 entitled “Possessing Our Heritage” could have been written yesterday. Apparently, it wasn’t easy in the 1950s to encourage congregations to “keep at it” as far as learning and using the body of textually strong and, in some cases, musically challenging Lutheran chorales. The Hymnody Committee of our current project is tackling identical issues as far as the preservation and use of that body of hymnody as one genre among many. Antiphonal singing of hymns (advantages of doing so are listed in the article) and having choirs sing “service music” rather than only anthems are contemporary issues for public worship in Lutheran churches today.

“Service Guide for the Sundays of the Church Year” is very similar to “Planning Christian Worship” which is available on WELS Connect. Personnel on the hymnal project will again be working on this type of helpful resource for worship planning.

While we may not always be working on a new hymnal per se, we’ll always be working on hymnal and worship resources. Along with the resources come the continuing education efforts aimed at all who will make use of the resources. When we become members of the Church Triumphant, honing and fine-tuning and education will give way to the wonderful and engaging “work” of worshiping the King full time, without fail, without exhaustion, without sin, and with indescribable joy.

When you have a moment, give Viva Vox 1.2 a look. Summer blessings in Christ!

About Michael Schultz

Rev. Michael Schultz serves as the Project Director for the WELS Hymnal Project. Schultz has served congregations in Flagstaff, AZ and Lawrenceville, GA. Schultz is a church musician who served as the Hymns Committee chairman for Christian Worship Supplement and also compiled the Guitar Edition for Christian Worship Supplement. He and his wife Karen have three children: Caleb, Bethany, and Ethan.

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