Thank you again for your work on this great and heavy task. No doubt, you will get your share of criticisms and suggestions (and here we go). But be assured that you also have my prayers.
My concern has to do with the repeated theme of more rites and more variety.
While I can appreciate variety to an extent, it seems that there is a drive for more and more rites and variety within rites that there will be precious little with which anyone will be familiar. We will all have something different to do and find oodles of different rites. The result will be that no one actually learns the liturgy. This is especially concerning for the lifelong member who once learned his liturgy and now must respond to the new and innovative. I contend that he will not find the new exciting or even helpful. Or for those who are on their way to being lifelong Lutherans, will they be able to remember the liturgy if there has been no consistency in it?
We may be in danger of having no part of the service that is "ordinary" any longer.
While my concerns may be overblown--and I hope so--I also hope that we will all have appreciation for the familiar and consistent rites in our liturgy.
Anyway, that is my encouragement. May God grant you wisdom through all the decisions you must make and grant you the patience of having to deal with concerns such as mine.
Thank you, both for the constructive comment and also for the evangelical spirit in which it was offered.
Your words bring to my mind Herb and Lyla, two aged believers I’ve served. Both had memory loss from dementia or Alzheimer’s. When I visited them, they often had difficulty recognizing me or understanding where we were. But some things they did remember, and clearly: the confession of sins, the songs of the liturgy, the benediction. My experience is like yours in that the things that we repeat frequently are the things that stick with us, even as other memories fade.
I’ll add another example, this one at the other end of the age spectrum. Listen for children’s voices on Sunday morning -- not the unexpected cries but the words spoken and sung coming from kids’ mouths. I hear the kids most when we come to familiar parts of the service: the Lord’s Prayer, the familiar canticles, the well-known hymns. Kids, even pre-readers, have learned these things through consistent repetition. Such consistency enables their participation.
From my current situation, one more benefit of consistency comes to mind. I’m blessed to serve in a place where unchurched guests frequently visit our services. When these guests start to come more regularly, as we hope they do, what will greet them in each service? Something different and new every Sunday? Or will there will enough consistency from week to week that they’ll have a chance to catch on and participate?
For all these reasons, your words cautioning us about too much variety are -- if you’ll permit the expression -- “meet, right and salutary.” (There’s an example from my own TLH childhood!) Variety in rites and liturgy, while important and valuable for many reasons, can have detrimental effects if not balanced with consistency.
Please don’t misunderstand. We on the Rites Committee have heard, both in the survey responses and anecdotally, that more worship options are appreciated. I find myself often looking for new options, especially to bring freshness to familiar holidays, even while I turn to the old, solid favorites on those days, too. It appears that many other pastors are looking for similar things. Therefore, we do want to offer options for variety in worship, so that pastors and planners can draw from a pool of worthy resources -- rites, prayers and songs that have been evaluated and deemed beneficial and edifying. If we don’t, pastors will likely cast about for options anyway, using some that are of good quality and others that aren’t.
It’s a matter of balance, as we strive to appreciate the benefits of variety and consistency. It’s also a matter of education. Keep on telling the stories of aged believers benefitting from well-worn rites and hymns. Informally encourage brothers in ministry to see the positive effects of an “ordinary,” sturdy backbone for worship. Teach your people the faith-building richness in the songs and prayers that they can say and sing by heart.
Thanks again for sharing your helpful thoughts … and for your prayers for wisdom!