Monday, March 21, 2011
An Ordinary Lutheran
He first mentioned that the liturgical and musical practice of the parish. Yes, we have a sung Eucharist twice each Sunday, a spoken Eucharist on Thursday mornings, sung Evening Prayer on Wednesdays, and Compline on Mondays. Yes, we have a fine pipe organ and a fine organist. Yes, we have a fine liturgical choir and fairly broad musical program. Yet, aside from two services on a Sunday and the size of our pipe organ, none of these things is necessarily beyond the norm or should be unusual for any Lutheran parish anywhere.
He mentioned good preaching (here is where I felt humbly great by his comment). Yet, good, solid Law and Gospel preaching, with enthusiasm and conviction (which is what I call "good" preaching) should not be beyond the average Lutheran parish and the average Lutheran Pastor. It is not what I would think unusual for a Lutheran parish true to its identity and confessional faith.
He mentioned our facility. Yes, we have a large building with ten large classrooms, an administrative suite, a large nave seating up to 400, a wonderful chancel with stenciling and plaster work, good solid (but not expensive) liturgical appointments, a large fellowship hall, additional rooms of various sizes, and a chapel seating about 60. Yet, I have not found many structures that are inherently difficult for worship and could be made rather beautiful with some careful attention. Our structure is utilitarian and, aside from the liturgical art, is not fancy at all. Any Lutheran parish should be able to provide a structure commensurate with its size and need -- there is nothing particularly noteworthy about our building.
He mentioned a sense of mission. Yes, we set aside 12-15% of all our income for mission beyond this local place (in the community around us, in the District, in the Synod, and to the world at large). We did vote to send $9,000 to the Siberian Lutheran Mission, raised $1250 for the care of a Lutheran Pastor's daughter critically injured in a car accident, sent $1100 in Sunday school funds to our Lutheran partner in Tanzania (East of Lake Victoria Diocese), etc. Yet this is not extraordinary either for our size or for any Lutheran congregation whose focus is oriented outward as well as inward. A sense of the Church beyond your local borders is healthy for any Lutheran congregation and ownership of this mission focus is part of who we are as Lutheran Christians.
In the end, I find myself more and more mystified with his comment. He gets around to a lot of Lutheran (nearly all LCMS) parishes across the states and for him to suggest that our parish is "special" is less a compliment to us than, perhaps, a cause for concern about the others. For we are not extraordinary but rather ordinary. We use the hymnal, we preach the lectionary, we invest in worship as the primary activity of God's people in this place, we care about those outside our parish and our community, and we use the Confessions and Catechism as the documents that both inform and norm our parish teaching and practice. I would expect that every Lutheran parish would do so. In fact, I would hope that we are ordinary, normal, and fairly typical for Lutheran parishes out there.