Family Worship Service Increases Attendance
Trinity Lutheran Church in . . . is a congregation committed to actively involving all ages in worship. At their 10:30 worship service children play a more active role in the service through singing and serving along with helping the adults be more than just passive receivers.
The structure of the divine service has not significantly changed, but certain elements have been added to engage children directly. The service begins with a child coming forward to light the “Family Candle” which is the Baptismal Candle normally lit only when a baptism occurs. “It gives a chance to remind people that our life in Christ and our worship began in baptism.” says the Rev. . . , pastor of Trinity.
When the candle is lit the congregation joins in confessing, “Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness. Jesus is the light that shines in our lives.” At the end of the service another child is welcomed forward to extinguish the candle while the congregation responds “This candlelight now departs, but Christ’s light remains in our hearts.”
After the invocation children are invited forward to sing a children’s song. When the song is finished Pastor B and the children sit down and open the “Gospel Surprise” box. A child takes the box home each week and brings it back the following week with an item of his or her choice. When the box is opened an impromptu children sermon is taught using that particular item. “There is a palpable sense of anticipation when the box is opened, not unlike our own spirit longs to hear the Gospel.” adds the Pastor.
The closing has become a much awaited culmination of the service. The “Family Blessing” is an adaptation of the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6. Pastor B invites worshipers to place their hands on their children, spouse, sibling or even a fellow worshiper (if they agree!) and in unison say, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord keep you in his care and when your days on earth are through may you rest in the arms of Jesus.”
There was concern that the flow of the worship would be affected and the changes might detract from the reverence of the service. Pastor B answers,“Fortunately the additions have been embraced by our retired members. The concern that the mood would become less reverent has easily been out shined by the enthusiasm of the children.”
Since the service was altered in late September the average attendance has increased from 87 to just over 100. A notable difference has been the presence of non-member families. The people of Trinity believe that as Jesus interacted with children we should also welcome them to be involved in the Divine Service.
My point is this. This same parish does not follow all the rubrics or use the full measure of ceremonial or church usages possible in Lutheran Service Book. In fact, if some of the things mentioned in the rubrics were included, it might create a backlash against the "Catholic" look of the liturgy. No matter that all of these things are thoroughly "Lutheran" in doctrine and usage -- over many centuries. But, that same aversion to the ancient ceremonies and church usages implicit in the Lutheran Confessions will easily give way to new ceremonies and rituals invented to make things nice, special, or inclusive.
I can well imagine that this same district newsletter would not report on kneeling or chanting restored to usage in this parish nor would they report the restoration of Eucharistic vestments or the use of the chalice in place of individual cups or a hundred other things that are consistent with Lutheran history and identity. But they are happy to report on invented ceremonies designed to make the liturgy more homey (even though it means distorting ancient meanings and replacing them with novelties neither historical nor universal.
It is this split personality toward church usages, ceremonies, ritual, and such that gives our church head aches and not a few heart aches. Why are we more open to the folksy little ditties than the ceremonies that mark our catholic and evangelical confession and identity? It is the question that begs to be answered....