Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Reading through the stack. . .
In the Forum Letter for December, Editor Richard Johnson reports that way back in October the President of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, Robin Steinke, announced that the seminary was making some changes. These are not just changes. According to Pres. Steinke, in order to better accomodate the needs of our community they are no longer holding chapel five days a week. She has all the right reasons for justifying this change -- students living and working off campus, the distance learning programs of the school whose students are not even close to campus, and, perhaps one unspoken but still true reason, attendance is down. She wrote that it did not make sense to hold chapel five days a week."
Editor Johnson rightly called attention to the things in that announcement that just don't seem right -- like the fact that chapel makes sense or is supposed to make sense. I concur. I am pretty sure that nearly everyone in my parish would agree that church does not make sense (me, too!) but that making sense is not even on the radar of reasons why we have it. The compelling reason for worship is not the need or the reasonableness of it or even if people want or like it. No, the compelling reason is the will and command of God to gather His people (even if only 2-3) and to bestow upon them the riches of His grace in the Word read and preached and the Sacraments administered according to His own design. This is what compels us to worship. God is there. The Lord is bestowing His gifts. In the means of grace, we meet the incarnate Savior who saves us. That ought to be enough.
To be fair, worship is an incredible bother on our schedules. Perhaps that is why a typical Lutheran only sees 1 of 5 to 4 of 10 who are "members" there on a given Sunday morning. Why, really, Sunday morning is the only time for soccer, grocery shopping, catching up on TV, sleeping in, being on Facebook, etc... Why interrupt your busy schedule of work, leisure, and play for something as boring, useless, senseless, and worthless as worship? Right?!?
Lest we Missourians sit smugly and snicker, I think the Seminary in St. Louis set up a chapel without chapel a few years ago -- a scheduled day for spiritual contemplation without leaving bedroom, workroom, kitchen, or dining hall. I know they caught some flack for that. I am pretty sure that in response to the same idea, Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, did the "sensible" thing of setting up another worship opportunity, or, ah, chapel. A reasonable response to declining attendance or interest, right? Goes to show you. CTS is way out there.
Finally, Luther Seminary reported that since chapel is no longer scheduled for 5 times a week (how often exactly IS it scheduled?), they surely would not need an administrative assistant in the seminary pastor's office. Which come about the same time the seminary pastor left because her call and the evolving position don't align well. Which really makes it easier not to have chapel. Ah, the Lord works in mysterious ways! What else will the 590 students do with that 30 minutes a day!
PS. . . Maybe they will soon be selling off the organ and chapel appointments at Luther Sem. . . meditation rooms don't need all that clutter.