Friday, February 28, 2020

What is their practice?

In a conversation a while ago, the subject of what kind of changes a new pastor might make to the new congregation in his charge elicited some interesting replies.  Much of the interest was in reforming practices and changing those things that prohibited or impeded the mission of the congregation.  There was a great deal of discussion about buildings, staffing, mission statements, core values, and a host of other buzz words for things missional.  When it came to worship, there was little discussion except to ditch the organ, hymnal, and things traditional in favor of culturally friendly forms of worship (including sermons that fit the subjects and interests of the people).  It was as if nobody even needed to talk about this since everyone knew what must be done.

In a very different conversation among traditional Lutheran types, the same kind of question came up.  There was much discussion about reforming practices not in synch with our Confessions, teaching and preaching the faith, and working to make the parish more Lutheran.  When it came to worship, restoring the hymnal was typical.  There was a comment made by several which I found curious.  When the discussion moved to the frequency of celebrating the Eucharist, several indicated that they accepted the practice of the parish before they came and did not change it.  This was their practice, after all, and they did not want to impose their pastoral preference upon the congregation.

In other words, certain liturgical practices -- including the frequency of the celebration of the Eucharist -- were considered sacred.  So if they found the parish using some odd mix of hymns instead of the ordinary or some other bypass of the rite as printed, they would keep whatever they found.  And if they parish had the Sacrament monthly or twice monthly or even quarterly, they would respect the practice as they found it and leave it in place.  Now I respected their hesitance to making wholesale change, I found it worse than odd that the frequency of the Eucharist was left untouched.  Surely if there is a place to make change, it is to preach and teach the parish into the ordinary practice as described by the Lutheran Confessions -- weekly Holy Communion!

The point of my post is that moving a congregation to a weekly Eucharist is NOT imposing the personal preference of the pastor upon the parish.  Plenty of things ARE an imposition of clergy taste over lay but not this.  If there is a justification for making changes, this is one that has Confessional authority.  Now I am not suggesting that any pastor simply announce a change like this and leave it at that nor am I ever suggesting that this is something a congregation should vote upon but I do believe the the focus of preaching, teaching, and catechesis should be on restoring such essential Lutheran identity and piety.  This includes weekly Communion.

1 comment:

John J. Flanagan said...

It is the root of pride, often unrelated to necessity or need, which drives the desire to change the LCMS in some quarters. To be more culturally relevant is the excuse given by some voices. They forget that it is needful to have some continuity and that changes must be initiated based on wisdom, not simply a desire to reinvent the Lutheran body for the sake of an impulsive dislike of the prior traditions.