Friday, September 3, 2010

Too Much Change

I have been listening over the years to the diversity of choices available in our Lutheran congregations -- and not only those with some form of contemporary worship.  It seems that we grow weary of too much the same and seem intent upon forcing some change or diversity if for no other reason than change itself.

I have written before of the tyranny of personal preference that would divide a congregation when multiple worship services are also different liturgical choices (or even non-liturgical ones).  It is not a good thing to have all out contemporary worship at 11, some form of blended service and music at 9:30 and stock hymnal at 8 am.  In reality there are not merely three services choices but three different congregations.  Unlike the congregation divided by simple worship times, these congregations would not and could not worship with each other since they do not know each other's song or liturgy.  Except perhaps for Christmas, the typical congregation that offers such a variety of worship formats has knowingly or unknowingly developed different congregations unable to join in each other's song and unwilling to learn the liturgy of the other.

But there is another diversity which I am also not so sure is healthy.  That is when congregations use one setting of the Divine Service on one Sunday of the month, a different one the second Sunday, a different one on the third Sunday, and another one on the fourth Sunday.  Certainly LSB affords such a choice and diversity since there are five settings of the Divine Service but what is possible is not always beneficial.

I do think it is important for a congregation to learn more than one setting of LSB.  In my own parish we know them all but we use DS 1-3 most of all.  However, we do not change from week to week.  We tend to hold on to one setting for an extended period -- several seasons of the Church Year or six months or more -- before changing.  We generally use one setting for all the Sundays in ordinary time and another setting for the festival Sundays.  During our anniversary year we did change a bit more often so that we used DS 3 once a month or so throughout the fiftieth year celebration.  That was rather unique for us, however.

Using a setting for an extended period allows the congregation to become accustomed to that setting so that it is not so new that it must be slavishly following from the hymnal or bulletin.  That is a good thing.  Too much change is possible but, I do not believe, beneficial.  So I would encourage those who change more frequently to reconsider.  A couple of settings per year is enough and some consistency within change is beneficial to all, I believe.

So now you know what I think and you are free to disagree or pull me apart for my opinion....


Rev. Jon Micheel said...

Good thoughts. My practice in the last several years is to rotate the orders of service seasonally. That way, when we do change from one service to the other, it signals the shift in emphasis that the new season brings. Another benefit to keeping things the same through a season (which you note): it benefits visitors and children, who have longer to get familiar with one set of words and music before having to learn another.

Rev. Jon Micheel said...

By the way, when I refer to "seasons" above, I'm thinking of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, etc. Not Spring-Summer-Fall, or NBA-MLB-NFL!

Rev. Luke T. Zimmerman said...

If it will be done, then rotation of service settings/ordos really need to be limited to season or time. Weekly rotation is just too much.

A complex rotation could be:
Advent: DS1
Christmas/Epiphany: DS3
Lent: DS1
Easter - Pentecost: DS2
Trinity - St. Lawrence: DS1
St. Lawrence - St. Michael: DS4
St. Michael - Reformation: DS1
All Saints through Christ the King: DS2

A simpler rotation could be:
Advent/Christmas/Epiphany: DS3
Ash Wednesday - Pentecost: DS2
Ordinary Time - Christ the King: DS1

Of course, there are options within DS1 & DS2 for the Hymn of Praise and Post-Communion Canticle, not to mention the Lenten sentence. These can increase the variety, even when using them for longer periods of time. By employing them, a parish could really use two settings, such as DS1 or 2 and DS3 and still have a good bit of change.

Mike Baker said...

As a layman, my battle cry on this topic is typically, "Change? How about much more valuable C-words: Consistancy, Continuity, and Coordination."

My personal preference is to find one and stick with it for at least the season. It's much easier for those congregants who don't have the liturgy as a hobby or a career. If you want to do some novel format to mix things up, save it for a non-sunday festival service.

...but, hey, that's just me.