Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What Church Will We Be?

The tension over what church we will be is not an academic one.  It is the battle for the heart and soul of Lutheranism.  It is played out in Seminary classrooms, in Sanctuaries across the Synod, in catechism classrooms, in choir rehearsal rooms, and in Pastor's Offices.  The other day I read something which made me sad.  It seems that the battle is not only being waged but lost in some of those places. Concordia, Seward, is looking to sell the pipe organ in their chapel rather than repair it and return it to its former glory.  Concordia, Bronxville, has dropped the church music program entirely.  Concordia, Austin, uses a praise band almost exclusively in the campus worship life.  And now Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, seems to have joined the bandwagon for praise bands.

According to an email from a friend, the September 3 campus news included an announcement seeking people who play instruments for a chapel band, aka praise band.  The actual announcement was:  Contextual Worship/Chapel Bands

If you are gifted in the ways of music or can run a sound board, come audition to be a part of a chapel band. Come sign up for an audition time at the Information fair on Friday (9/3) or Tuesday (9/7). Or email waitm@csl.edu if you are unable to be at the info fair. Email me with any questions. Thanks.

Streamers as banners are a matter of aesthetics -- personally I think they are kind of 1970s cool but, well, we can agree to disagree.  Apparently streamers are not enough, now Dean of Chapel Burreson seems to be taking this a step further -- past aesthetics and toward a diversity I do not welcome.  I guess there is a difference between Ft. Wayne and St. Louis -- but not the one people have been thinking about for some years.

The whole point of the church music at a Seminary campus is to model the best of Lutheran liturgical and confessional identity.  I am sorry, but singing "Shine, Jesus Shine" or "I Just Want to Worship" is not the best of Lutheran liturgical and confessional identity.  If anything, it is a capitulation to those who think that the music and hymnody of worship does not need to reflect the confessional identity and doctrinal stance of a church.  It may well be that some District Presidents and some parishes complain that their Seminary candidates do not seem to know enough about contemporary Christian music.  It may well be that some Seminarians hide their affection CCM until they are set free from the constraints of Seminary to do as they please in the parish.  It may well be that this is a debate within the LCMS.  I know all the reasons why an occasional praise band might not be so far out for a Seminary but they are all wrong in my book.  Nothing justifies choosing the expedient over the orthodox Lutheran identity within the worship setting.  Seminaries should not be training Pastors for the average parish but to lead parishes to a higher level of Lutheran identity and practice on Sunday morning.

I am sad for this choice and for the choices of other LCMS schools who have reshaped their programs and chapel life for the broad path of diversity instead of being incubators for all that Lutheran worship can and should be... So don't expect my check for the joint seminary fund this year... it will go to Ft. Wayne exclusively...


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

When did we swallow the poisoned kool-aid of diversity? The world teaches the value of diversity - that there are so many differences and each is good. We teach the value of catholicity - that there are many differences but greater than that is the wonder and miracle that we are one in Christ.

To focus on diversity is to focus on man. To focus on catholicity is to focus on the One in whom we are united.

roger said...

How truly sad for those in the field that one of our seminaries heads in the direction of comtemporary worship. Now those congregations which have members desiring the worldly music for worship will have the "power" of "the seminary in St. Louis is teaching it" to try and force their pastor to do so also!!

J.G.F. said...

How sad. Having received my BA in Church Music from Concordia, Bronxville in 1982, it really "stings." We lost our organist several years ago due to illness, and finding an organist today is next to impossible.

Bronxville pretty much dropped their *entire* music program, though they still have a few choirs and ensembles. This is a particular shame because they used to be renound for their music program. No more.

I spoke with the President and also some of the Regents and their answer was, "there are no students interested." So it's a two edged sword-- no one educating, no one being educated. It seems that the modern culture has won, at least for now. We need to reclaim this in our Church colleges.

I'm really sickened to hear about Seward removing the organ. How symbolic of the present sickness is that???

Thanks for your timely post, Larry. Always worth the read. I linked to this article in my weekly church eNews.

Pr. John Fleischmann

Sam said...

Okay.... I'm going to jump in and defend Seward on this one. I was the President of the Student Worship Committee during a time of music "transition" at Seward. Also note that I am about as traditional as they come in regards to worship (Sacristan at CSL and fieldwork of the venerable Pr. Weedon).

The chapel organ Seward was a wreck. It was not designed to function in Nebraska. It was a European designed and built instrument (Kuhn I believe). The humidity changes were too extreme for the tracker instrument. Ask any of the organists and they will tell you about the problems. The space itself is terrible. During my junior or senior year, because of the problems with the instrument, they opted to replace the pipe organ with an electronic organ that worked 100% of the time. It sounded wonderful compared to the old instrument that ciphered constantly. Was it a pipe organ? No... but did it serve faithfully while I was there? Absolutely.

Unless they build a new chapel or do extreme renovations... there is no point in putting in a new organ in the chapel or keeping the one that is there. It is cost prohibitive. Why not sell the pipes to a church that could use them?

Also keep in mind that Seward made a significant investment in new organ for the recital hall to train church musicians on. I'm glad that they put the money there and not in hobbling along the pipe organ in a chapel that is more like a swimming pool than a church (if you haven't seen it... you should... or maybe you shouldn't)...

Rev. D.E.Bestul said...

No wonder that God kindly shields the saints of heaven from seeing and hearing the sites and sounds of earth. So many of the sainted profs of St. Louis would be so grieved by the sounds of praise bands in the chapel of their alma mater.

Pastor Peasant said...

This happened also a while back at Ft. Wayne, during its "captivity" after the removal of Dr. Preus and under a new administration, including a new Dean of the Chapel. (I was there for it.) The excellence of the chapel became somewhat less than excellent for a couple of years. However, a new president, administration, and chapel Dean turned things around. Let us hope these things at CSL will be similarly as temporary.

Steve said...

This is truly something that breaks my heart. Christians who become involved in CCM willingly surrender their musical birthright for an unholy yoke of the world's music and weak "sacred" texts. Their children simply leave out the sacred part because the world so often writes and performs the world's music better. The result of that is a forgetting of the Gospel and the drifting away found in Hebrews 2. So, the question I ask is, "our some of our colleges and seminaries" either unknowingly or selfishly helping the devil achieve his wicked goals.