Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Integrity of the Service

Everyone out there has a preference (one setting of the Divine Service, for example).  That is well and good and there should not be much debate out there since all are legitimate and sanctioned in our hymnal.  But there is a tendency on the part of some to treat the liturgical resources of the hymnal more as a liturgical smorgasbord in which you pick and choose various parts to come up with a Mr. Potato Head end result -- a little from here and a little from there.  This is especially true of those liturgies for the festival occasions (Christmas, Holy Week, Easter, dedications, ordinations, installations, etc.).

While I am not in favor of adding a rule to this effect, I would plead for those tempted to respect the integrity of the Divine Service.  When we treat the liturgical resources of the hymnal as raw material in the construction of something new, different, and, well, special, then we dishonor the integrity of the service.

Example, it may seem neat and kewl to insert the Words of Institution into the liturgy of Matins or Morning Prayer, but it is merely novelty and rather disjointed novelty, at that.  Is is another thing to borrow the glorious Te Deum as a hymn for the Divine Service but it misunderstands and disrespects the integrity of the daily office and the Divine Service to mix and match.

Now there are occasions when things different are joined together -- I can only point to the Easter Vigil which ends with the Divine Service (albeit somewhat abbreviated due to the fullness of the liturgy that precedes the Divine Service.  This is not some mish mash but a service with integrity and history.

There are occasions in which rites are inserted into the Divine Service.  I can think of the baptismal liturgy as one and the rites of confirmation, reception of new members, installations of officers, installation of a Pastor or other called worker, etc...  When this happens the liturgies are not mingled but one includes the other.

There are occasions when the Divine Service may be directly preceded by Matins or Morning Prayer or Vespers or Evening Prayer.  These offices do not technically connect to the Divine Service but it is fine tradition to hold these daily offices on Sunday prior to the Divine Service (or, in the case of an evening service, possibly after the Divine Service).

I further caution against looking at bits and pieces of the Divine Services and cutting and pasting them together so that you end up with Divine Service Setting 18 (including snippets of 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5) as one of many variations on a theme... This is a bad idea for it promotes the idea of novelty as if the Divine Service needs to be shuffled up like a deck of cards from time to time in order to keep it "fresh."  For surely it is "fresh" because Christ is there in the Word and at the Table and for no other reason.

Think of it this way.  There are certain recipes that must be followed as they were intended or the outcome will not be the same.  I would suggest that we hold to the integrity of the daily offices and the Divine Service understanding them to be somewhat similar to the recipe handed down within the family over the ages.  We do not tamper with them (except where the options inherent in the liturgy are provided for).  Again, my point is not a rule but simple request for those planning the services to respect the integrity of the service.  Period.


Anonymous said...

I will take a bit of a dissent from your wise words, perhaps to justify my own practice.

Let me take Divine Service Setting 4 in the LSB. Here is my current practice regarding that setting. I use the Service Builder software and:

use Confession & Absolution from Setting 1;
move the Gospel and Creed to the places they are in Setting 1 & 2; insert a seasonal Eucharistic Prayer, which necessitates moving the Lord's Prayer to after the Eucharistic Prayer rather than before the Words of Institution of the LSB setting.

I do these things to maintain some consistency in the placement of the Ordinary between Settings 1,2 & 4 that we use in our parish.

I find that rather than disturb the integrity of the service, this maintains same.

I understand that many use Setting 3 as their normal setting for Sunday mornings, so in that case, Setting 4 is consistent with Setting 3 in arrangement and my alterations seem, perhaps, unnecessary. But since we don't use Setting 3, it seems that my alterations of Setting 4 make sense in our setting.

Rev. Carl L. Beckwith said...

I agree completely. I’ve been complaining about this liturgical abuse since that dreaded service builder was released. Before my ordination, my family attended a congregation that used the LSB liturgies every Sunday. Which one? I couldn’t tell you. They printed them out every week; mixed and matched different liturgical elements from settings 1, 2, and 4. My young children were never able to memorize the liturgy. I couldn’t help them during the week because I never knew which new setting would be created and used (or is it abused?).

I’m sure this is hyperbole but I think the service builder will end up ruining Lutheran liturgical worship. Rare, it seems, are those congregations with service builder who actually have members holding a hymnal during the service. A church with printed orders of service may as well be a church without a hymnal. There is not doubt about it, as we've all seen it, when the liturgy goes so too does the hymnody.

My children now sing and pray p. 15 every Sunday. They had the liturgy memorized in a few short months.

Anonymous said...

Prior to the CPH Service Builder for
LSB, CPH had a creative worship
disc for LW. This planted the seed
for parishes to cut and paste the
liturgy in printed bulletins. The
hymnals remain in pew racks. In the
past 3 months our parish has sung
"Feast of Victory" only once, while
most of the liturgy is omitted in
favor of choir anthems and instrum-
ental pieces. The Worship Service
is least than an hour with only a
12 minute homily. Yet the parish
prides itself on an exspensive pipe
organ and full-time cantor

Jesse Penny said...

My parish has started to use Divine Service Setting One in the past few weeks for its Traditional (Hymnal) worship service. Beforehand, they were using some mishmash of the general Divine Service liturgy, but not out of a given Setting.

The next thing they need to work on is getting rid of thematic Corporate Confession statements tied to the sermons topics.

Janet said...

It has been said by several writers that the liturgy can be a comfort to the ill and dying, as they recall the words from the Divine Service. I certainly agree, but with the liturgy changing all the time [my congregation loves to mix and match], how will anyone have it memorized enough for the words to comfort them when needed? I grew up with TLH, endured LW, and am now struggling with the many variations of LSB. Perhaps I'll learn the LSB well enough to have it in my memory at the end. Unless, of course, another "new hymnal" is published before then!