Thursday, February 10, 2011

What I Learned About Worship at Seminary

Sadly, I learned little about worship while at Seminary.  This was not so much do to the teachers as to the trifling place worship had in the curriculum.  One course in worship was all that was required -- and that was expected to teach liturgical theology, "how to" training, the church year, the occasional services, the daily offices, hymnody, chant and the music of the liturgy, how to plan worship, etc...  The material was pretty basic and little was new to me since I had come to Seminary with a rich experience and fine teachers (Dr. Edward F. Peters, Dr. H. Andrew Harnack, Lee Stocker, David Fienen, Dr. Herb Nuechterlein, Joel Kuznik, Dr. Roddy Braun, Dr. Walter Wente, Pr. Herb Lindemann, Pr. Charles Evanson, etc...).  So I cannot blame Prof. Dan Reuning for any lacking there.  It was clearly a curriculum issue -- too little time for too much material.  The best you could learn to do in those days was simply to know when to stand, sit, or kneel, when to face the altar, and when to face the congregation -- all, of course, to the basic rubrics of The Lutheran Hymnal.

In terms of the practice of the worship life at the Seminary, I also learned little.  The Springfield guys were black gown types - most of them - and it was a culture shock to end up in Kramer Chapel.  The side by side worship life of the first year where Senior College and Seminary co-existed showed that the worship life at CSC was decidedly more liturgical and more, well, "high church" than CTS.  But the good thing is that things change.  And they have changed for the better.

I am constantly impressed by the chapel services at Concordia Theological Seminary.  First of all, I would point to the student led daily offices (Matins, Vespers, and Compline).  They are simple, well led, and faithful.  It would have been great to have had such wonderful offices to nurture a liturgical prayer life when I was at Seminary.  Then the daily campus chapels are very well done and the preaching quite good.  I have only been to a couple of the once weekly Campus Eucharists, but, again, they are very well done.  The special services (choral Vespers or Evening Prayer) are especially wonderful with the rich vocal tradition of the Kantorei and Chapel Choirs.  Musically, I cannot say enough about the leadership of Kantor Richard Resch and the blessing of Kevin Hildebrand who is not only Associate Kantor but also works as composer in residence.  Finally, it does not hurt to have as Dean of Chapel the man who spearheaded the work of the Lutheran Service Book, Dr. Paul Grime.

So, if anything was not directly addressed in the classroom, the seminarists have a wonderful example of a rich and well rounded liturgical life in the Chapel, something that enfolds them into the life of the Church as well as nurturing their own spiritual lives as men preparing to be Pastors and women preparing to be Deaconesses.

Most of what I learned about worship came from individual conversation and from my personal association with good teachers and Pastors who were ever so kind to me in guiding this aspect of my education.  Now the whole Seminary life revolves around the Chapel and it provides a wonderful supplement to the classroom.  The faculty has also benefited from any number of individuals who have written on the liturgy while not always teaching in that area (I can think of my old classmate and friend Dr. Art Just as one of many).

Though I do not know St. Louis nearly as well as the Fort Wayne Seminary, I have the highest respect for Henry Gerike and his musical leadership of the campus worship life there.  There have been a few glitches as far as chapels go but if the worship life at Concordia Seminary (what we used to call "801") is anything like the wonderful service of installation for President Matthew Harrison, they too have much to assist the liturgical formation of the Pastoral mind and character and nurture the individual spiritual lives of the seminarists there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On this topic there are 3 areas of
concern for the seminarian:
1) Curriculum courses on worship
2) Daily chapel services
3) Personal spiritual formation of
the pastor.

In my theological education over 30
years ago was the absence of any
guidance on #3 It was simply assumed
this would happen automatically. It
is my understanding that now both
St.Louis and Fort Wayne have some
curriculum on this matter.

My point is: Ultimately the
spiritual formation of a pastor
needs to be intentional at our Sems
Chapel services help but maybe
mentoring by professors would help.