spoken on the subject so I will not repeat myself. What I will say is that so often, even among those who identify as confessionals or conservatives, personal preference is still the go to rule for things that should not have anything to do with personal preference. Now there are legitimately things for which a pastor's personal preference may apply but in this case, as in so many others, we have red letter words to guide us. Rubrics tell us what the practice of the Church was and is and we should be hard pressed to justify a deviation from that practice. No, they are not the Law handed down from Sinai but these may be even more compelling (since Christ kept that Law fully) since these represent our covenant of love and our concordia and walk together as a Synod.
Luther is our example. In this particular debate, Luther's words and practice are in the form of rubrics for the Formula Missae. Luther’s rubric from the Formula Missae, 1523.
He writes, “Then, while the Agnus Dei is sung, let him [the pastor]
communicate, first himself and then the people.” (AE 53.29) Luther’s
Deutche Messe, 1526, makes no change in this order at all.”
Lutheran Service Book is also clear. The Pastor and those who assist him receive the body and blood of Christ first, the presiding minister communing himself and his assistants. Then they distribute the body and blood to those who come to receive. (Altar Book, p. 168)
My complaint is not simply about this particular issue but about the way too many pastors live in ignorant bliss about the rubrics and teach their parishioners that it is really about personal preference and since they are pastors, their personal preference rules. It makes the people into ping pong balls bounced from practice to practice as pastors come and go until finally the ordinary becomes the exceptional and the exceptional is not to be tolerated. Come on, pastors. Do you duty. Know the rubrics. Follow them. If you must deviate from them, you had better have a good reason.
This is not simply about one issue but about so many. We live by the rules we have set for ourselves so that our people are protected (Luther's chief concern that worked against any radical deviation from the ordinary liturgical practice the people had known). Rubrics are not Mosaic Law and they did not roll down from the mighty mountain on tablets of stone but these are the rules we have agreed to follow (like the use of only doctrinally pure hymnals and agendas!). If they need to be changed, let us all change them together but let us not become islands in which pastors rule as chiefs and impose personal preference upon people as if this was the way it should be.
Congregations are shocked by chanting because they don't know the rubrics and their pastors have explained their practice as "what works for them." Congregations do not know what to do with the reliquae because they have not been taught the rubrics and and pastors each have their own practices. Congregations do not know the Church Year because they have not been taught the rubrics and their pastors preach on free texts and ignore the lectionary. I could go on and on. It does not have to be this way. The people deserve better from us as pastors. We are duty bound by our ordination to give it to them. Personal preference is not the rule. Follow the red thread.