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Lit or Unlit?

July 9th, 2006
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Without comment, here is how one Lutheran congregation describes its "informal" and "formal" worship.

Our Sunday worship offers two different types or experiences of worship, both based on the same word of God and generally the same format or order.

Informal worship is at 8:00 and lasts about 45 minutes. As the name bears out, it is more informal, relaxed, without the pastor wearing vestments, or using the pulpit or candles being lit. It serves those whose schedule does not permit them to attend the later service. It usually involves a small group of people who get to know each other well. The songs tend to be more contemporary, folk or gospel tunes or spirituals. A keyboard, guitar or piano is used by volunteer musicians.

Our Sunday 10:00 a.m. service is our formal worship, utilizing a formal order of worship form the hymnal, it is offers a sung liturgy in addition to the hymns. It serves the needs of those who prefer a more formal service or a later time on Sunday morning. This service reflects the liturgical heritage and tradition from centuries past in a meaningful way. Normally Holy Communion is celebrated weekly: 8:00 a.m. at the at the second and fourth Sundays and 10:00 a.m. on the first and third Sundays. Additional spe cial services are held during Advent (the four weeks prior to Christmas), Christmas Eve and Day, Lent (the six weeks prior to Easter, Easter Tanksgivinvg, and at other special times. The worship is led musically by our beautiful Werner Bosch pip organ that was installed in the sanctuary in 1962 and is played by our accomplished organists.

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  1. Brandon Ross
    July 9th, 2006 at 12:03 | #1

    Sounds like McDonald’s culture has gone Churchy…
    “It serves those whose schedule does not permit them to attend the later service.” On a Sunday morning? Do you really have somewhere to be? No vestments, no candles…These people must be in a real hurry. Or they would just rather prefer mimicking American Evangelicalism.
    I rejoice that confessional Lutherans treat a visit to church with no less reverence and fuss than they would a visit to President Bush’s house. How much more important is God’s house?
    If Lutherans are going to maintain our significant contribution to Christianity that is our confessions joined with our practice, then we must not drink our faith from the styrofoam cup of Evangelicalism.

  2. organshoes
    July 9th, 2006 at 14:20 | #2

    That description seems misleading to me. 8 am. obviously is designed to serve more than the cumbersome needs of busy people, but to serve want what those people get when they show up at 8 as opposed to 10. Drive-by worship.
    And probably the same people tend towards the 8 am service, week after week. Because they get enough–and what they really want–by going early.
    Seems like trying to be all things to all people, instead of Lutheran for Lutherans.
    One service negates the other, in my book. Though they must be thinking that, by holding onto tradition at the later hour, they’re holding on to still being Lutheran.
    And that’s more than misleading; that’s being misled.

  3. Jim Roemke
    July 10th, 2006 at 07:20 | #3

    There has been a lot of discussion on this blog about unity in practice. How on earth can we ever acchieve unity in practice in our synod when it is the practice of so many churches to be disunited on Sunday mornings? This is not one church that offers two varieties, but two separate churches. And it really seems to be marketed that way. This early service which “usually involves a small group of people who get to know each other well,” sounds like nothing more than a little clique of people who are non-conformists and shudder at the idea of being part of the communion of saints.

  4. Edward Nelson
    July 10th, 2006 at 09:33 | #4

    It is unfortunate that our society seems to become more unchristian by not setting sunday aside for worship. I do not believe anything is more important than Worship on Sunday. I do understand industry requiring Sunday commitments (been there-done that) and anly wish the greed driven mogulss of industry and government would be more Christian as the founding fathers were.
    ———-
    McCain: But even a day of rest can be only a day of rest. In Sunday most smaller cities and the villages are virtual ghost towns on Sundays. But as we know there is only a tiny portion of the population in church. As for the founding fathers being “Christian” — that is not quite an accurate statement. There were Christians among the founding fathers, but some of the most notable of the founding fathers of the USA were not in fact orthodox Christians, but rather Deists.
    ———-

  5. organshoes
    July 10th, 2006 at 10:12 | #5

    Amen, Jim Roemke.
    How can we indeed retain unity in doctrine, without unity in practice?
    Seems that, in eschewing the legalism of unity in worship–by clinging to adiaphora–whether intended or not, we’re making a new law: of adiaphora. Or a new god, even, of freedom.
    You don’t have to be Lutheran to be Christian. But you should have to be Lutheran to remain Lutheran.

  6. Frank Marron
    July 10th, 2006 at 12:18 | #6

    In the 3 years I have been a member of my local LCMS, I have rarely attended Sunday morning services. I always attend Saturday 5pm services. This is due to several factors, some work related.However, all 3 services, Saturday and Sunday, are orthodox and neither one “streamlined” in any way. Although Sunday services alternate the Lord’s Supper, this is always celebrated each Saturday, which is one reason I always attend. Variety in schedules is fine, but variety in Divine Service should be avoided.
    Frank Marron

  7. July 10th, 2006 at 13:35 | #7

    Liturgical Form – Preferences without Consequence?

    HT: Cyberbrethren: A Lutheran Blog: Lit or Unlit?
    Our Sunday worship offers two different types or experiences of worship, both based on the same word of God and generally the same format or order.
    Informal worship is at 8:00 and lasts about 45 minut…

  8. Brian
    July 10th, 2006 at 18:52 | #8

    I am sorry to butt in again as I am not Lutheran. But I really must say that the notion that the way one worships God is “adiaphora” seems to me totally wrong.
    How can worship of the All Holy Trinity, so central to our lives as Christians, be a matter of personal taste?
    Lex orandi est lex credendi…the way one worships is the way one believes.
    When I resigned my membership in my LCMS parish, I stated that worshipping like low church evangelicals would eventually affect the parish’s doctrine.
    I might as well have been speaking Mandarin.
    The crisis in LCMS worship, which has been acknowledged by many in the LCMS will only continue to grow.
    I see no way out using a Lutheran paradigm.

  9. Steve
    July 10th, 2006 at 20:14 | #9

    Brian, the problem is not “using a Lutheran paradigm.” The problem is that the paradigm has been twisted and misused to conform to the desires of individual.

  10. Brian
    July 11th, 2006 at 07:28 | #10

    Dear Steve,
    I don’t think so. Forgive me for being blunt, but I think it reflects an inherent instability in Lutheranism (and the rest of protestantism).
    There is no method in Lutheranism for determining what is and is not proper worship. There is no mechanism to make corrections even if one determines that a certain way of worship is “un-Lutheran.”
    Just read these posts (and others) from Lutherans and you will see no consensus.
    People being naturally conservative, Lutheranism has held on to the basic forms of the western liturgy for a few hundred years. This is no longer the case. One wonders if there will be a distinctive Lutheran approach to Christianity after it adopts, willy nilly, low church evangelical worship.
    Hence my comment. I see no way out using a Lutheran model.

  11. Frank Marron
    July 11th, 2006 at 11:50 | #11

    The problems with consistency in Lutheran worship and practice are due to the organizational structure of the LCMS: it is a confederation of loose-knit churches voluntarily deciding to “walk together” in a synod. Insisting that one aspect of being part of the synod is in only calling ordained misnisters from one of our 2 seminaries may not always be adequate in ensuring orthodoxy. Strong Elders and a theologically educated laity are also necessary. I have known LCMS congregations which do not have proper oversight of what the Pastor is teaching or preaching. There seems to be insufficient checks and balances in most cases. Financial prosperity also does not indicate orthodoxy,despite our human tendency to equate the two. Mormons and other cults are often financially progressive and yet preach lies and heresies. Any comments?

  12. Carlray
    July 11th, 2006 at 12:00 | #12

    I really do not understand the rationale or the supposed connection in this
    statement:
    “As the name bears out, it is more informal, relaxed, without the pastor wearing vestments, or using the pulpit or candles being lit. It serves those whose schedule does not permit them to attend the later service.”
    What does the pastor *not* wearing vestments, or using
    the pulpit or candles have to do with “informal” worship? WHY does the elimination of these things
    make it “informal”?! As this “small group of people
    who get to know each other well” gathers for worship, maybe this would be a good time to introduce the idea of private confession and absolution. But then, I guess that would be more fitting in the “formal” type of service, right? :/

  13. Chris Jones
    July 11th, 2006 at 14:26 | #13

    Brian,
    I am not sure exactly what you mean by “a Lutheran paradigm”. The problem is having a weak polity. But there is nothing in the “Lutheran paradigm” that requires us to have a weak polity. It’s just something that we have chosen to do.
    I’m pretty sure that you and I would agree on which polity is correct (viz. episcopal and conciliar). But even if we were to adopt that correct polity, it still takes courage and steadfastness to make it work. The episcopal/conciliar polity failed during the Monothelete controversy, and St Maximos Confessor had to stand against it and proclaim that Monotheletism was a Church-dividing issue. In our time, the episcopal/conciliar polity has failed in ECUSA, and faithful men like Archbishop Akinola are standing against it and proclaiming that the authority of Scripture and the Christian tradition is a Church-dividing issue.
    If we in the LCMS are not making loyalty to the Catholic liturgy a Church-dividing issue, that is not because a “Lutheran paradigm” is not allowing us to do so; it is because we are unwilling to do so. Don’t blame it on “the Lutheran paradigm” when it is, in fact, the Lutherans themselves who are to blame.

  14. Andrew
    July 11th, 2006 at 18:59 | #14

    I’ve had enough of nay-sayers ruffling Lutheran feathers by saying that our theology is inherently unstable and that it breeds disagreement on worship. If anyone thinks that other churches such as the Orthodox and Roman Catholics don’t have worship wars because of bishops they are living in a dream world.
    Why are the Orthodox bishops of the world in bitter disagreement on the calendar dates for Easter? (For all the potshots taken against Lutherans, at least we have always been united on our calendar). How is it that the bishops can’t do anything about Western-Rite liturgies that according to Traditionalists like the ROCOR are a complete affront to the Orthodox faith? The traditionalists certainly see these things as worship wars, and they are what we Lutherans would consider the true “confessionals” defending traditional Orthodoxy against innovation.

  15. Andrew
    July 11th, 2006 at 19:08 | #15

    Another pertinent example is the Roman Catholic Church (where I was baptized and catechized). Even though they have episcopal church government (and a bishop of bishops who speaks by divine right), they are divided on worship. Just last week the so-called Vicar of Christ came out with a statement pleading for unity of worship. Contemporary folk masses, jazz masses and otherwise banal, uninspiring, and irreverent worship have plagued their churches for decades. In fact, I was at a Roman Catholic church this Christmas Eve that assaulted worshipers with a garish/borderline obscene nativity display replete with a toy train, blinking Christmas lights, fake snow and fake mountains.

  16. Andrew
    July 12th, 2006 at 08:37 | #16

    I admit, it would be nice if episcopal government did create unity. It is simply not the case though. Even Gregory of Nazianzus knew this when he wrote: “If I must speak the truth, I feel disposed to shun every synod of bishops, because I have never seen a synod that came to be a happy end. They do not solve problems, they increase them!” This same observation led Athanasius to believe that the floor of hell was paved with bishop’s skulls.
    If anyone stills doesn’t believe this they should study the convoluted spider’s web of traditional Anglican dioceses. These groups are all united on the 1928 BCP liturgy, male-clergy, and the 39 Articles. Nevertheless, they have been bitterly divided due to episcopal-personality conflicts for 30+ years. There is no solution in sight.

  17. Brian
    July 12th, 2006 at 09:27 | #17

    Dear Andrew,
    You raise a number of interesting points.
    ———-
    McCain: EO proselytizing is not permitted on this thread, or this blog site. Use your own fora for that. Thanks.
    ———-

  18. Frank Marron
    July 12th, 2006 at 23:27 | #18

    Reading the various comments about reverence in worship services brought to mind an LCMS church which was very conservative and yet greeted worshippers after the Holloween service with people dressed up as the wolf-man and other ghouls in the meeting room outside the sanctuary where coffee is served. This goes back 28 years ago but the entire matter seemed inappropriate. All Christian churches are candidates for strange and bizarre behavior tending to conform to the world to one extent or the other.

  19. organshoes
    July 14th, 2006 at 09:17 | #19

    I came upon a brilliant and eloquent defense of a truly Lutheran practice of worship, written by Kantor Richard Resch, and published on the Issues, Etc. dedicated website.
    There are a gazillion pithy, pertinent quotes within the essay, but this one provides its gist:
    ‘Those responsible for music in the church often find themselves in a veritable hornet’s nest concerning the appropriateness, choice, influence, and role of music in their parish. Such tension and controversy are not God’s plan for his gift, and are thus the result of another plan. Too often, music is used as a tool in the service of the great deceiver.’
    Resch expounds music as a teacher of ‘the timeless and universal truths of the faith’, as did Luther and his own cantor, Johann Walter. Resch writes:
    ‘The problem in the church today is that music is seldom seen as a teacher of anything, good or bad. But whether the teacher is recognized or not, the teaching does go on; something is being taught. When church music serves the will of man, emphasis is placed on how the music is received instead of what is being taught.’
    In other words, it puts the focus on the worshiper; we become our own object of worship. And that misdeed is accomplished through the choice of the *style* of music–not just the content.
    Find the essay here:
    http://www.mtio.com/articles/bissar19.htm
    It says it all.

  20. July 16th, 2006 at 22:52 | #20

    Until Christians stop the practice of going out for lunch or coffee after the church service, or going to the mall, or getting gas, or picking up a new tool at the hardware store, they better stop criticizing people who need an early Sunday morning worship service or a Sat. or Thur. service.
    The last comments about the music, style, intent, teaching, etc. are good. But somehow, there are people who seem to think that traditional Christian music was never contemporary. All the music, liturgy, chants, hymns, etc. were new at one time. And I’m sure some were scandalous. Think about the pipe organ. It certainly can make a noise! How do you think the first people who heard that in church reacted? There is nothing wrong with any type of instrument being played Solo Deo Gloria. But when it becomes entertainment, that is another issue.

  21. Holger Sonntag
    July 17th, 2006 at 11:20 | #21

    I’d second Kantor Resch’s views on music as teacher. Maybe we should start asking ourselves whether music shouldn’t therefore be first of all “true” not “pretty”.
    Rick Warren has proclaimed that any musical style can be used to convey the Christian message — the choice is entirely dependent on the taste of the target audience, not on the texts that are set to music.
    That’s what we’re up against: music as pretty garlands stringed around texts, but not shaped by the texts (another problem, just as important: lack of good texts…), as it was in Luther’s day where he consciously picked up on the emerging humanist ideal of the priority of the text in songs (compare barely intelligible endless Gregorian chants that, though lofty musically, hide the text more than conveying it!). Elsewhere I’ve called this musical Nestorianism. It degrades music, God’s noble creation, to a marketing gimmick that reflects the level of “use” of music in car commercials.
    I also second Andrew’s comments on the liturgical confusion in churches with a different polity than the LCMS. That’s the plain truth — in our area (MN), Catholic congregations are proud to promote polka masses. Where are episcopal and liturgical reverence oversight here? Or is that all part of Catholicism’s post-Vatican II strategy of “inculturation”? Talk to Catholic traditionalists striving to reinstate the Latin mass.
    The problem is a lack of appreciation of the deep difference between church and world which is given by the simple fact that God’s holy people is not now, nor will ever be, the sum total of all human beings. There is no way from this world into God’s people other than by being called out of this fallen world by God’s word. The attempt to bridge the gap between the holy God and sinful man by appealing to man’s fallen reason by “lowering the threshold” by making the church look and sound more like the world (“informal,” in today’s lingo) will result in the destruction of the church trying to do that.

  22. Bill Kerner
    July 17th, 2006 at 15:04 | #22

    I hate to display my ignorance in this company, but I have never been catechized on the definition of, or appropriate boundaries of, worship music. About the best I have heard here or on other blogs is something along the lines of [if it's in the hymnal, it ok. otherwise, it's not]. The other camp seems to think anything goes. Forgive my frustration, but as a layman it would be nice to hear some objective standards of what music is appropriate in church. I mean, I can instinctively realize that “polka mass” is out, and the rockin’ bouncin’ praise band of the earlier post on this blog seems pretty obvious as well. But, some of this high sounding talk about how it’s bad that the emphasis of music should not be on how it’s received but on what’s being taught is insubstantial. What does that mean? If I like the music, that’s a bad thing? If the words are clear and correct, it doesn’t matter how bad the music is? What make bad music bad? What makes God honoring music God honoring? Aren’t there any straightforward answers to these questions?

  23. Rev. Al Bergstrazer
    July 17th, 2006 at 16:54 | #23

    Bill, you ask an excellent question, and oh that there were a simple answer. I recommend an article from “Through the Church The Song goes on’ by the commission on Worsihp The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, as a start. The essay is entitled “Holy Ground and Countercultural Music” (or save the Polkas for Saturday Night) by Daniel Zager.

  24. Holger Sonntag
    July 17th, 2006 at 17:57 | #24

    Good questions, Mr. Kerner. Indeed, simply saying: “If it’s in the hymnal, it’s great” is not sufficient. The question is: how did it get there? Ok, there can be a political answer to that (some in the commission felt that …).
    But I think the way to go here is as follows: we start with solid Lutheran texts that don’t leave anything out, but teach the whole counsel of God. Not every hymn needs to / can do that, understood. But a hymnal would be a fine thing here, especially if a congregation took it as a challenge to learn new hymns to supplement its standard repertoire, because a hymnal should represent a balanced collection of hymns giving expression both of God’s counsel that needs to be taught and to the proper response of the Christian in thanks and praise. Really good hymns are dual-use: they teach the word and apply it in a sermon-like manner and then, in the concluding stanzas, enjoin us to praise God for such great gifts etc., perhaps even concluding with a stanza praising our triune God — wow. It can be done, and we all know the several hymns that do just that. But we also know the many praise and other hymns that only focus, perhaps by using only five words, on our response to the gospel.
    I really do wonder whether we praise God by saying “I praise the Lord” ten times or by recounting his saving deeds. The psalms indicate: probably in both ways. But in today’s climate that loathes teaching any objective content going beyond moral imperatives (“Let’s all praise …”), I wish we’d put more emphasis on saying that a solid Lutheran hymn on justification, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or Christmas is also a “praise hymn”, and a very good and comforting, even saving, one for that matter! In fact, such hymns also afford the royal priesthood the opportunity collectively to teach God’s word to its individual members (so laypeople need not be readers of God’s word in the service …). They’re not reduced to being mere spectators and applause/praise-machines.
    Ok, we begin with the text. If the text is good, then the music will be good too, esp. when composed by a trained composer, as it was with many of our great hymns from the 16th and 17th centuries! These men were not all musical laymen (incl. pastors) giving it their best musical shot! The good composer, whether lay or pro, is capable of translating the text properly into musical language that is both “contemporary” and takes up elements of our great musical heritage. He or she will be able to give the text a full hearing musically (as much as that is possible in a strophic form where one musical stanza has to fit several text stanzas –that’s possible if the text is coherently developing and applying one main theme), without suggar-coating or omitting anything. And it’s my contention that the sturdy Lutheran theology with its themes of sin, forgivness, cross, sacrifice, sacraments, incarnation, joy, suffering will lead again to sturdy Lutheran songs that will make the praise band look out of place, especially because the “band” in church started in the 60s and 70s with a very specific, anti-theological agenda.
    Praise band music is contemporary, no doubt. But here we need to realize that pop music is not the only kind of contemporary music there is. There is other stuff too that, especially when done by a competent composer, can be both easy to learn (without being easy listening) and durable. Besides, the problem with pop music is that it almost automatically sends a signal to the “audiences” that the text matters little (and is often writen *after* you have a good melody or even only rhythm — so much about its “use” of words!). That can’t be the impression we’re sending in the church of the word!
    So, first you need good texts. That’s where the basic problem lies. Since most “contemporary” songs are problematic, not because they’d teach false doctrine outright (some do that too), but because they, in good revivalist manner, avoid most doctrines altogether, and that begins with such basic items as the law and sin and forgiveness and baptism. — Some might say: well, we shouldn’t exprect those themes in songs written by Evangelicals anyway. I say: true, but doesn’t the music claim to be contemporary *Christian* music? How is “Christian” defined here — some generic stuff everybody can somehow agree on (that’s good for sales in a post-denominational age)? No thanks to that devilish brew (cf. Pr. McCain’s fine blog post on “generic Christianity”: http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/2005/10/generic_christi.html). Let’s not underestimate the subtle but powerful impact that this “generic” definition has on the hearts and minds of our people. Generic medicines might be good to save you a buck, but, please, no generic Christianity. It ain’t the same as confessional Christianity.
    If you have sturdy, rich texts, you’ll have sturdy, rich music for these texts, if the translation work has been done properly. The way a text is set to music reveals as much about the theology of the composer as Luther’s translation of the bible revealed about Luther’s theology. I’m not suggesting that only Lutherans can compose good hymn tunes or even write good hymn texts (which are sermon-like translations of biblical texts — please not just biblical block-copy, unless just reading/hearing five chapters from Scripture is your favorite sermon format!). All I’m saying is that the beliefs of a musician and writer are not simple matters of indifference. This is why the first LCMS hymnal was comprised of (mostly?) orthodox Lutheran hymnists. The Wesleys and Wattses came along first in the 20th century…
    A good way to think about this goes like this: When you read aloud a (biblical) text, you will read it better, more fittingly, without false pretense and show, the better you know and understand the text (actors!). And there, as you read it, you put emphases and accents on words that, even in English, compose a basic little melody with a basic rhythm. Some languages have more of that — in Chinese, I heard, the pitch of a word determines meaning. Composers do that with the more elaborate vocab of music, but, if they are good, always trying to bring out the text, not obscuring it by improper, inconsistent action in the music. You can also misread a text to the point of it being completely impossible to understand. That tends to happen when you don’t speak the language but can just read the letters without knowing what they mean (like an American trying to speak German without really knowing German — sounds awful).
    Pop songs of contemporary Evangelicalism by and large fall short already when it comes to the texts. Either they are simply biblical words set to music without any further connection to the whole of the faith and application to the folks in the pew. Or they are simply bad texts that really don’t do justice to the riches of Christian theology, confessionally defined. The shallow music is then a necessary consequence of shallow texts. (There is thus consistency, even though R. Warren believes you can do what you want — it just never happens that way: certain texts attract / bring forth a certain kind of music.)
    I hope this helps to shed some light on this important question.

  25. Rev. Al Bergstrazer
    July 18th, 2006 at 09:07 | #25

    Holger,
    Well said. The trouble with contemporary music/worshp is twofold, first we live in an age where the art of prose is nearly lost. Rarer still are poets who are theologians who can render sound doctrine and Biblical verse into edifying hymn texts. Second, the mindless repetition of simplistic verse is not only caused by a poverty in the fine arts, it is reflection of a preference of crass revivalist methodology over the symbols of the church.
    I must say that “because its in the hymnal” is a good answer, or at least its supposed to be a good answer. A hymnal should be more than a compliation of favorite songs; it is where doctine of the church is manifest. The hymnal is the guide for the Christian to publicly sing, speak and pray what we believe teach and confess.
    In my opinion ‘because it’s in the hymnal’ is a good answer because what is in the hymnal has been tested with time, normed by Scripture and the confessions. “Its in the hymnal” means that I will not visit a congregation while I’m on vacation and walk into a free for all, I will not have unfamiliar, even heterodox words put in my mouth, nor will I be expected to sing something hot off the music minister’s MIDI file.
    Holger and Rev. McCain have written about generic Christianity. A great deal of foolishness, folly and false teaching is permitted to enter the sanctuary by way of the excuse ‘but we are singing about Jesus pastor.’ That’s the contemporary christian version of ‘but mom/dad all my friends are doing it.’ The test is if you take the Biblical references and the doctrine out of the service, or the program (or in some cases the entire church) what do you have left? If what is left can stand on its own you just may be being served by something or someone other than the Triune God.
    I wonder if our brother Steven Starke may have a word or two on this topic?

  26. Holger Sonntag
    July 18th, 2006 at 11:16 | #26

    Just a little footnote on the question of the use of the organ in the Christian worship services. Indeed, the organ for much of the middle ages (and early church) was not used. In fact, no instruments were used at first like in the synagogue (and unlike the Jewish temple, see the psalms! Religious instrumental music was reserved for the temples in ancient times.). The church fathers had very strong opinions against instrumental music because they came to know it mostly associated with orgies, brothels, and especially with (heathen) temples. You didn’t want to create wrong associations here in a missionary situation. That might be a valid concern today as well regarding some instruments where many have gone the opposite direction (embracing instead of deliberate distancing).
    The organ, at any rate, also went through a development. At first, it wasn’t loud at all. It was very soft and was valued in church because of its “ethereal” (and vocal) qualities. As times went on, it got bigger and more powerful. Today, organists in some cases have to be told to restrain themselves and their instrumental power lest they kill congregational song they are there to accompany, not to destroy.
    “Grand” organs are as problematic in the church as “grand” symphonic orchestras and “grand” praise bands. They draw attention to themselves and away from God and regularly “outperform” his silent voice sounding forth in the means of grace. “Soli Deo gloria” then becomes more of an unfunded check than an evident, audible reality (and faith still comes by hearing…).
    In fact, the emergence of big organs has to be seen in connection with the 19th-century emancipation of instrumental music. Prior to, say, 1800, music was much more vocal in general — and vocal music was dominant. That’s been lost on us, and the praise band is just one symptom of a much bigger cultural shift many are blissfully unaware of.
    After 1800, in the age of Romanticism, emotions became more important than the conveying of truths (the Enlightenment had at least that in common with the previous age!) — think of the two sisters in J. Austen’s Sense and Sensibility! This age of Romanticism still lingers on — today’s variation we call “postmodernism” (and The Da Vinci Code is really a Romantic-postmodern novel / cult book: long on (female) “intuition,” short on facts — that’s why tens of millions of people bought it: it resontated!), but it’s all been around for 200 years: feelings, emotions, the inner world, “me;” not information, facts, doctrine, the outer world (including the “for you” word).
    So, instrumental music has this ability to generate strong emotions better than vocal music (for starters, it can be louder and more percussive / rhythmical — strong adrenaline / emotion generators!). And, my guess, today “vocal” music is often composed with the voice as an instrument in mind (hence all the content-free ahhs and oos in pop (church) music), complete with electronic amplification.
    We need to study the history of music and of musical instruments to make sense of today’s discussions.

  27. Rev. Al Bergstrazer
    July 19th, 2006 at 16:48 | #27

    Point well taken Holger. The reasons you mention are why the organ has remained the chief instrument for accompaniment of congregational singing, is that it most closely resembles the human voice. Any church that has an organ and an organist should never say they do not have a choir. But you rightly say the cultural shift is from singing to being sung to, from a corporate expression of praise and adoration to a performance that elicits an emotion, or more accurately a ‘mood.’
    I have to use a few lines to stick up for the church organist. I often wish we had a recruitment program for church organists in the same way we recruit the young of the church to be teachers and pastors. Surely the shortfall of organists is evident. Unfortunately this very important work is also thankless. Many church organists put in long hours of practice, and years of sundays when they cannot sit with their families. They have to put up with the pastor’s lack of planning-sometimes getting the sunday’s hymns just before the service begins. Their fine pre-service music is ignored as congregants gather and ‘chat’ over the music. And the only time anyone comments on their work is when they’ve made a mistake.
    And the instruments I’ve seen inflicted upon the organists of our church! They would bring J.S. Bach to tears; broken, obsolete, worn out and neglected, hand-me-down spinets, theatre organs that nobody wants, and the ubiquitous Hammond B-3 usually hotwired by the local TV repariman.
    They’re there for the the Lord and their congregation in fairweather and foul, they come to play when they’re sick because there’s often no one else to take their place. And many do this for little or no pay.
    Praise your organist for his or her effort, praise God for their gifts, praise them for their perseverance. Thank them by being considerate of the time they need to prepare, and by giving them an fine instrument for the task.

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