One of the hallmarks of the late 20th century Confessional movement (or traditional Lutheran movement, or sacramental Lutheran movement, or you pick a title) has been the recovery of the Fifth Chief Part of the catechism. Father Peter Bender's Concordia Catechetical Academy and curriculum have played a pivotal role in this for me and my parish, and for countless others. Pastor by pastor, parish by parish, the gift Luther said we should be glad to run 100 miles to receive is slowly being reintroduced to Lutheranism.
And yet it's easy to get discouraged, perhaps especially after hearing of the successes of one of those (few) pastors who actually has a bunch of people show up to confess their sins and receive absolution. I think that for most of us the progress is quite slow indeed.
Like many others, my basic plan on reintroducing Confession & Absolution has been to use the CCA materials and insist on "all catechumens are absolved" before coming to the Lord's Table; and then also to teach the adults and, of course, to lead by example.
But setting aside those new confirmands who receive this gift as a matter of course on the way to confirmation day, and also setting aside those pastoral counseling sessions that inevitably turn in to Confession & Absolution, how many parishioners actually stop by for Confession? Not many. A few, but not many.
So in the interest of preparing the new crop of pastors out this spring for realistic expectations - see poll at right.