Thursday, May 21, 2009

How A New Pastor Should Add Ceremonies

Some ceremonies should be added by the new pastor without asking. He should just do them. If the people fuss he then says, "Oh, I thought that was the way it was done everywhere. That is what I grew up with/had on vicarage/saw at the seminary, etc. What is wrong with it?" Depending on the ceremony there is a very good chance the parishoner who raises the concern will say, "Oh, nothing. I just hadn't seen it before." Then you can go on with it. The other advantage is that it often takes a couple of months or more before they point out that you are doing things differently. By then it is fairly established.

Two words of caution: you have to be prepared to back down on adiaphora and you can't take the people's word for what their practice was. The first, I hope, is obvious. If genuflection or some other ceremony is a scandal, the pastor bends to the weaker brother. He does not leave the brother in his weakness. He starts teaching. But he backs off the ceremony to a ceremony that the weaker brother is more comfortable with. Remember - non-action is also a ceremony. If you stand at the altar before the Body and Blood of the Lord and act like it is merely bread and wine, with your hands in your pocket, etc, that is a ceremony. In any case, you might have to back off and should be prepared to do so. But the second caution is also important. The people are often confused about what their practice has been. They all remember it differently. If you are new, they've just come through a vacancy. Vacancies are a ceremonial mess. The vacancy pastor does things differently and often has subs in to help who also do things differently. So the people get mixed up about what they've always done, etc. They also remember things differently than one another. So you can't exactly believe what somebody says. It could easily be wrong. They do this also with the hymns. They will tell you they have never sung hymns that they have.

They will also tell you they sang hymns they haven't. In the former case they simply don't like the hymn and never learned it. So it feels brand new every time. In the latter case, they sing the same hymns (all of which are now in LSB) at every funeral they go to and get confused about where they sang them. The best way to compensate for their imperfect memory is to physically go through the last 5 years or more of bulletins and collate all the hymns they have sung. That is a bit of work but well worth it. Then you should also keep track of what you're now singing and how often. Then when they complain about not singing their favorite hymn you can tell them when you last sang it.

Anyway, you should add certain ceremonies and see what happens without asking. But you should be smart about it. You have very little choice when it comes to consecration because few of the people really know how that goes or what the pastor does except that he speaks (or chants) the Verba.

The problem here, with the Consecration, is that they will know how they set up and how they set up. There is a good chance you'll want them to do it differently. I don't think you make an error in hitting this head on prior to your installation. The altar guild is usually the pastor's closest ally in the congregation. Of course, there are exceptions. But that is usually the case. There is no glory in the altar guild. It is basically dishes. They do it because they love the same things the pastor loves. They tend to be eager to do what the pastor wants and enjoy learning about things. The one possible hairy point here is if they are using plastic individual cups. That is an abomination. Very few, if any, congregations that are using plastic cups don't have a set of glass cups hidden away somewhere. Tell them your installation is special. You want to break out the china. You'd like the glass cups. Then deal with how special the Lord's Supper is and that you want glass cups all the time later. The rest of the set-up should be pretty easy, with one other exception, the thing you'll really want to add if they don't have it is a credence table. You should not try that prior to installation. Adding furniture in the Sanctuary is huge. This is usually pretty easy. It is practical and they get that. But do not do it prior to installation. You're going to need to ask permission for that. The main thing with the altar guild is to get them to set out an reasonable amount of bread and wine with some contingency plan for adding more or removing some as needed. It is common for altar guilds to simply fill the Flagon and the Ciborium with no thought at all as to how much is actually needed. They don't want to run out. You'll want to fix that so that you have the right amount for the Supper and aren't consecrating hundreds more than you need. Again, if you explain this to them, they will get it.

The other thing you will have to face immediately is assistance at distribution. You will probably inherit an elder helping. He should know what he has done in the past. He might or might not be willing to modify it. Here is my first warning: ff he normally distributes the host and the pastor distributes the Chalice - leave it alone. I know. It is not historic. It is not ideal. I don't care. Because the elder is nervous about handling the Blood of Christ and should be. It is harder to distribute the Chalice than it is the Body. You don't know anybody anyway. But when you do you can actually fence the altar from the Chalice. It is not as though we are serving in Cathedrals with thousands in attendance. You also might be able to get it changed in the future. Anyway, if that is what they've been doing, accept it for the time being. That one is going to take work. The other thing is self-communion. I think you should go for it. You have to tell him though. Tell him that it is really, really terrible for the pastor to receive last. Because it implies that he is the host, waiting to make sure everyone else is served first. The pastor is not the host. He receives the Supper as a lamb, a guest, like everyone else. If you make a big ceremony of the pastor's reception, by having him commune the elder and then the elder commune him, so that it is utterly distinct from how everyone else receives you blow it. You make the pastor special. So you want to do it the way Luther and LSB say to do it: first, during the Agnus Dei, from the pastor's hand, with the same words as everyone else. He will probably go for it. If not, then at least make it so that the pastor and the elder receive first - even if it is from each other, before they distribute to the others. And, obviously, don't bring your wife up there to commune by your side. Puke.

The rest at consecration you should just do. You should both elevate and genuflect. You might even chant the Verba. But I'll have more on that later. If they don't like what you did they will tell you. Then you can decide if you should back off or not. So also I think you can genuflect when you approach the altar at the Introit (or at the Preface or Prayers at installation) and after the Benediction without any trouble or permission. Our people are used to seeing the pastor give at least a bow at those points. and it really doesn't effect them. The sign of the cross and bowing at various points is also no problem at all. Holding your hands in the traditional prayer position might annoy them. You can do it. I think you should. But beware that you will spend some chips for it. Even if you don't, they will sense in you a seriousness and reverence, a deliberateness, in worship they are not used to. You will do this with body language and facial expressions. It is subtle and they will probably not be able to put their finger on it, but they will know. It is because you don't cross your legs, smile at them all the time, etc. You can choose to lessen this slightly, and make it harder for them to figure out what they don't like, by interlacing your fingers, but I doubt it will do much good. But be warned. If you hold your hands in the traditional way they will focus on it and tell you that is what you hate. You might then have to back off it. You have to make your own decisions, of course, and live with the consequences. If you choose to interlace your fingers, you will probably have to do that the rest of your time there.

That is about it for your installation. Later you can add some other things easily. The easiest ceremony to add is standing for doxological stanzas. People love that. I don't know why. It seems to me that is more of a change, since it requires them to do something, but they love it. They will latch right onto it. I know it is sort of counter intuitive, but I actually wish LSB didn't mark the stanzas. I think it was more "fun" for our people when they had to pay attention and figure it out.

A procession is also easy to add. I've never known of any ripples or complaints when this was added at Christmas and Easter, etc, to a congregation that had never seen it before. Gospel processions at high feasts are always pretty easy also, but will probably require some teaching and explanation. So also, while processions will probably not be resisted, the people will have to be taught to follow the cross with their bodies. That won't come naturally.

The sign of the cross is pretty easy. Not everyone will do it. Some people will simply never be comfortable with it. But I'd be very surprised if teaching about it, and the pastor doing it, along with his family, was fussed about. A few people will do it and love it.

It is a little harder to add the pastor genuflecting during the Creed. But bowing there, also by some in the congregation, is not hard. I don't think the pastor genuflecting is a huge deal here but some people are annoyed by it. Why? I don't know. Some of these things are had to explain. Somehow it is okay at the beginning and the end but they don't want too much of it. There is a certain fear that you're getting "showy."

As you may have already noticed, the easiest way and time to add new ceremonies is at "special services." The people want Easter, Reformation, Christmas, etc, to be fancy. You should take full advantage of that.

The hardest thing to add is chanting. I don't know why. It is easier now with 20+ years of LW and with LSB, but it is still hard. Here is my advice: don't try to add it unless you can do it well (that is, match pitch and stay in tune) and have the support of the organist. If you have those things start with the Verba. Chant only that. Then you don't even need a pitch. It makes sense to start with the Verba because it is the central thing. It is the best place to "dress" things up. Chant the Verba then speak the Pax and let them sing the response. If they don't hate it, work your way out from there. Add the Pax next, then the Proper Preface. I would actually add the Introit and Gradual then, not first. The problem with the Introit is that the tones are boring and its responsive character forces the people to participate with you. The advantage of the Verba and the Preface is that they are more melodic. Next the concluding liturgy and Benediction. The last thing I would add are the two Collects, again, because it is very un-musical. What about the Gospel? That is very, very last, probably never. I would only add it if you're a real musician and you've pulled off everything else. Again, do this, add these things, at special services.


  1. Good advice, Fr. Petersen. And my experience tracks along with yours in most points. I'll add this:

    * Find out what you can about Lutheranism in the local area. I've been fortunate to serve in two areas (Greater Chicago and Greater St. Louis) where ceremony and reverence are at least heard of. At my installation I chanted everything (except the lesssons), genuflected, communicated myself, etc. No problems at all – the people kenw that some pastors did these things and they were not afraid of offended. I did get one question later on elevation, but that was it.

    * Be bold. Mostly we are too cowardly. We like to say we are being worldly wise, but mostly we are just chicken. Don't be an a**hole, but be bold. Just do the Mass how it ought to be done at your installation/ordination and see what happens. I gave that advice to a friend who went to an area (rhymes with Alaska, state motto: Go Big Red.) that was not nearly so ceremony friendly. He just did it: chanting, genuflecting, elevating, etc. A small train wreck ensued. After about a year I asked him what he though: was it bad advice? Should he have gone more slowly? He said he wouldn't have done it any other way. Said he had them farther now than he would have.

    * Plus: if you drag out th changes the people will get change fatigue. Better that the changes simply come with the new pastor. That's when they are ready for change. Get what you can then.

    * The Lord's Prayer. Petersen doesn't like to admit it, but he's a Vatican II heretic on this: he has the people speak the Lord's Prayer in the Communion Liturgy. But it should be changed or spoken by the celebrant alone. There's a reason that Prayer is not included in the General Prayers but after the Sanctus: it's part of the consecration. You say it all together at Matins, Vespers, every other service. But at the Mass, it's part of the consecration. But many of the people hate this: they want to say the Lord's Prayer. That's why Petersen caved on it. But you can make include the LP in unison in the General Prayers and then chant it yourself at the consecration.

    (continued in next comment – did you know comments can't be more than 4096 characters? I bet Fr. Stuckwisch did.)

  2. * Petersen is also chicken when it comes to the distribution. He's afraid it will take too long if the pastor actually does his job and distributes all the elements. But too bad. Stop making your elders take on a responsibility that they don't really want anyway. Petersen is right that it makes them nervous. It should. Here's how to get rid of it. First, at your installation tell the elder that this is how it's going to work. The pastor will take the host to the table. He will then come back for the chalice. The elder will carry the tray of Dixie-chalices right behind him and not say a word. The pastor will say “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” to each communicant. If a communicant refuses the chalice (Me genoito!), they can take a cup from the tray. The first time an elder misses a Sunday, just do it all yourself. It won't take that much longer, and then you just let elder distribution fade away. . . it worked here and I got positive comments both from the elders (“I never really felt comfortable”) and the other laity (“I never thought it was right for them to do that.”) I've got a packet to walk elders through communion rubrics and why we do what we do, if anybody wants a copy, email me.

    * Be aware of your predecessor's relationship with the people. The worst thing that can happen to you is this. The last guy was beloved by the congregation, served there a decade, and just took a call. The people hated to see him go; they loved him. You will constantly be compared to him. Changes for you will be more difficult because everything you change will be seen by some as an indictment on the previous guy. If you are following a rocky pastorate, praise the Lord Who makes blessings out of hardships. The people may just be ready to love a pastor again: because people don't like not liking their pastor. As long as you and your family are not personally weird to the point of wearing Star Trek shirts to your installation, you can probably get away with a lot of change up front, no problem.

    * Petersen also didn't say all the pious stuff about prayer. But that is also true and if you get a couple beers in him he will admit it; he's actually quite a pietist, except for the beer. Really, all the Gottesdienst editors are. It's very weird, actually. There should be a joke that starts “What's the difference between a Gottesdienst editor and a Methodist. . . “ Stuckwisch doesn't even pretend not to be a pietist like the rest of us do.


  3. Telling pastors fresh out of the seminary to "just go ahead and make changes" is extremely bad advice. The model in making changes is NOT, "just do it" but rather what Luther did in Wittenberg. YEARS of teaching, then changes.

    It is misleading for Gottesdienst editors to assert that their Medieval/Piepkorn Mass rubrics are somehow the "way it should be done."

    Bad advice, guys. Very, very bad.

  4. I introduced the chalice, chasuble, chanting, and weekly Eucharist right away at both parishes I have served. I did it from the beginning. I did not change what they people did -- I changed what the Pastor's had done before them. When asked, I was genuinely surprised that this had not been there practice for it has been the practice of every parish I have attended for years. I made the point right away that this was not about me or my preference but about Lutheran identity and the practice of that identity on Sunday morning. I included these things in my preaching. One person said I pointed to the altar so often during the sermon that after a while he could not think of a reason not have the Eucharist at every service. The key here is that you are not introducing a program or exercising your personal taste but restoring practice to the confession. Most people will trust you and follow you. Nearly everyone is eventually won over -- especially if you show that this is not your personal battle but about who we are as Lutherans and what we do as Lutherans. Really. It can be done. I have been away from my first parish now 17 years and they have resisted every effort by the current pastor to back off these things -- not because I am of sainted memory to them but because of the teaching that accompanied such change...

  5. Few things could be further from the new pastor's situation than Luther in Wittenberg. In the first place, Luther was not a parish pastor. He has a professor at the University. Secondly, he had been there for years before the Reformation began and was growing in it. Along with that, he was the first.

    Perhaps I've given bad advice. Those who have solicited it have to make their own decisions.

    I won't say your advice is bad. It simply mirrors that which I hear from other synodical bureaucrats: don't make waves, be careful, keep the peace, compromise, etc. You've added nothing to what these men have been inundated with for the last four years.

    But if your advice simply fails to give anything or help anyone think about his future plight and how to deal with local customs and practice, your example is bad. It not only fails to gives your advice any weight, but is actually dangerous. New pastors should not think they are Luther. Pastors who have thought they were Luther, and entered into our parishes with reforming zeal and a crusading spirit, have caused the church a great deal of pain and sorrow.

  6. Dear Grace: nicely said. Thanks

  7. Curtis is right about the Pietist remark. He is also right about my opinion on the LP and the distribution.

    I understand the people praying the LP as part of the historic development of the liturgy. The liturgy is not static. Believe it or not, LSB is temporary. Within a few years our infatuation will die and we will be cursing it. Hymnals are very transitory things in the life of the Church. I do not think we should try to turn the clock back on this. The people want to say it. It is their piety at work. We should not try to stop them. I think LSB made a mistake in this. Let the people have the LP.

    Contary to all Gottes-instinct and as the minority, I am also not bothered by a trained layMAN or two assisting with the distribution. I would not have all the elders do it on a rotation. I would only have those who want to do it, who are committed, who are willing to be trained and vest, help. Not every elder is fit for this. Though it is subject too abuse, I think this can be done in a way that is both reverent and useful. and useful is no small thing. One of our goals should be, yes, I am saying it, that church be as enjoyable as possible. Whoever thought you'd read that in Gottesidenst? It is true. This is also why we let people sing a hymn now and then that is theologically weak that they love. We want them to enjoy church. If you make the distribution painfully orthodox and historic and long and boring, they will despise the sacrament. Don't do it. In any case, whether you agree or not, it would be very unwise to change this practice without warning and instruction first. The point of this post was that you can do some things immediately, not all. This is one you can't. In other words: don't do it at your installation.

    Strangely, I think the exact opposite of Curtis in regards to the former pastor. The more they loved him, the more likely they are to love you, but if they hated the former pastor, they will start out suspicious of you. We are all served by good pastors and we all get hurt by bad pastors. What I mean is this: when some pastor somewhere has an affair, it impugns me and can hurt my Ministry. But when some pastor faithfully serves his people, it helps me. That is more true of your predecessor than of anyone else. Your mileage may vary, but that is my experience.

  8. First comment: Petersen has fine advice here, with this brilliant golden nugget not to be missed, so I am repeating it entirely for emphasis: "They will sense in you a seriousness and reverence, a deliberateness, in worship they are not used to. You will do this with body language and facial expressions. It is subtle and they will probably not be able to put their finger on it, but they will know. It is because you don't cross your legs, smile at them all the time, etc. You can choose to lessen this slightly, and make it harder for them to figure out what they don't like, by interlacing your fingers, but I don't think it will do much good. But be warned. If you hold your hands in the traditional way they will focus on it and tell you that is what they hate."

    Second comment: Curtis's criticism on one matter is spot on, regarding the Our Father at Mass. Notwithstanding LSB, LW, and a host of others, the Our Father is to be said by the celebrant alone, because it is part of the consecration.

    Third comment, on the amusing bit of drive-by counter-advice which calls all this bad advice, and meanwhile takes a swipe at the Gottesdienst editors. Hmm, I guess we editors do sometimes forget that we sit in our ivory towers pontificating about stuff that real parish pastors have to deal with every day. Oh, wait . . .

  9. In my opinion, this is very poor advice for a any pastor, new or not. This not only reflects a low regard for the laity but a misuse of the authority of the Holy Ministry which is instituted not to promote customs and traditions but to minister the gifts of Christ. Our Confessions (AC/Ap 28) are abundantly clear on this.

    I am truly saddened to see this attitude in a fellow shepherd of the flock. I sincerely hope it is reconsidered.

  10. I appreciate both sides of the argument. I am one of those new pastors (8 months) that you speak of and I am daily faced with the challenge of what to change and what not to change. I think that a pastor is obliged to be discerning not only of his predecessor(s) but also of the mood of the congregation. As a pastor I must make crucial decisions regarding what hill I am ready to die on as opposed to issues left for another day. In my rookie opinion, I think there are practices that can and should be changed during the honeymoon period as Pr. Peterson has stated. There is an advantage to being the new guy...sort of an opportunistic ignorance. Having said that, one must also be careful in trying new things only to back off if people get upset. This is a dangerous precedent to establish especially for a new pastor. Nuff said! Great post.

  11. Pr. Cwirla.

    I think Uncle Rod has taken the advice offered in the correct spirit. If ceremonies are there to "teach the people" as the Confessions state, then certainly we are to choose carefully and wisely which ceremonies we use.


  12. I'm not sure I or anyone could know what "this attitude" is.

    Fr. Petersen is providing advice (which, incidentally, happens to be pretty good advice) on how to approach a new parish, but I wonder how one can read his attitude into it.

    And yet "this attitude" is so evident that it has caused deep sadness, on the assumption that it bespeaks a disrespect for the laity. There appear to be some huge preconceptions and assumptions at work here, which I find rather surprising and, I might add, incorrect.

    Nothing shows disrespect for the laity more than a cavalier disregard for ceremony. The pastor who takes pains to smile and act casual will be hard-pressed to explain how he is not pandering to them.

  13. Fritz E. can, and no doubt will, continue to hurl ad hominems as his chief means of defense against criticism, but the fact remains that he and other editors associated with Gottesdienst have misled more than a few young men who venture out into the ministry.

    And there have been those of us left to try to help pick up the pieces, in a variety of interesting ways which I will not go into here. Why sometimes some of us have had to help bail out some of the very people most stridently insisting on "doing the Mass right" with all their personal quirks, and opinions, being put forward as some kind of authoritative word.

    What is this weird need some of the Gottesdienst crowd has to set themselves up as arbiters of "how the Mass should really be done" with a most arbitrary ham-fisted handling of the history on these issues, made it very clear that such "how it should be done" consist of what can only be described as a fawning attention to the rubrical musings of one Arthur Carl Piepkorn.

    Witness, for example, Pr. Petersen's breathtakingly incorrect summary of Luther's history on matters liturgical. In fact, Luther was keenly sensitive to making changes and worked very hard, precisely as a parish pastor, to help the people of Wittenberg understand everything that was being done. [Read Brecht's biography with its wonderful wealth of details on all this].

    The fact is, gentleman, that Lutheranism is not bound to a certain set of rubrics, and those that the Lutheran Church, in place to place, and from time to time, chooses to make use of are chosen collectively and with the consensus and thinking of the church as a whole. You, on the other hand, set yourselves up apart from your Synod and wish instead to take your pot shots and push your peculiar liturgical agendas. Pulling ceremonies out of Anglican and Roman sources and then attempting to justify this with facile selective quotes from the Book of Concord simply will not do.

    Meanwhile, new seminarians reading this blog should be aware that there is a reason why some of the Gottesdienst editors have run off large percentages of their congregation's members over the years.

    But they "did it their way," by golly, and since they have conveniently wrapped their actions and decisions in the flag of somehow "doing the Mass the right way" all is justified. All is well. They are, in fact, heroes, unappreciated and unrecognized by the unwashed masses of us who think that simply using the Synod's approved hymnals, and other worship materials is quite enough, thank you, quite enough of a challenge these days as it is.

    I have seen more young men than I care to remember try to follow the lousy advice being served up here, only to go down in flames, crash and burn in their first year of ministry, all because they were given the idea that unless they wear a chausable, genuflect and do who-knows-what with their hands, fingers and perhaps even toes [left under right!] they are somehow not really "doing the Mass right." They go out into the parish ministry thinking that their mission is somehow to institute the Piepkornian rubrics some wish to push.

    The "go ahead and just do it" advice being proffered here is unhealthy, unwise and plainly wrong.

    Pastor Cwirla is absolutely correct in his opinion and expression of concern.

    I regret that Gottesdienst editors are continuing to convey such extremely poor, and fundamentally unpastoral, advice.

    While we share many of the same concerns, I remain grieved to notice the kind of behavior that is fundamentally at odds with what it means to be united in matters of external ceremonies. We are not free to use our liberty, gentlemen, and urging men simply to storm into a parish and through manipulative rhetorical tricks try to foist their will on their congregations is a disservice to the Gospel which is the only "agenda" that counts.

  14. Cavalier, smiling, casualness is not the concern; it's just the opposite error. The opposite of "pandering" is "powering." The will to power is an all too common malady among those who hold authority.

    I might suggest that those who are so enamored of the title "Father" might take a clue. I suppose there are different ways to do "fatherhood," authoritarian being one of them. Perhaps Robert W. Hovda's "Strong, Loving, and Wise" might provide a more fatherly template.

  15. Rev. McCain,

    I don't think that the Gottesdienst editors follow the rubrics that they do on the basis that they are Piepkorn's rubrics. None of those liturgical or rubrical practices originated with Piepkorn; they predate him. Those practices should be judged on their own merits, regardless of whether they come from Anglican, Roman, or Piepkornian sources.

    Is there any means by which the merits and faults of a particular rite can be evaluated relative to another one? If both rites have been approved by the CoW (for example, DS III and DS IV), are they then immune from critique?

  16. Pr. Cwirla,

    As a layman, I would expect any pastor I called "Father" to act in his Office as a true father, exercising authority and concern.

    I would like to be able to call a pastor "Father." I haven't yet.

  17. I guess it's just as well that I'm usually the "odd duck out" among the Gottesdienst editors, although I rather like the rest of those guys and continue to learn good things from them. I don't even mind that they like to pick on me about the three-year lectionary. I figure I'll play along with that and post something on why I use it, soon.

    In the meantime, I'm sorry that Pastor Petersen's comments can't be received in the spirit they were clearly intended, and dealt with on their respective merits and demerits, rather than collectively dismissed as bad advice. That's not particularly helpful, and it's not very charitable, either. I know the rule of thumb has been, go slow, and don't do anything right away. But maybe that hasn't been the most helpful advice or the most loving approach. What we do as pastors should not be, ultimately, about respecting the people or protecting ourselves, but about the faithful administration of the Gospel. When an "ideal practice" is set aside or compromised -- as Pastor Petersen clearly advocates, where necessary, for the sake of love, for the sake of the brother -- it ought to be in the interest of allowing the clarity of the Gospel to ring forth unencumbered. But where the Gospel might ring forth more clearly with a change in practice, and that change can be introduced without offense or scandal, then waiting for a year, or otherwise hemming and hawing, is hardly evangelical or catholic.

  18. Just to show that Gottesdienst editors can disagree with each other, while remaining friends (I hope), I don't agree that the Lord's Prayer should be voiced by the celebrant rather than the people; and I don't think one should bend over backwards to avoid having an elder assist with the distribution, where an assistant pastor is not available.

    Historically, the Lord's Prayer was not a part of the consecration, but was the pre-Communion prayer of the Church. If Lutherans hadn't manipulated the ancient ordo on that point, it wouldn't have become an issue. At any rate, our Lord says that, when you (plural) pray, then you (plural) say, "Our Father. . . ." The people's pious instincts are right when they desire to voice that prayer together. As the little children have been taught to pray it from the cradle, they should not be told to hush their mouths. Their mouths are shut too often as it is, when it comes to the Eucharist.

    In response to Pastor Petersen's initial post, I take him to be offering candid general advice. My experience and observation suggest that every parish is unique in its "personality," and that a pastor has to exercise discernment and discretion in knowing how best to serve the people with the Gospel in that place. If some young pastors have been overzealous and have gotten themselves in a pickle because of it, other young pastors have been too timid and reluctant, and have not catechized the people or confessed the Word of God as clearly and forthrightly as they might have done. I have learned from my mistakes on both sides of that fence, and I am grateful for both the mercies of my Lord and the loving people of God entrusted to my care.

    My congregation has lost a few members because of my practices and preaching; not so much for ceremonial as for confessional conservatism. We have gained as many or more than we have ever lost. As near as I can tell, the little children are well served by reverent ceremony and respond eagerly to it. Finding a happy medium between the "comfort zone" of the older and younger members is often a challenge. But I think it is fair to say that all of them know and understand, it's all about Jesus.

  19. Cwirla: Cavalier, smiling, casualness is not the concern; it's just the opposite error. The opposite of "pandering" is "powering." The will to power is an all too common malady among those who hold authority.

    Are they not the same error, Bill? The condemnation here of the smiling pastor is that he draws attention to himself. Yet, statements like "they will see how reverent, serious, etc, you are” directs attention also to the man. Both are the same: attention to the pastor himself.

    What about Jesus? He puts His men into His Office. Each one is uniquely gifted for the particular task given to them in the place where they have been called by Him to deliver His gifts.

    Well, that's a Nagel-sounding-mouthful (grin)! So, I'll translate: I can no more be a Pr. Curtis than he can be a Pr. Borghardt. Each of us is unique. When I read the Gospel, I read it with the voice and the Southern accent that I have been given by Him. If I were to read the Gospel with a different accent, it’d be a distraction - even if that accent or way of speaking sounds more "reverent."

    If I celebrated the Lord's Supper trying to force a scowl or blank look on my face, the people whom I am given to serve would be concerned. I never have such a look on my face, why would I force one out during the Divine Service?

    Each one is unique to the parish they serve. One pastor tries to serve Jesus by pushing his joy deep down. Another attempts to serve the Lord by remembering the Lord's joy is his strength.

    Shall we judge one as greater or better than the other? Does the Lord? Absolutely not! The Lord has gifted each one uniquely for that parish where He has called them.

    Our authority as pastors comes only from the external Word, not from our personalities - whether one smiles or hasn't smiled in decades. Any personality can hinder the Gospel - especially if we are trying to be someone we are not or trying not to be the person the Lord made us to be!

    And let's be honest to the new pastors. For every “Pastor we can see how reverent you are when you are doing the service” there is someone who tells their pastor, “Pastor, we can just see by the joy on your face that the Lord is working at your church.”

    Both people need to be directed back to Jesus and away from the pastor. And the pastor gets to run back to Jesus too - especially when the complement makes him feel like a better pastor than his brother serving in the parish down the street!

    Let's take our eyes off the men too - whether smiling or not - and remind the new pastor that the his authority flows from the Word he preaches and teaches. Not us, our smile, the master plan that we use to institute our favorite ceremonies or programs, or our reverence. No - the Word, the Word, the Word!

    And that means... preaching and teaching. Isn't that what St. Paul tells Pastor Timothy?

    “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:1-2).

  20. I think Prs. Stuckwisch and Borghart have hit the nail on the head about personality. I've served in two different settings - and it is undeniable that my personality did not fit the congregation's personality in one case, and it does where I serve now. Pr. Borghart's words on the Ministry, the Word, and service to the congregation are also well received.

    The point of Petersen's original post, and my first comment, is just this: if ceremonies teach the people, then it's important which ceremonies you choose to use. Further, if you have chosen, for the sake of teaching the Gospel, to utilize ceremonies that are new to the congregation, then you will be well served to consider how you will introduce. Respecting the people's tolerance for change, their previous history, their local setting, etc. is all part of the deal. This is true whether the ceremonies you think will best serve the Gospel in your parish are those advocated by Gottesdienst or not.

    Re: the Lord's Prayer. I think Petersen is probably right that this is an issue of the development of the liturgy. I guess I'm on the sidelines of history yelling, "Stop!" on this one. Dr. Stuckwisch is second to none in his liturgical knowledge - so I'll ask: what about the ancient practice of consecration and the Lord's Prayer? I was under the impression that that connection was pretty strong. For example, Leo VII and others mention an apostolic connection. My practice is certainly colored by that understanding - read more about it at "Lord's Prayer" here:


  21. Oh - and on distribution. I'm sticking to my guns here. I think we do the layman a disservice if we ask him to do things he has not been called by God to do: and where does God call the laity to distribute the Suuper? I think this is especially so in our day when our church body is so very confused in its practice regarding the Ministry.

    For example, Petersen makes the point, in CAPITAL LETTERS no less (he reads a lot of comic books) that lay men but not lay women may distribute. Where is this written? I find it merely sexist. An unordained person is an unordained person.

    In fact, it's right out of that confused genius Tertullian. He argues in De Baptismo that anyone who is baptized can baptize, even laity - but then hastens to add that he, of course, doesn't mean lay WOMEN can baptize (yes, he actually used all capital letters.)

    If your parish is small enough to have only one pastor, then it's small enough that the distribution by the pastor doesn't take that long. For real. I'm a sole pastor and I manage. The people are not revolting over the length of the distribution - in fact, as I mentioned above, they are generally pleased to see the lay elders no longer assisting in distribution. Read Piepkorn for some good advice on making the distribution efficient.

    And if they do get upset at the length of the distribution - what a great opportunity to talk to them about moving away from individual cups and back to the historic, Biblical practice of our confession.

    Finally, if you really insist that you simply must have assistance in the distribution, I guess there is also the "nuclear option" that Petersen has hinted at for a long time, and Beane has more than hinted at: ordain them to serve as deacons. I've resisted this because I think it would be schismatic and because of the Lutheran history of confusion regarding deacons. But the Confessions are clear that an ordination performed by a pastor in his own parish is valid, even if it would not be "legitimate" according to LCMS bylaws (Pr. Borghart: remind us what what Dr. Nagel says about that distinction between valid and legitimate!). But I think it would ultimately serve us better than laity distributing the Supper.


  22. Mainly for Prs. Borghardt and Cwirla:

    No one serves the Lord by pushing joy down. Of all the straw men in the barn, this one is the most mildew. But let's be clear: not all smiles come from joy. Smiles can come from joy, but they can also be faked, and smiles can be cultural signals. The clerk at McDonald's smiles as a duty, to make the customer comfortable and feel welcome. It is a deliberate action and to a degree manipulative. Smiling is not always appropriate either.

    Let us also be clear that reverence may be subjective but it is not optional. Irreverence is sin.

    No personality hinders the Gospel. Sin (selfishness, pride, etc) does. Our personalities were created and given by God and will be retained in heaven. We will not be faceless automatons in heaven. Let's be careful what we lay at the doorstep of personalities and recognize what our true enemy is. Let us also remember that the Lord who sends men to specific jurisdictions in His Church knows their personalities and does so on purpose.

    Cavalier, smiling, casualness are a concern, or at least they should be. Because there will be pressure for exactly these things in every American parish. OK. They're not THE concern. This post wasn't about THE concern. It was meant as some realistic, practical, advice about how to proceed. Included are numerous caveats about backing off, being careful, not changing everything, etc. I thought those caveats and my constant practice and public teaching would make it clear that I was not advocating some sort of Machiavellian power scheme. But while we are it, we might as well face it: what we see in these criticisms are the usual suspects, and a an utter lack of actual advice or help for new pastors struggling with what they should do or how to proceed in a new situation. This is not positive criticism or help.

    As to the charge that what I have written was disrespectful of the laity, I don't see it. I realize this is probably part of my borderline-autistic personality, but I think sheltering the laity from the reality of these things is condescending. I didn't send this off to a private list or do it anonymously. My members read this. I am not ashamed of it or of them. I don't have secrets about this. I am being candid because I respect the piety and intellect of the laity. I believe they can handle it. I find the idea of secret agendas and plots and protecting the laity from the political reality of the parish to be disrespectful. In any case, if it came off as disrespectful I am sorry. Because that was not my intent nor my attitude.

  23. Mainly Pr. McCain:

    A-hole pastors have never been stopped by the plead "be careful, go slow." I have hard time imagining the situation where Rev. McCain at CPH is called in to help a parish hurting in the aftermath of an A-hole pastor. I don't know of any time when he has ever helped a parish in this situation or helped a pastor. But if he say so, fine. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that it isn't going to stop. As long as the Lord sends sinners to preach His Word, and as long as the calls are mediated, we will have A-hole pastors who behave badly and hurt God's people. No amount of telling them to be nice or education will stop them. Some screening might help some, but again, it just won't stop it. And here is the harsh reality: there is no speaking to those men. Sometimes they are mentally ill, delusional. Sometimes they think they are Luther and do great damage and sometimes they are just liars.

    Yet there are men who are sincerely looking for help in thinking about these things and sorting them out. Telling them to be careful and go slow does no good because they already know that and have had it yelled at them for years. Telling them this is disrespectful. It assumes they are idiots.

    The Gottesdienst editors are not united on what we think is ideal. No one except Rev. McCain has brought up Piepkorn. Rev. McCain is putting words in our mouths and assigning us motives.

    But we editors are united in our concern and prayers for these men, who are going into difficult situations. We do not operate under the delusion or institutional lie that all things are fine in Missouri or even under the theology of glory that fails to see that the Word of God is always adversarial, to some degree, to sinners and the prophecies of Our Lord about tribulations, etc. These men are right to have some fear. Threats about "don't blow it" and "its your fault for not going slow enough if it fails" are just more Law preaching. They always accuse.

    Our desire is not to design a program of exactly what these men should do, but to help them work through some of what they might do and how they might respond to various less-than-ideal practices. Because what Walther describes as Eden is actually outside the flaming swords. Our desire then is to encourage them and help them think about these things in ways that are useful. We editors do not have uniform practice. We have loads of disagreements, some of which have been shown here for anyone reading what is actually written. But that is no problem for us, because we all recognize that each parish is unique. We honor and submit to the call that the Lord has issued through His Church to each pastor for that specific place. And we can disagree about what is the ideal practice because we have the same confession, the same doctrine, and the same Spirit. In that, we are eager and happy to receive a new crop of pastors into our Ministerium, confident and joyful that what the Lord has done in sending them where He does is best even if it has its sorrows. We even think that of the A-holes who blow it, that they are also called by God and used for good.

  24. On the Lord's Prayer, Pastor Curtis, I know the reference to the apostolic practice, but that wasn't what was happening anywhere, so far as I am aware, by the fourth century.

    I'm not saying that the Lord's Prayer can't or shouldn't function in connection with the consecration; only that it wasn't being used that way in any of the eucharistic rites that I'm aware of. Despite your kind words, there are certainly others who know that data better than I do, so maybe I'm missing something. I am usually a little skeptical when it comes to comments about what the Apostles used to do, especially when the comments are made several centuries after the fact.

    Granted, the doxological conclusion of the Lord's Prayer, which even found its way into the manuscripts of the New Testament, does suggest the sort of practice that you advocate (whether at the consecration or otherwise). But I still don't believe that trumps the plain sense of our Lord's own words, nor the piety ingrained in faithful Christians from their Baptism and beyond.

    Among Lutherans, the argument has usually been about whether the Our Father should be "pre-" or "post-" Verba. But that very way of posing the question already colors the discussion. By the fourth century, it was prayed epicletically, that is, as a petition for the Holy Spirit to grant a fruitful reception of the Holy Communion. Thus, it was "post-Verba," because it was "pre-Communion."

    When the Common Service was put together, this was the one sticking point on which the churches working on that effort could not agree; because the 16th century church orders were also divided as to the locus of the Our Father. Initially, it was the one point at which the Common Service was arranged and published differently, from one church body to another. Afterwards, they agreed to use the form that we have received via ELHB, TLH, etc. My point is, simply, that there wasn't unanimity on how the Our Father was to be used.

    Finally (this is already too long), I agree with the comment that was made, probably by Pastor Curtis: the Our Father could be used as the conclusion to the Prayer of the Church, there voiced by the congregation together, then voiced by the celebrant in the eucharist. That was, I believe, the practice in Walther's day.

  25. I appreciate and agree with the comments that several brothers have made regarding a pastor's personality, and the way that is taken up with the Lord's call and sending into the Office. At the same time, our personalities do not become the "rule and norm" of preaching and practice; they, along with the rest of our flesh, are to be disciplined for the good of the Church, which is really to say, for the clarity of the catechesis and confession of the Gospel. Not only because our personalities, like our flesh, are fallen and corrupted by our sinfulness; but because love does not insist on its own preferences, nor its own ideals, but sacrifices itself to serve the neighbor. That curbs our personalities, as it also curbs our ceremonial, so that all things are bent into the service of Christ, His Word and faith.

    So, I would suggest, there is a middle ground between "being yourself" and "trying to be something that you aren't" (neither side of which is necessarily right or wrong in itself). As someone has recently reminded us, there is a time and place for every purpose under heaven. A normally fun-loving person will respectfully restrain his joviality at a funeral, even if he isn't the officiant, but the more so if he is. A pastor comes into the Office with his own personality and gifts, but those things, along with his person and his life, are brought into the Office, which is not his own, but Christ's; and not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the Church. Some of us have to discipline ourselves more deliberately than others, in order for the Gospel to be given free course. But the rule, in any case, is the free course of the Gospel. Because that doesn't happen "naturally" or "automatically," nor simply with good intentions, the sort of good practical advice that Pastor Petersen has offered, in one particular area of pastoral practice, can be very helpful. Just as the good advice, though not as practical, to "go slow and avoid sudden changes," can also be helpful (if it is not overdone or turned into an absolute standard).

  26. Thank you, Rick, for that both/and perspective. It is both pastoral and "Lutheran."

    The art of "Seelsorge" which is the heart of the pastoral vocation calls for discernment. This discernment is guided and shaped by Scripture, Confessions, and tradition, but is also tuned to the spiritual condition of the individual and/or congregation out of careful diagnostic listening. A healthful prescription in one place might actually be harmful in another. The "full steam ahead" approach to ceremonials may be helpful in one place and harmful in another. Likewise the patient "go slow and steady" approach.

    I sometimes describe this as a dialogue between principles and love. As conservatives, we tend to decide things on the basis of principles (confession and tradition) sometimes without regard to the condition of the person. Loveless principles are no more "correct" than unprincipled love, which tends to be the liberal error in the opposite direction.

  27. Rick: To weep with those who weep. We rejoice with those who rejoice. And sometimes, there is laughter and joy, even at the funeral. Nicely said.

    As for how to deal with a new parish. We don't get the programs or ceremonies that we want as fast when we are teaching, preaching, and instructing. But, that is what the Lord sent us to do. This is never been about what we want. It's been about delivering Christ's gifts.

    And I put the programs and ceremonies together deliberately. There is absolutely no difference between the liberal that comes in and changes things to the way he wants and the "confessional" who does the same. Both are exerting some other authority than the external Word. Whether the pastor offends his parishioners by removing the hymnals from the pews or institutes practices and rites without proper instruction. He's the scandal, not Christ. That's just shameless.

    Yes, it's easier to get forgiveness rather than permission. We want to do what we want to do and have been given the office which is capable of getting it done. But, hold up. That's the way the gentiles exercise authority. It's one of the great Romanizing tendencies among us younger pastors.

    Patience and longsuffering are fruit of the Spirit. Gentleness is too. We would do well to learn these as younger clergy. I met a pastor who was planning changes and teaching thirty years down the line. I was humbled by his faithfulness. The people we serve are more important than we are. Here I was asked to teach at his church and he was ten times the pastor as I will ever be!

    What makes a ceremony "ideal?" Do we decided that? I'd bet my last diet coke that that thing that we really want to "add" would be just as salutary next year after we have properly instructed them. We can wait. We can bear patiently. We don't need our pony or chausable right now. It would do us well to wait and learn patience. We can teach, preach, admonish while being gentle and patient.

    And all the while, we shouldn't be pressured by our brothers into doing things which are parishes aren't ready for. Nor should we do the things we do in our parishes in order to impress those around us. Let us bear with one another as God in Christ bears with us.

    The Word, the Word, the Word. Please, preach the Gospel and administer the Sacrament faithfully in your new parish!

  28. Not all ceremonies are created equal. Even among those ceremonies that are entirely free, some are more helpful and salutary than others; and some are neither helpful nor salutary at all. Then there are ceremonies that we, as a synodical fellowship, have agreed upon together in love. A congregation should be challenged to consider its relationship to that larger fellowship, in much the same way that a pastor ought to consider the customs, circumstances and needs of his own particular parish.

    It will not be a case of whether or not to have ceremonies, but of which and what kind of ceremonies, and how they are to be conducted, and how and when (or whether) they may or should be introduced (or changes in them made).

    There is perhaps no single "ideal" that obtains in every place. It is good to remember that, and to proceed accordingly. However, in each place, there is that which is better of worse, as measured by faith and love.

    If a new pastor comes into a situation in which the "worse" (or worst) sort of practice prevails, and he knows that, for the sake of the clarity and confession of the Gospel, he is going to catechize the congregation toward a better practice, then the question will be whether it is more loving and helpful to change the practice immediately or to proceed more slowly in that direction. It is not wrong to have such goals, whether short term or long term, because there are, in fact, some ceremonies that are more in harmony with the Gospel and our confession of the Word of God than others.

    Let me offer one fairly extreme (I hope) but true example. Names and dates are withheld in love. There was a congregation in which the practice, at one time, was for the Institution Narrative to be paraphrased, set to a popular tune, and sung together by the congregation as the form of the consecration. A pastor coming into that scenario should not, I would argue, permit such a practice to continue.

    Between something as egregious as that example and something like whether or not the people should be allowed to continue voicing the Our Father with their pastor, there are a lot of judgment calls to be made. But my point is, again, that not all ceremonies are created equal, even in the freedom of the Gospel (and, no, I don't think that paraphrasing the Verba and singing them together to a ditty is really in the realm of adiaphora). Where a pastor discerns that changes in ceremonial will serve the catechesis and confession of the Word of God, then there is also a need for discernment and discretion in how to move toward those changes. What Pastor Petersen has offered is some candid practical advice on how some such changes might be introduced. So long as his advice is received as such, in the evangelical spirit in which he has offered it, rather than being taken and turned into some absolute or universal law, then I find it to be quite helpful and, I suspect, much appreciated by men who either are or soon will be new pastors.

  29. Pr. Petersen's advice was simply to "go for it" and that is, inexcusably bad advice. Such advice should be ignored. His "just go for it" was not over issues such as a denial of baptismal regeneration, or the Real Presence, but rather, "just go for it" with genuflection and elevation, as if those are sine qua non public confessions of faith without which there is not proper confession. In other words, his priorities are quite out of whack.

    No matter what the circumstance, a change can be introduced in such a way that it does not scandalize the weaker brethren. Look at what Luther went through in Wittenberg and how slowly change came. He could have pulled a Karlstadt, which frankly, Pastor Petersen is advocating. But a high-church Karlstadt is just as bad as an iconoclastic Karlstadt.

    Let's take your extreme example, Br. Stuckwisch, and extreme it is, and quite rare. The pastor could speak the Words of Institution after the song was concluded, and work for its elimination through loving instruction.

    As for saying the Lord's Prayer with the pastor, that does not even remotely compare, in any way, with the aforementioned extreme situation and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with confession of the Gospel, but is purely only local custom.

    Any pastor who would come in and tell a congregation used to praying the Pater Noster, "Stop doing that, I'll pray it by myself" would be, quite rightly, run out on a rail as being a pompous arse.

    Pastor Petersen did not offer "practical advice" but in fact quite poor and impractical advice.

    "Just go ahead and make the change" and teach later is contrary to the example of our fathers in the faith, beginning with Luther himself.

    Such poor advice is precisely why some of our young men come storming into a congregation and destroy their opportunity to be a pastor because they view their "mission" as being one of righting liturgical "wrongs" and doing the liturgy "just so" rather than first being a pastor to the parish.

  30. I concur with the both/and approach Rick suggests here.

    I believe that *changes* for new pastors fall into at least 3 categories:

    1)Immediate: If grape juice is being used instead of wine in communion, (or powdered water instead of the wet kind in Baptism),or if the unbaptized or uncatechised are communing, such things must be addressed pronto.

    2)Soon: Spiritual Songs of the theology of glory instead of hymns, or plastic individual cups, or laymen distributing the hosts. Such should be addressed as first priorities before anyone can accuse the pastor of having tolerated them for quite some time.

    3)Back Burner: Chanting, or female lay readers, or flags flanking the altar. These may be addressed after much catechesis, to better practices of such adiaphora, once the members come to understand that the changes are indeed edifying.

    Now, the above are how I would rank things based on the congregations I've been privileged to serve. Your mileage may vary. For what is a high priority for a congregation in a particular circumstance may be not so urgent for another church in its present situation.

    Such is the challenge of trying to give blanket advice, I suppose...

  31. "Tell him that it is really, really terrible for the pastor to receive last. Because it implies that he is the host, waiting to make sure everyone else is served first. The pastor is not the host. He receives the Supper as a lamb, a guest, like everyone else."

    If I may cautiously wade in with an observation...

    This bit of advice mixes together two issues that can and should be kept separate: the Pastor's self-communion and the Pastor's communion before the communion of the congregants.

    Before too much time elapsed, the Lutherans of the Reformation period adopted the practice of having the celebrant and assisting ministers commune LAST, so that in their communion they could see to it that all that was left of the consecrated elements would be consumed. This was indeed a departure from earlier practice, but it was adopted in order to address the sensitive issue of how to treat, and what to think of, the reliquiae. Basically, Luther and his colleagues said that in their opinion the best way to deal with this is to do things in such a way that there will simply be no reliquiae. So, with this practice, those who might be inclined toward Roman piety would not have an opportunity to behave superstitiously, while those who might be inclined toward Zwinglian piety would not have an opportunity to behave sacrilegiously. In my opinion it was a big mistake in LSB rubrically to direct that the celebrant is to commune first, before the congregants. This overturned several centuries of a uniquely Lutheran practice, which was designed to provide a uniquely Lutheran answer to the reliquiae question. Some contemporary comments by Luther and others on this practice can be found here:

    As far as self-communion is concerned, the Pastor could self-communion at the end of the distribution just as well as at the beginning.

  32. No matter what a pastor does, some people are going to like it, and others won't. If we behave like Joel Osteen, we'll have churches the size of stadiums. That's the "benefit" of being people-pleasers and abandoning our confessions.

    I think Pr. Petersen's advice is basically that new pastors ought to "dare to be Lutheran" to steal a phrase. Some things can be changed pretty quickly, others not. Obviously, drawing that line is a matter of judgment, and there will be disagreement among pastors.

    In my own experience, I have never said a Mass (apart from home and hospital visits) without chanting and genuflecting. I cross myself and wear a crucifix. I vest in alb, stole, and chasuble. I use real wine and real bread in the Eucharist, and have never used a non-historic liturgy. That's just how it is. Even when I fill in somewhere else. None of these things are unreasonable, and even when I've been the only person (aside from my wife) in the church making the sign of the cross, I've never caught any flack for doing it.

    I did not make use of incense on Day One, nor would I recommend a guy do that (obviously). Neither does anyone else - the apocryphal tales to the contrary. Of course, there is this stereotype (usually regarding Fort Wayne guys) strolling into a parish wearing a monk's robe and sporting a tonsure, chanting the Mass in Gregorian Latin and using a thurible packed to the gills with Queen of Heaven from Day One. I have yet to meet this Straw Pastor in the real world (in the real world, we wait until Day Two...).

    I find that the seminary gives far too conservative advice regarding making changes. One of my classmates called it (with tongue in cheek) "The 75 Year Catechesis Plan."

    One can certainly fall off the horse on the side of caution just as assuredly as one can fall off the side of brashness. Think of the generations of people who were denied the Holy Sacrament week in and week out because the pastors proceeded too conservatively to right the wrong of infrequent communion.

    While I was a layman, I knew a pastor who was waiting for *years* to introduce a pectoral cross with a corpus on it. One day, a visiting pastor showed up wearing one, and nobody blinked. I told the pastor about it when he came back, and he said it was "still too soon." When the church closed two years later, he still had not introduced the crucifix.

    Sometimes you really do just have to "go for it." You can always back off later if need be, but if you are too paralyzed with fear to even introduce something, you will (*will*) be a failure as a pastor. The pastoral ministry is not for the faint of heart. Even the donkey that spoke to Balaam was a vertebrate.

  33. Based on the experiences of myself and many of my classmates, chasubles are easy to introduce. The pastor already typically wears "robes" - so another one just isn't that big of a deal. But to hear some people tell it, this is a case where the 75 Year Catechesis Plan is a must. I just don't believe so. I don't agree. It has not been my experience.

    I do think Bishop Pittelko's advice is helpful. The first part of the quote as I heard it is: "Love your people..." and the second part (which isn't often repeated) is: "...and you can get away with murder."

    If you are a jerk, people will hate you for chanting, for your chasuble, for the car you drive or the color of your wife's hair. If you are a loving pastor (and people can sniff that out in a minute), they will be open minded to every manner of beautiful and dignified liturgical practice. If you conduct yourself with the utmost reverence and propriety at the altar, but you engage in humor, affection, and even unabashed silliness with your parishioners outside of the Divine Service - people will begin to "get it." They will also begin to trust your judgment. The pastor is a leader, not a follower. He is an "overseer" and an "elder" - not a hireling or a child. He is a "shepherd" and needs to shepherd the sheep, not let the sheep tell him how to shepherd them. And this is not disrespect to the laity, but the very opposite. A doctor who changes his diagnosis based on how I react to it is not "respecting" me, but is rather a coward, a bad doctor, and ultimately, a butcher.

    Teaching is very important - especially the confessional writings. If the Book of Concord informs your teaching, preaching, and even casual conversation about the faith, I have found that parishioners really embrace the kinds of things the "experts" tell us we can never do - at least not in the first century of our ministries and not without first running 1.6 million newsletter articles.

    Do you know what my students and their parents said to me the first time I wore my cassock while greeting the kids at carpool? They said: "Good morning, Pastor Beane!"

    I have several parishioners refer to me now and then as "Father" (completely unbidden by myself), who ask me to use incense more often, and who have donated hundreds of dollars for new chasubles to be made. To tell seminarians that this can never happen, that they must change things at a glacial pace (which is indeed true of some things - we still have the abominable little Jiggers O'Jesus), or not at all lest the "destroy the congregation" only turns seminarians into bowls of jello - which doesn't make a man a good pastor.

    There is a difference between being sensitive and wise vs. being a coward.

    I think we need courageous men who love - *genuinely love* - their parishioners.

    Personally, my advice is to act with liturgical reverence from day one. Crossing, genuflecting, and chanting the verba at the altar are things the celebrant does (as opposed to things the congregation does with him). He should fear the Lord more than he should fear criticism, and he should use questions about these matters as teaching moments.

    Sometimes, these changes are best made *without* fanfare. When a toddler blurts out a naughty word, sometimes a gentle rebuke (if even that) and a quick change of the subject is better than making a big deal out of it (which imprints the word and the reaction deeply into the child's memory).

    And don't automatically assume questions are critiques. "What is this robe, Pastor?" may well be approving curiosity rather than a passive aggressive threat to summon a voter's lynch mob. But that kind of listening is part of pastoral love. It is important to truly listen and don't make assumptions. Remember the story of the kid that asked where he came from, received a complete and detailed lecture on human sexuality, to which he responded: "Oh. Jimmy says he came from Omaha."

    Enough with my rambling. Wonderful topic, David!

  34. Father McCain,
    Your deep concern over Petersen's advice for liturgical changes almost matches your stringent advocacy for proper website rubrics! :)

  35. Pastor McCain, speaking the Verba following the paraphrased ditty in the situation I described would indeed be a gentle way to change the practice, but it would indeed be a change, and the ditty would no longer be used as the form of the consecration. That would be a rather significant and substantive change, and at least that much would be necessary. Granted, it is an extreme sort of an example, and I pray to God it is rare; but the point to the example, not unlike some of the examples that you have provided on the opposite extreme, is to demonstrate the need for discernment and discretion, since not every situation is the same.

    Love for a congregation means serving them with the Gospel, with the clear preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and with a faithful practice of that Word. It doesn't mean allowing the tyranny of the majority or of the previous pastor to continue dominating the people. For every story of the reckless new pastor who tried to introduce a more liturgical piety and practice too quickly, I could provide you with several more stories of laity who are driven from their congregations by pastors who insist upon every manner of novelty and irreverence. Many of those dear people, beleaguered after years of such frivolity and abuse, are hoping and praying for a pastor who will bring them the Gospel, and with it a restoration of Lutheran practice because it is in harmony with the Gospel and serves our confession of the Word of God. Those people of God are also to be loved and served; and if love will sometimes refrain from speaking and acting too quickly, then love will other times speak and act as quickly as possible. Making such decisions is often not easy, and knowing how to proceed once the decision has been made is often not easy. Blanket advice that says, "Don't do anything; don't change anything," is not helpful. But Pastor Petersen has not offered the opposite sort of advice; he has not said, "change everything all at once, come hell or high water." What he has said is, "here are some things that might be changed right away, and here are some things that might be changed in this way, etc." He began, however, with clear and explicit caveats and cautions, and I do not understand why his sincerity in any of this should be questioned.

    What if the people are used to a pastor who has never made the sign of the cross before? But the new pastor was taught by his parents from the Catechism, and by his own pastors in catechesis, and by the example of his brothers and sisters in Christ, to make the sign of the Cross at regular points in prayer and in the Divine Service. Should he try to be something he is not, by making a point of not making the sign of the cross any longer? How would that be helpful, and why should it be necessary?

    What if the previous pastor never smiled or laughed, but was always serious and somber? Or what if he was always smiling and laughing, cracking jokes from the pulpit and everywhere else? Some of the brothers have commented on the need for a pastor to be himself and to allow his own personality to be taken up into his faithful service. I agree with that basic rule of thumb, although I have suggested that some discipline and tempering of personality is necessary, out of reverence and courtesy. But does this rule, "Go slow and don't change anything," apply with respect to the previous pastor's personality and personal traits? Must a new pastor act just like the old pastor? That is what this advice sounds like, if and when it is taken to absolute extremes.

  36. Several brothers, including Pastor Petersen, have differentiated between those ceremonies that belong to the pastor's conduct without changing the conduct of the congregation. That is a very useful distinction, and it ought to be taken seriously. It helps us to understand why a pastor shouldn't try to preserve his predecessor's personality and eccentricities, but should be reverent and courteous with his own gifts of heart and mind, body and soul.

    Other ceremonial practices that do affect the conduct of the congregation can sometimes be introduced without any difficulty or offense; and sometimes not; and sometimes it may be worth it to cause a little discomfort right away; and sometimes it may be better to wait for a year, or longer, or never to do it.

    The advice that Pastor Petersen has given is practical and helpful, because it answers the sort of questions that many new pastors have. He has not aimed at the establishment of some new law, some absolute ideal standard that everyone must follow in lockstep conformity. He has spoken from his experience and observation; he has urged love and patience, and he has also urged young pastors to have a certain boldness and confidence in some areas where they can proceed in love without fear. This is not the attitude and approach of a Karlstadt, but of a faithful pastor who loves the Church and the people of God, who loves the good things of Christ, and who loves his brothers in the Office of the Holy Ministry.

  37. Rev. McCain,

    Your analysis of my advice is ridiculous. You didn't actually read what I wrote or you are incapable of understanding what you read. This has been the case in nearly every internet disagreement we have had. Your summary of what you see as my advice is blatant proof. A first grader wouldn't make the mistakes you have. You have no business commenting in this stream if you will not do the actual work of reading.

  38. If nothing else Pr. Petersen has generated some edifying discussion.
    As a new pastor, I am particularly interested in what the brothers have to say. My experience with making changes so far has been mostly positive. I inherited a congregation that exclusively used individual plastic cups (no chalice at all!) A month or so ago, after some instruction with Adult Bible class, Elders, and Altar Guild, I was able to get them to dig out the glass cups. I am working on re-introducing the chalice, but this seems to be a little more touchy.
    And I guess that is my point. As a pastor, yes we need to dare to be Lutheran even or especially when many of our parishioners aren't sure what that means anymore. Part of that process is taking the theological pulse of the congregation. What have they been taught previously? This can take time. Changes, whether "radical" or subtle must be faced with confidence not trepidation over the few who might object. Deference,yes! Fear, no!
    A final note. I moved the flags (only about 5 feet)so they weren't part of the chancel. I was sternly informed from a member of the Altar Guild that they had been there for "fifty years, FIFTY YEARS!" And that was the end of it.
    Still working on many things. In my first 8 months I introduced exclusive use of the hymnal, chanting, did away with the children's sermons, did away with lay readers, replaced LW with LSB (thanks in part to a generous memorial), and a few other things. Most has been done without complaint. Some have even welcomed the changes.
    Thanks for the input. I strongly value your advice. Rev. Roderick Schultz

  39. After all, Jesus would never come in to clean house and overturn established practices, and He would never drive anyone out of the church with such an approach (St. Matthew 21:12-13; St. Mark 11:15-18; St. Luke 19:45).

    Or, well, okay, He would never do any such radical thing without years of preaching and teaching first; never right out of the blocks (St. John 2:13-21).

    Of course, any pastor who would be so consumed by zeal for the House of God should be ready to lay down his own body and life on account of it. And that caution or caveat, perhaps more effectively than any other advice, will help the pastor to discern what is of the essence of the Gospel, what is commanded or forbidden by God, and what is adiaphora. God grant us the wisdom of His Spirit to discern that difference, and the courage of His Christ to act accordingly, in season and out of season.

  40. The easiest ceremony to add is standing for doxological stanzas. People love that. I don't know why.

    People who need people,
    Are the luckiest people (Streisand)

  41. What ceremonies are of the "essence of the Gospel"?

  42. The preaching of Christ and the administration of His Sacraments are ceremonies of the essence of the Gospel.

    But, as to my previous comment, I did not refer to ceremonies (per se) that are of the essence of the Gospel; rather, I noted that a pastor ought to be able to discern what is and is not of the essence of the Gospel (whether ceremonial or otherwise).

    I have carefully tried to express and explain, both here and elswhere, that it is no question of whether or not to have ceremonies, but only a question of which ceremonies one will use. Because we are bodily creatures, by God's design and intent, we live and move in space and time. Therefore, there will always be ceremonies in the conduct of the Divine Service, whether of simplicity or complexity; whether well-ordered or haphazard; whether traditional or novel; whether already in place when the pastor arrives, or newly introduced upon his arrival (or at some point thereafter).

    Ceremonies are either more or less in harmony with the Gospel, or else they are at odds with it. That which is at odds with the Gospel is not free but forbidden. That which does not contradict the Gospel can be measured and evaluated in contrast to other alternatives, according to the criteria of faith and love. As I've tried to suggest, "love" pertains not only to the local congregation, but to all of its members, who may not all agree (and usually don't), and also to the larger fellowship of the Church. I haven't said previously, but should add, that a congregation also ought to love its pastor and bear with him. Of course, a pastor endures whatever he may receive, whether in love or not. However, constantly telling pastors to love their congregations without saying anything about congregations loving their pastors does not seem appropriate.

    Anyway, there are those ceremonies that are of the essence of the Gospel, because they are instituted by Christ our Lord Himself, and by them He gives the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in His Name. If those ceremonies are being compromised or contradicted, then changes there must be.

    By the same token, there are ceremonies that are not only NOT of the essence of the Gospel, but are at odds with it, in opposition to it, and those also must give way. Sometimes slowly, for the sake of the weak in faith; and sometime immediately, no less so for the weak in faith. Blanket rules don't cover the bases.

    Frivolity and irreverence, incidentally, are not adiaphora, but are contrary to faith and love. Or so suggests the Formula of Concord. Such things, therefore, ought to go, the sooner the better.

  43. How much parish experience does McCain have anyway?

  44. I have nine years of experience in my parish and this discussion has moved me to laugh out loud...

    1. When you arrive at a new parish do what you want to do. If they complain, you can deceive them by playing ignorant. We play stupid and we aren't. We know these practices aren't in Lutheran churches everywhere, but yet we say they are very common. We know something and we act as if we don't. We say something that we know isn’t true. Isn’t that deceitful?

    2. It seems that the big things we need to add when we get into our parishes is genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles. That's because these are things that are going on everywhere (#1), but not going on in most American Lutheran churches. How’d it happen that such a church existed before we got there to add these things?

    3. While we do this, we are the ones who are "loving." Fr. Hollywood says his people can spot inside of him his love for them. So, we love them and we change them to be the perfect congregation - that is one that has chanting, elevation, genuflecting and chasubles AND loves their pastor even after he just institutes them because that's the way it's done everywhere - BUT there. Was this church not a faithful Lutheran church before we got there?

    4. Smiling is bad - well, that's been changed to a fake smile is bad. Who has such fake smiles? Could you point us to those guys? (grin) I smile all the time (and my people can see it’s genuine, does that make me sound like Fr. Hollywood? OH NO!)

    5. If we do #1 and someone gets upset enough, we can back off and no harm will be done. The fact is that people we upset don't always come up to us and tell us. They often just let it fester or stop coming to church entirely. Is that genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasuble worth someone losing their faith over? It must be, since that’s the first thing we have to change when we get to where we have been called (#2).

    6. Catechizing people to the things we do takes too long. The implication here is that the people should just deal with it because we do it. We are the pastor, they are the parishioners. They should submit to what we do because we are loving (#3) and we know what's best for them (#2). And if we don't, we thought it was going on everywhere so it's ok (#1).

    7. Sounds like no one ever got in trouble over a chasuble! Well, let the reader beware. All you have to do is read the email lists and you'll see someone say, "I'm suffering for the sake of the Gospel, I wore my chasuble and now people are mad at me.” Was the pastor not so loving? At least, not as loving as Fr. Hollywood? Was that where he went wrong? Are those parishes who don't have the genuflecting, chanting, elevation, or the chasuble not as Lutheran as those which have it?

    8. What happens when the pastor isn’t as loving as well, Father Hollywood? What happens when the pastor is like me? Do we not add the changes - genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles?

    9. Is anyone other than me feeling the peer pressure here? My fragile psyche may cave under the pressure! My parish may lose 50 people after adding genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasuble, but the you boys will at least respect me (Grin)! If I don't make the changes because of #8, am I not a faithful Lutheran pastor? Now, make sure you answer honestly, ‘cause I’ll know if you don’t (#1, #3, and #4).

    10. Can I just say those words real fast over and over again? They really ring off my tongue. Genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles. You know you wanna join in, don't you?

    I want everyone to understand there is not a lick of anger or malice in me as I write this. Anyone who knows me (#3) knows I have few serious bones in my body. I’m just giving a laugh (#4) and poking fun at how serious we all are... especially with ourselves.

    Now, if I have really angered anyone with this, please... forgive me... I thought humor was common everywhere (#1)! Doesn't that make it all better (#5)?

  45. It does not appear to me that Pastor Petersen is the one taking himself, or his advice, too seriously.

    Even sincerely well-intentioned good humor is out of place if it is used to malign a brother. Pastor Borghardt, I know you well enough to picture the smile on your face, and I'm sure you mean no harm, but your comments are unkind and uncalled for. If you have a question concerning anything that Pastor Petersen has offered in the way of advice, you should address that point and ask him for clarification or correction. Assuming the worst about his intentions, and reading his advice in a most negative light, even if you find it funny, is false witness.

    This is a blog on the Lutheran liturgy. That's what we discuss here. Pastor Petersen offered advice addressing aspects of liturgical practice. I appreciate what he has said, even where I might disagree with points, because this is helpful to practical thinking and vigorous discussion of actual practice.

    Genuflecting, chanting, elevation and chasubles are not constitutive of Lutheranism, nor of Christianity, but they are good and appropriate practices. While some of these ceremonies are not commonly practiced by North American Lutherans, they all have deep roots in historic Lutheran practice and in the broader practice of the Church catholic. Where they can be introduced without offense, I believe that is meet, right and salutary; not because they are necessary, but because they are able to serve the catechesis and confession of the Gospel. I do not condemn a brother, nor a congregation, for not practicing these ceremonies. My criticisms would be offered to those pastors and parishes who engage in frivolity and irreverence in the administration of the things of God.

  46. Rick,

    I might add that anyone who had ever actually seen Pr. Petersen interact with his parish and parishioners simply could not think that he was heavy-handed, deceptive, or anything but pastoral and caring.


  47. George,

    Seriously, dude, what exactly is so funny? I really don't get the joke. And I think I have a pretty good sense of humor. I'm all for cutting it up and having a good time. But, I don't find anything funny about what I'm witnessing here. On the contrary, it saddens me deeply.

    I mean, I have come to expect McCain to chime in with his usual, ridiculous, and less-than-helpful (to put it mildly) comments, but I'm having trouble understanding the beef you and Cwirla obviously have with your brothers. I simply have to be missing something here, 'cause I've read Dave's post over and over and I'm just not seeing anything in it to warrant the kind of rebuke you guys have delivered.

    In any event, to chalk your last post up to being humorous is deceitful, my friend. There is more than an attempt to be funny at work there, and you know it. It's kinda like when Ricky Bobby said, "With all due respect . . ." and then preceded to rip the new owner of his race team to shreds with his words. The owner's response was, "Just because you begin with, 'With all due respect,' that doesn't give you the right to say whatever you want to say" (or something to that affect). To which Ricky Bobby replies, "It sure as heck does!"

    As Rick stated so eloquently (as always), "Even sincerely well-intentioned good humor is out of place if it is used to malign a brother." I could not agree with him more.

    I really wish that those of us who actually adhere to the same theology of worship (and I'm sure we all do!) could get past whatever petty, personal differences we have, and actually begin working together for the good of Christ's Church. This flying off the handle stuff, which always includes playing God and reading hearts and intentions (as if that is even remotely possible)is not only uncharitable and unloving, but it is, perhaps, worst of all, a stumbling block to our making the good confession in the midst of a great many who have traded in a true theology of worship for the methabapticostal nonsense being promoted more and more in our synod.

    That doesn't mean that we have to agree with one another about everything. But, it does mean that we should do our best to stop building straw men just so that we can feel good about ourselves when we knock 'em down. I have NEVER heard any of the brothers who see genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles as beneficial to the ceremony of the Divine Service claim that these are absolutely necessary and that those who don't do them are less than Lutheran. Contrary to Rev. McCain's delusions and fantasies, the editors of Gottesdienst have NEVER advocated that if you don't hold your fingers "just so," you are not conducting the Mass appropriately (how many times has that little nugget "graced" internet blogs from his keyboard?).

    This crap just simply has to stop. We're on the same team, for Pete's sake! Aren't we?

    I'm just sick of it! First it was the lunacy of people losing their minds over posted pictures of beautiful, new vestments and paraments. Now, an uproar ensues over pastoral advice from a faithful brother whose motivation is not even remotely close to the kind of "liturgical Nazi-ism" he's being accused of by some. But, of course, it's all okay, 'cause we're just being funny - NOT!

    Doesn't the Scripture say, "Love (not humor) covers a multitude of sins"?

    Okay, I'm done now - going to go take my kids tubing on the lake and try to forget the sadness I feel over the deep, and unnecessary, divide that obviously exists among confessional Lutherans. What a shame!

    In Christ,

  48. Tom,

    Settle down and take a deep breath.

    What I have said, and will continue to assert, is that Pr. Petersen gives bad advice in this post. His "sic et non" approach in offering the advice is unclear, to say the least.

    The premise that a new pastor should seek to add new ceremonies is a flawed premise. From that flawed premise arises bad advice.

    If a pastor encounters outright false doctrine in the congregation, sure, make changes as soon as possible, but even there, there must be changes slowly.

    The example of Luther in Wittenberg is very instructive, not to be dismissed as irrelevant to these issues.

    The reasons I speak out against the advice Pr. Petersen gives is because I've seen far too many new pastors roll into a new parish and institute changes without careful teaching.

    I agree with George B. I believe the techniques being suggested amount to deception and sophistry. I find that part of the advice to be particularly disturbing.

    Of course we are all on the "same team" but this does not mean that we are not help each other be better team members.

    I strongly disagree with Pastor Petesen's advice and the premises on which it is based. I believe that, on the whole, Gottesdienst and its assumptions flow more from a certain fascination with Medieval Roman Mass rubrics than anything else.

    I do not believe such assumptions are helpful in our situation today.


  49. Heath and Rick,

    It's been already established that I'm unloving (#8). I admit that. It's also established that Father Hollywood is loving (#3).

    But, we should be all horrified by this: 'Some ceremonies should be added by the new pastor without asking. He should just do them. If the people fuss he then says, "Oh, I thought that was the way it was done everywhere. That is what I grew up with/had on vicarage/saw at the seminary, etc. What is wrong with it?" Depending on the ceremony there is a very good chance the parishoner who raises the concern will say, "Oh, nothing. I just hadn't seen it before." Then you can go on with it. The other advantage is that it often takes a couple of months or more before they point out that you are doing things differently. By then it is fairly established."

    This is dangerous. It's deceitful. It lacks any sort of concern for the laity. It's the same thing that PLI does, but they're wise enough not to talk about it openly. It misleads seminarians and pastors into caring more about their favorite ceremonies than their people.

    My issue isn't with Pastor Petersen. I know for a fact that he is more loving than Father Hollywood. So, let's get past who is loving (Petesen and HW) and who isn't (me), and tackle the problem (with or without humor):

    1. When we say something that we know isn't true or lead the laity to believe that we are clueless when we are not, isn't that deceitful?

    2. Why are we so concerned with adding genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles to our parishes? Were these parishes that didn't have the big four (genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles) less faithful? What if they have individual cups? The plastic ones here are described as an "abomination." (like homosexuality?) So, clearly, that'll be something else we immediately remove, right?

    3. Does anyone else get concerned when a pastor identifies himself as loving?

    4. Why are we concerned with the fake smiles of others when we are are busy deceiving the laity into thinking we are clueless about what we are deliberately "adding?" You know, "if they don't tell us right away, it's already established." I get that I'm unloving, but isn't a fake smile the same sin as playing clueless?

    5. Why is our concern about scandalizing people's faith something that seems to come second to our favorite four things (genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles? Don't say it doesn't, because we are more concerned with what we can add than what they might be offended by!

    6. What's the harm in being patient and gentle with our laity and teaching them? Is it solely because we might not get our big 4 (genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles) as fast and deception ("oh I thought these were everywhere") works better?

    7. Men don't only get in trouble for being unloving in their parishes, they get in trouble also for following bad advice and changing things immediately without catechesis and loving their people. How do you love them without even knowing them? How do you know they won't get scandalized when you probably haven't even met them all by the first service. Is it a Zen thing? Do we have spidey senses? Do we just "know? (You know, the gnostic ... wink .. wink.. I know)

    8. No questions on eight. I know all about being unloving and now unkind (grin).

    9. Do we realize the consciences we trouble with this sort of peer pressure? I visited a parish where the pastor apologized to me for not genuflecting. He need not do that, right? He should care more about his people than what I think? Right? Or do we have to have genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles, in more parishes so that it can become more common, so that we can do #1 more?

    10. If just "doing it" and getting forgiveness later is bad when we deal with our beloved, why would we do it to Christ's bride?

    If humor doesn't work, then I suggest simply addressing the questions. After all, the Word is the authority among us, right? Not simply whether someone is loving or not...

  50. Dear George:

    You seem to be putting words in my mouth, but at the same time, I have no idea what those words are. I guess that's what it must feel like to "speak in tongues." ;-)

    My comments about love are not about me, but I am simply repeating sage advice given to me (and a slew of my classmates) by a wise pastor - who in turn did not originate it himself. I don't remember anyone mocking Pittelko at the time for saying this.

    People love their pastors not because we are so loveable (we pastors certainly know better), but because we bring them Jesus.

    I guess I just don't see why you're mocking me for repeating Bishop Pittelko's advice.

    I never said people can spot love inside me, but I know they can spot the love of Christ that you and I and all pastors bring with us in Word and Sacrament - especially when we visit them in their distress. I'm sure in nine years, you've made planty of these types of calls, and you should know what I mean.

    A lot of young pastors tend to be a little shy and introverted. I think it is helpful for them to get over this, and become part of their parishioners' lives. That's not my advice, but once again, simply advice from older pastors that I'm repeating.

    My parishioners love me as unworthy of their love as I am. How do I know this? Well, they tell me so. They look after my needs. They treat my wife and son like members of their own families. We pastors tend to go through a lot of things with our flocks. My point is that young pastors need to remember the call to love their parishioners - and that love will help guide them through the implementation of changes - and will help them discern the pace of these changes.

    St. Paul reminds us that the call to be loving is of primary importance (1 Cor 13:2).

    Sometimes, the loving thing is to take it slow and steady, and sometimes the loving thing is to act quickly and decisively. Love should inform our actions, not fear.

    Anyway, I hope this clarifies things a bit. Pax!

  51. George,

    If I understand your concerns correctly, I think I can group them under two headings.

    * Petersen is advocating deception with the "I thought it was like that everywhere" remark.

    * Changing ceremonies is so disruptive and of such little relative worth, that changing them quickly or with little explanation before hand is seldom, if ever justified. Indeed, you find such quick changes to be, prima facie, unpastoral.

    On the first point, as I wrote above, given what I know of Pr. Petersen and the relationship to his parish, I just can't bring myself to understand his words as advocating deception. I'm seeking to explain my neighbor's remarks in their most positive light and defend his reputation. That's how I see it. If you want a fuller explanation of his words, you'll have to contact him personally.

    On the second point, there just seems to be a difference of opinion. I'm concerned to introduce the ceremonies you mention because I believe they teach the Gospel effectively, indeed, more effectively than other ceremonies. Since my calling is to administer the Sacraments and teach the Gospel, I am of course very interested in teaching the Gospel in the most effective way. And since I think these ceremonies are more effective, I will seek to introduce them in the most efficient way that will help my people.

    I think that in many cases it is more effective, efficient, and better for the people if changes come quickly when a new pastor arrives. In other areas, I think the teaching needs to come first.

    So, for example, right when I arrived we stopped tossing plastic individual cups into decorative trash cans after the distribution. I told the elders why I thought this was important. But I didn't wait to have a Bible study about it with the whole congregation. It just changed the next week with a brief word to the congregation before the service. It went fine. I think it was effective, efficient, and good to move quickly and go into fully teaching later. But it will take me years, if ever, to get rid of the (now) glass cups altogether in favor of the Biblical chalice. I have opted for a slow approach on that one.

    So, some things fast minimal teaching up front and fuller teaching later; some things slowly with lots of teaching up front.

    It appears that you disagree. In your experience changing things quickly is more trouble than it's worth in nearly every case. I've had the opposite experience - and it seems like Petersen has too. Surely this is an area where brothers can disagree with casting aspersions. Surely, we can have a discussion about what we find to be the best way, what our experiences have been, etc. - and not have that discussion degrade into sarcasm, anger, and accusation. Can't we?


  52. Should be "without casting aspersions" of course.


  53. Pastor Borghardt, I haven't said or suggested that you are unloving. I know you better than that. But your previous comments were unkind and unhelpful, and they were false witness against your brother in Christ. Thank you for addressing your concerns in a more forthright and helpful fashion now. I agree that the way Pastor Petersen worded his advice could give a bad impression, and that it could be taken as disingenuous. I don't believe he intended any such thing, but greater clarity could be had. That's my opinion. I'm also reminded, to my shame, that I am frequently more inclined to read the comments of my friends more charitably than I would if the same comments were made by people I either do not know or find myself at odds with.

    I think that Pastor Curtis has helpfully summarized the points of disagreement. I also agree with him that we can, and should, discuss and debate those points as brothers in Christ and in office. Surely we can do that.

    Pastor McCain, although I have an appreciation for and interest in the history of the Roman Mass, because it is part of Church history and of our own Lutheran heritage, I have no special fascination with it, nor any romantic inclinations toward it. It is what it is, and it can help to inform our practice, because it certainly does lie behind our own Lutheran liturgical history. But my driving passion and overarching concern is how best to serve the catechesis and confession of the Word of God and the proclamation of the Gospel. I'm sorry when I give some other impression. When I bend the knee, it is not to the Roman Mass or Arthur Carl Piepkorn, but to my Lord Jesus; my body bows with my heart before Him, who in love has condescended to serve me with His own flesh and blood. I don't know what else to say on that particular point.

    I chant because it honors and serves the Word of God, it is how I was taught, and it is called for in the rubrics of the Church's service books. I wear a chasuble because it covers me and beautifully adorns the administration of the Sacrament. In my own experience, the chasuble has never been a point of contention; but I'm sure that it could be and has been in other places. As I've said throughout this discussion, there is no blanket rule that adequately addresses every circumstance, but pastors must exercise discretion and discernment. I elevate the Sacrament for the reasons that Dr. Luther commends the practice, and for the same reasons that I genuflect. Although I know it is a ceremony that has caused consternation elsewhere, it has never been an issue in my congregation.

    Although I love and appreciate my seminary professors, and I learned a great deal from them, I came out of the seminary knowing very little about rubrics, rites and ceremonies. I'm sure that was my own fault for not studying and learning as much as I could have, but, whatever the reason, it was a deficiency in me. Because a knowledge and understanding of these areas is helpful and important, not as a matter of legalistic necessity, but as a means of serving and confessing the Gospel. So I am very grateful for and appreciative of colleagues like Pastor Petersen, who have not only taken the trouble to study and learn, in ways that I failed to do, but who also share their insights and perspectives with the rest of us. No one's words are immune to misunderstanding and abuse, nor do any of us always speak as clearly and well as we should, but I like Pastor Petersen's straightforward candor. It is refreshing, even when I don't agree with him.

  54. Rick,

    It's ok. I take none of this personally. The Lord has set me from all of that! I have no problem being a bad guy. Nor do I have a problem distinguishing between persons. Those who are something are nothing to me. That's the way "we" roll. (smile).

    I like you. You like me. I respect you. You respect me. I like Dave. Dave likes me. And let us not forget, everyone loves Hollywood (smile). We're all brothers. Some brothers are nice, some brothers aren't. We're all still family. And none of this respect or love is relevant to our discussion!

    What is relevant is the issue of whether or not we are going to instruct new pastors to do things which are deceptive. Pastor Petersen's post wasn't worded poorly, he says what he wants to say. That's one of his gifts! He says what he says in the beginning of the post, it's repeated at the end. It's the modus operandi ("Some ceremonies should be added by the new pastor without asking. He should just do them.") and it's dangerous. What's worse is that some of his teammates defend him.

    If Pastor Petersen doesn't mean what he writes, he should say so instead of defending it! We can be free enough to say, "You know, I botched that... I didn't bring my A-game to this."

    Here's the Law: When we say we don't know something that we know, when we play dumb in our parishes, we cannot escape as pastors that we are deceiving people in God's name. We are no different than the liberals. We are worse - we should know better. We should know the Law.

    Catechesis is a long long process. It takes His Blood, His sweat, and His tears. It's not just a trick or being loving like Hollywood or even semi-funny like me. It's all about the Word made Flesh being delivered in His gifts and lived out in the lives of the pastor and God's people.

    And as pastors, we need to separate ourselves from how much we like each other (or don't) and call one another back from bad bad theology. Otherwise, this is just a pat on the back-fest. And if it is.. that's cool, I just don't need any pats on the back. What we need is to love one another enough to say the hard things which need to be said.

    Just because we are on the same "team" doesn't mean we can't say, "You know, that play you are calling is a really bad play." Even if it's called by one of our best friends who is playing quarterback.

    This is a really really bad and deceptive play. It's dangerous and deceitful. Let the reader be warned.

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  56. So, which is it?

    Should a new pastor simply be himself, comfortable in his own skin, and do his own thing? Or should he strive and contrive to be as much like the previous pastor as possible, and do that pastor's thing?

    Or is there a different set of rules altogether that come into play when certain catholic ceremonies are involved?

    A pastor who likes to wear underpants on his head and neon orange socks should be allowed to express himself accordingly. But a pastor who likes to wear a chasuble and bend the knee at the name of Christ is reckless and unloving. Is that pretty much the summary?

    Not only that, but if a new pastor comes into a congregation that has gotten used to its pastor wearing underpants on his head and neon orange socks, the new guy had better do the same and not change a thing without extensive catechesis first.

    On the other hand, if a new pastor comes into a congregation that has become accustomed to genuflecting, chasubles, chanting and elevation, it's probably the fault of the Gottesdients editors, and that should be driven out of the people as hastily as possible. They may not even know how unloved they have been.

  57. This comment is remarkable:

    "If a pastor encounters outright false doctrine in the congregation, sure, make changes as soon as possible, but even there, there must be changes slowly."

    In the present context, we could perhaps take as an example, say, people practicing the tenets of transcendental meditation (I am citing an actual example). Now there's some fairly 'outright' false doctrine at work there. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught that as the mind quiets down, one gains the experience of transcendental Being. So let's say this had been previously taught (remember, this is an actual example, not a made-up one) in a parish which is ostenbily called Lutheran (LCMS), and to which a new pastor comes.

    Is he to seek to change this, too, only slowly? And why? So as not to offend? Since he is now the pastor in place, is he to continue, even for a short time, to teach (and demonstrate) the practices of TM, until he can explain what's wrong with them?

    Sometimes the Gospel must offend, it seems to me.

    Now before anyone goes and alleges that I said the Gospel must always offend, or that the pastor must always be offensive, I'll set the record straight here. No, I did not say that.

    But sometimes there's nothing else you can do but offend. I think Elijah would agree.

  58. I think that Jesus would also agree, Pastor Eckardt, as I tried to suggest earlier with my references to His cleansing of the Temple. No one had anything to say in response to that point, although it seems to me that the example of our Lord, who is a good Pastor and loves His Church sincerely, ought to be instructive for those of us who are shepherds under Him.

    I made the mistake of trying to be funny and sarcastic, and see what it accomplishes. Humor doesn't work well for me, but if I'm serious I'm accused of being grumpy or pietistic.

    I have discovered a sure-fire way of getting a response to my comments, however. All I have to do is agree with Pastor Petersen or say something nice about him, and it's almost guaranteed that I'll be chastized or contradicted for it ;-)

    Oh, shoot, there I go trying to be funny again.

  59. Pastor Borghardt, when your children go off to college and get married, and when, by the grace of God, they are then well-served by faithful evangelical pastors wherever they may end up in the world, then you'll know how much I really do like you and Pastor Petersen. Not for your personalities, though you do both have your endearing quirks and unique charms. But I am so profoundly grateful to the two of you for serving my children (including their spouses) with the Gospel, that I cannot help but "like" you guys. Really, that doesn't even come close to saying it rightly.

    And because I know the two of you to be men who serve the Church of Christ by serving up His Gospel, I simply cannot read what either of you write (or hear what either of you say) without receiving it in that light. Doesn't mean I always agree with either one of you; nor that I would refrain from offering a critique. But I read and listen to any and all of your comments in view of the fact that you preach and teach the Gospel.

    But, like I say, you'll know what I mean when your own children are being so well served. Call me a sentimental softy, or whatever, but there is hardly anything in the world for which I am more grateful than the evangelical pastoral care of my children (and grandchild).

    So, thank you, Pastor Borghardt and Pastor Petersen. God bless you both.

  60. I am having a little difficulty sorting through Pr. Borghardt's complaints. But it seems as though his main complaint, and his most serious one, is that I am advocating for pastors to lie to their people. His other stuff about smiling and grinning and such I can't really follow. I am also unsure of where he is joking and where he is serious. So I will leave the rest of his stuff alone unless he chooses to clarify it.

    But I will respond to the charge that I advocate lying. I have re-read the original post and I see no call for deception. I would have certainly liked a better construction put on what I wrote, that is, a construction rather than that I was advocating pastors sin against their people, but what is done is done. I am sorry for the confusion. I do not want, or advise, or think it is good in any way, for pastors to sin against their people, including lying to them.

    What I meant was that pastors should suppress their sinful nature and put the best construction on their congregation's and the LCMS' practices. A bit of forced naivete is helpful, and highly advised, when your wife is getting dressed for a date and she asks if the dress makes her butt look big, and it sort of does. The same spirit applies to pastors and their dealings with their congregations. Again, I am not advocating lying. But I see the confusion and am sorry for my part in it. What I am advocating is being careful and political (in the best sense of the word) in our responses and not coming out immediately with the full truth to every inquiry. There is a time to tell your wife she shouldn't wear that dress anymore. But it requires a lot of tact, and it is best not blurted out immediately.

    The expectation of reverent and historic ceremonies in the LCMS, like unto closed communion, is not completely pretend, even as your husbandly response the inquiry about how the wife's dress looks. Closed communion is our official doctrine. A reverent celebration of the Holy Communion is also our official position and should be expected. The butt doesn't looks big in your eyes, because you love your wife and find her beautiful, but there might be something to her fear that the dress no longer fits.

    There is also an important aspect here beyond tact and politics (in the best sense of the word) that I don't want missed. As I have tried to demonstrate, individual congregational members don't always know exactly what their practice has been. Now, this isn't applicable if you continue your vicarage as a called youth pastor or as some other sort of assistant. Obviously, if you return to your vicarage you have a pretty good idea what the practice has been there and will continue under the senior pastor and with his agenda. But that is a very atypical situation and one where the new pastor probably can't make a single change, maybe ever. But for parishes with sole pastors, especially for those who have had more than one pastor in the previous 25 years, the history of their practice is very confused. New pastors have often made the mistake of completely believing what someone, often only one person, told them about the congregation's practice. Again, as I wrote originally, this does not mean that the person is lying to the pastor or has bad motives. He probably assumes his memory is accurate. But our memories rarely are, and when it comes to church, in particular, we often blend our childhood experiences into our current situation. So also, the laity rarely pay close enough attention to the small ceremonies at the altar to accurately describe them.

    It takes at least 3 or 4 years to figure out the real dynamics in a congregation. It also takes that long to just begin sorting out mythology and legend from actual congregational history.

  61. Now here's an amazing thing: Petersen is coming off as the one concerned with his piety, rather than Stuckwisch. I love it. Who said pigs would never fly?

    And Rick, I did find your reference to cleansing the Temple to be spot on, but I was too busy laughing to respond.

  62. Wait. What's that you say?

    Father Eckardt, you were laughing?

    For shame ;-)

  63. Petersen: It takes at least 3 or 4 years to figure out the real dynamics in a congregation. It also takes that long to just begin sorting out mythology and legend from actual congregational history.

    OUTSTANDING! There is some real wisdom here! These are wise words! And not only because they prove my point! (grin)

    And since you've known your wife for a long long time and you've had a lot of experience with the dating, courtship, and engagement with your wife, you are better resourced to determine what to say to her and what not to say...and whether and how to make changes in your home (seat up, seat down, squeeze from the end or the middle of the toothpaste).

    With our congregations, we should exercise the same restraint. For all of us have things in our parishes when we get that we'd like to tweak and change. True love, the kind of love that Fr. Hollywood has and that I would strive for, is to bear with people and love them. Teach them the faith - which is the way of the theology of the Cross. Suffering, weeping with them when the weep, and rejoicing with them when they rejoice.

    For this very reason, this statement is false: "Some ceremonies should be added by the new pastor without asking. He should just do them." The Pastor should love Christ's people and bear with them, teaching them. Weren't we all Methodists at one point in our lives before we either met Scaer, Nagel, Stuckwisch, or Cwirla? If God had mercy on us and brought us along by our teachers, we can teach the people we are given to serve.

    As for smiling, don't fret about not getting what I say. I don't get what I say half the time either. (grin)

    Let me be very clear: it would do us all well to join Fr. Burnell and start smiling. Smiling is good for us. Joy is, after all, one of the fruit of the Spirit.

    I'm smiling now. Who's with me? Come on... you know you wanna too...

  64. Dear George:

    You write "True love, the kind of love that Fr. Hollywood has and that I would strive for..."

    I'm sorry that you haven't found that kind of love. That is not to say that it will never happen. When we are loved, it is pure monergistic grace, not something to strive for.

    This year marks my fifteenth anniversary of the sublime and noble estate of marriage, and it is not only a type of the relationship between Christ and His Church, it makes getting up in the morning not only worth doing, but a great joy. It is indeed true love, the kind that is patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude.

    Any man that would glimpse into the mystery of agape should marry the one the Lord has set apart for him, fusing him and his bride into one flesh. It is indeed worthy of being called a sacrament as we confess in the Apology, for it is a mystery of God's grace and a little peek, however imperfect, into love itself.

    And even if the Lord doesn't bless you in this way, I would nevertheless point you to the font. Remember your baptism! In that forgiving flood one is never alone or unloved.

  65. More questions:

    1. Why did it seem necessary to add without teaching genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles? I have no problems theologically with these four, so 4094-character posts about how wonderful genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles are. We get it. Some of us have never found a ceremony that we didn't like. But, of all the ceremonies, why would we be tempted to add these four right away?

    2. Are those parishes and pastors who have the big four ceremonies more faithful than pastors and parishes who don't?

    3. There seemed to be a bit of a tone of disdain toward the thought of teaching before doing. I know there was a bit of mocking done by Father Larry in one of his posts when it came to adding a chasuble. Did I read this wrongly? Can we be honest with ourselves that we would rather do than teach?

    4. The plastic individual cups here are described as an "abomination." (like homosexuality?). Understood! I'm not a big fan of individual cups (even the little silver chalices at my parish), but is such inflammatory language helpful? This is a thread attempting to teach candidates and pastors who might be called to parishes with such things? Would it better to teach first? It is still the blood of Christ when it is in a plastic cup, correct? That's the abomination, right?

    5. Do we realize that we trouble the weaker brethren with stuff like this? Again, I'm pointing to the brother who apologized for not genuflecting. Did he sin by not genuflecting? What would you brothers have said to him? And what of our weaker brothers who are concerned that their parishes don't measure up to well... genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles?

    6. Finally, did anyone else have the desire that the people would just follow our lead as pastors rather than test us with the Word? Again, I saw evidence of this in a few of the posts (I’d rather not look over the whole thread) and so I’m going to ask in order that a proper “no” answer can be confessed. Doesn’t our authority flow from the external Word?

  66. ack.. two corrections:

    "so NO 4094-character posts about how wonderful genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles are. We get it. Some of us have never found a ceremony that we didn't like. But, of all the ceremonies, why would we be tempted to add these four right away"


    Should we use such inflammatory words in a thread attempting to teach candidates and pastors who might be called to parishes with such things?

    I hate it when my mind and hands don't agree.

  67. Pr. Borghardt,

    "Why did it seem necessary to add without teaching genuflecting, chanting, elevation, and chasubles?"

    If the Confessions say that our churches retain ceremonies because they teach the faith, isn't it possible in some situations that the pastors should refrain from explicit teaching and let the ceremonies do the teaching themselves?

    I'm not arguing that that is always the case, but do you grant that it is a possibility?

  68. Without wishing to belabore the points or inflame the debate, a few quick responses:

    Pastor Petersen actually did address more than simply genuflecting, chasubles, chanting and elevations. But, even so, I don't think he intended his blog post to be exhaustive or even comprehensive in its scope. He chose to address a few particular ceremonies, presumably because they are ones for which he has some practical advice.

    Among other things, it strikes me that none of these four ceremonies requires any change in the conduct of the people. Again, that distinction, which several of us have pointed to, is one that needs to be taken into account. The new pastor should not be expected to behave in exactly the same way as the previous pastor; nor should he be condemned for conducting himself in the way that he has been catechized and instructed. That doesn't mean he's free to do whatever, but there is still a difference between what he does and what he asks the congregation to do. I believe that was, at least implicitly, part of Pastor Petersen's original points.

    Regarding these four ceremonies, they are not all cut from the same cloth, nor will they necessarily stand or fall together. Chanting is indicated as the norm in our synodical service books. Elevation is commended by Dr. Luther. Chasubles are a vestment, more so than a ceremony; so, if they are singled out for censure, should there also be concern re: alb and cassock and surplice? If the previous pastor bought all his vestments from Almy, and the new pastor has vestments purchased from Gaspard, is that a problem? What if the previous pastor didn't where any vestments at all? Must the new pastor go without wearing any vestments, or may he wear what he has been accustomed to wearing in his field work? What about the stole? Genuflecting seems like an odd thing for people to get worked up about, but I don't doubt that some people do object. What if other people don't like bowing or kneeling? What if people object that the pastor is bowing too low, or at the wrong angle? Or what if nobody notices, one way or the other? Why is this something that must be made a scruple upon the new pastor's conscience, if it is a customary practice of his own piety?

    None of these four ceremonies is "necessary," but I assert that all four of them are meet, right and salutary, in harmony with our confession of the faith, and at least potentially helpful to the catechesis of the Word and the proclamation of the Gospel. For those reasons, they are better practices than many of the alternatives. So, the practical question is -- which Pastor Petersen has answered from his perspective, experience and opinion -- When and how may or should one go about introducing these ceremonies? I'm not sure how helpful it is to lump them all together; nor has Pastor Petersen done so in his advice. I still maintain that blanket rules do not adequately or helpfully cover all the bases, and that pastoral discernment and discretion are necessary in every case.

    If a brother pastor "apologized" for not genuflecting, or any such thing, I would not only assure him that no offense was thereby given, but I would make a point of affirming that no sin is committed by such an omission. We do not break fellowship over differences in ceremony per se. What falls under indictment, and that which ought to be repented, is not a lack of this-or-that particular ceremony, but a lack of reverence toward God and courtesy toward the neighbor.

    Regarding the plastic individual cups, we can quibble about the appropriate advjectives to describe such a practice, but I would suggest that the "abomination" is found in the fact that the blood of Christ is typically being tossed out with the garbage in such a case. I don't see how that can not bother anyone who believes, teaches and confesses the body and blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar.


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