Thursday, April 29, 2010

A "Call" for help?

By Larry Beane

This is the opening procession of a recent Call Service at the chapel of the St. Louis Seminary.

Gads! The Plexiglas® cross is unusual enough, but what is the deal with the flag-wagging? Is this a solemn ecclesiastical service or is this a rehearsal for the next Olympic rhythmic gymnastics event?

What does this even mean?

I was looking very closely to see if the guys waving the banners were surreptitiously signaling for help. You can send Morse code signals by wagging a flag - one way for the dits, the other way for the dahs. It is no longer necessary to pass a Morse code test to get a ham radio license these days, but under the circs, I think every seminarian would do well to knows his dits from a dah in the ground. If it were me, I think I would take a page out of Admiral Jeremiah Denton's playbook and signal T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse with that banner, over and over, until somebody out there, anybody, for the love of God and all that is holy, put this service out of its "Missouri."

Then again, maybe a more appropriate signal for the liturgical flag-waver might be T-R-A-I-N-W-R-E-C-K.

I can't help but hear the haunting echo of two of my own seminary professors. One of them, when lecturing about liturgical novelty put it bluntly: "Gentlemen, don't do that crap." The other quote is more of a generalized observation about the overall state of worship in the Missouri Synod: "Poor God!"

Is there any possibility that whoever put this flag-waving exercise into a very serious liturgy of one of our two seminaries could himself (or herself) get a "divine call" to serve as the liturgist for Cirque du Soleil instead?

S-O-S! Not your grandfather's synod indeed.


  1. What does it mean when you present the cross in such a way so that you cannot in fact see the cross?

  2. Yes, what DOES this even mean? I've been trying to come up with possible explanations for it ever since I saw it live the other night and I'm still drawing a blank. Any ideas out there? What would the person(s) who thought it was a good idea to employ "streamer-bearers?" provide as justification?

    "Gentlemen, don't do that crap." Heard that, too, Fr. Hollywood; sage advice, indeed. :)

  3. As for the crucifix(?), how long has that been used at CSL? Never noticed it before (but, it could very well be that I just couldn't see it). Weird, that.

  4. I was hoping that that wasn't the call service for the St. Louis Seminary, that they had rented the chapel out to some other school.

    I think I threw up a little bit in my mouth watching that.

    The ribbon waving would have made any Methodist, ELCA, or post-Vatican II champion proud! Of course, some would be sadden by the lack of "liturgical dancers." Well, there's always next year!

  5. Never mind . . . found the answers myself at the following link. I get it now . . . not.

  6. consider yourself pimped! and next on "pimp my worship," dancing women.

  7. The important thing is not to celebrate, in any shape, the Divine call. I mean, if they know we are Christians by our love, then surely they will know we are Lutherans when they mistake our joy for a burial.

  8. This is why I have very little to do with my alma mater. Ugh! First time I've watched this, even though I heard all about it. I wish I had remained ignorant.

    The best construction I can put on it is that the streamers are supposed to represent the Holy Spirit blowing where He wills. But who knows?

  9. Every other time I've seen this in church, it's always been dancing girls wearing tights who were waving the banners. These fellows were clothed more modestly, so that's a good thing. But what does this novel ceremony mean? "When there are useless, foolish displays, that are profitable neither for good order nor Christian discipline, nor evangelical propriety in the Church, these also are not genuine adiaphora, or matters of indifference" (FC SD X 7). I wonder if that passage of the Lutheran Confessions would apply here...

  10. Good grief. What's next at CSL? Pyrotechnics?

  11. As I have grown used to saying....

    "there is nothing worse than a person with a 'good idea.'"

  12. I was there. I really don't think this is anything to get too excited about. I mean... no one thinks this was really that awesome. Its not like people saw this and thought... Oh wow I gotta get some of those. And the fellows waving the poles... I know the guys. They aren't ablaze for the streamer poles or anything.

    However goofy the poles were, I hope we can all still appreciate the grandeur of the chapel organ in the hands of Kantor Gerike, who can dominate that place like no one else. I was in the choir for this service and have been blessed to be conducted by him during my time at CSL. He isn't the most technical player, but he knows how to get the most out of that instrument.

    So... poles... they tried something weird, and everyone knows it. You do know that they did this last year too... right?

  13. Dear Kyle:

    It's too bad "Poles" doesn't simply mean Polish Lutherans. In some churches, they're just a step or two from having "pole dancers."

    I don't know what they did last year - but I feel a facepalm coming on. Do I even want to know?

  14. FH - The poles were used at last year's call services. This was not the first time.

  15. Regular pointlessness > occasional pointlessness?

  16. You ask, they respond:

  17. Dear Scott:

    Wow. I'm dizzy from the spinning.

    Maybe they need to review what the Book of Concord teaches about worship. One of their former profs, the sainted Dr. Piepkorn, wrote a very concise little paper on it.

    I hope Dr. Piepkorn isn't spinning because of what is going on in his beloved seminary, synod, and churches of the Augsburg Confession.

    Fortunately, there is no schlock among the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

    Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

  18. What is the explanation for the "invisible cross?"

  19. I don't suppose that cross is a monstrance of some kind. See the little round thing in the middle? Whatever it is, it's a monstrosity . . .

  20. Pr BFE,

    I'd rather have a monstrance....than that "thing." However, a nice crucifix would do nicely.

  21. You ask, they respond:

    So, the explanation is that the streamers mean nothing, but are purposeless, playful, celebratory, child-like things, and the reason I find them goofy, out of place, and distracting is because I am a grown up and lack childlike faith.

    Hmmm . . .

    Oh, and to explain further, the streamers, which mean nothing, but are purposeless, playful, celebratory, child-like things are "not too dissimilar from vestments and banners and artwork and the sign of the cross and processional crosses and balloons and icons."

    Hmmm . . . I thought all those other things actually had meaning and served a purpose (well, except balloons, that is).

    Evidently, I have much to learn.

  22. Dear Tom:


    "not too dissimilar from vestments and banners and artwork and the sign of the cross and processional crosses and balloons and icons."

    Let's see...

    1) Vestments
    2) Banners
    3) Artwork
    4) The Sign of the cross
    5) Processional crosses
    6) Balloons
    7) Icons

    Okay, kids, let's play the Sesame Street game. Let us sing:

    "One of these things is not like the others,
    One of these things just doesn't belong,
    Can you tell which thing is not like the others
    By the time I finish my song?"

  23. I am disappointed with the lack of manliness in those streamers. Don't they realize that being a pastor involves being a man? A man who embraces the waving of streamers...well, it is to be feared he is a eunuch.

    If they want to carry poles in church, it would have been much cooler if they carried pikes or halberds or something like that.


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