Saturday, May 28, 2011

Leitourgia Divina non adiaphora est.

HT: Bad Vestments Blog (and the Rev. David R. Mueller).

Welcome to the Ministry. Please call me “Dave.”

Even though I’ve never known anything else, in a professional sense, the culture of the LCMS clergy seems strange to me. I sit somewhere on the edge of the Autism spectrum in these things so this may not be necessary for most of you. It is unsettling for me when I don’t know what the social expectations are. Here is what I have learned, or think I have learned, about being a pastor in the LCMS regarding these things and hope they can help some of you not make the mistakes that I have made.

How to Address Brothers in the Circuit

For the most part, within the Ministerium of the LC-MS, first names are assumed. It is generally best, however, especially when you are in your first years of the Office, to address brother pastors in the circuit as “Pastor Jones” until, or unless, you are invited to use first names.

New guys are viewed with some apprehension. No one likes the new guy putting on airs. There is also some suspicion that the new grad will be a zealous idiot who makes problems for everyone. At your first call, at your installation Service and/or your first circuit meeting be very deferential and wait to be invited to use first names. I would also call your home pastor, your vicarage supervisor, etc., by title, as you have for years, until you are invited by them to use their first names.

After the first year or so you can take a few liberties in this regard reserving the honorifics for retired pastors, the district president, and faculty members. Most pastors actually call everyone by their first names. But I find this uncomfortable. I try to speak to the DP and SP by title and honorific even though I knew them both on a first name basis before they were elected.

At the same time, insisting on formality and titles can seem distancing even if you mean it respectfully. If either the DP or the SP invited me to call them by their first names, I would do it. I would rather they didn't, and so far they haven't, but I have learned that it is nearly as rude to continue to call someone “Pastor Jones” after being invited to address him by his first name as it is to assume a casualness that isn’t deserved.

How to Address and be Reintroduced to Pastors Beyond the Circuit

Please introduce yourself by name unless you really are well-known to the other person. When you see a pastor at some meeting larger than the circuit, stick out your hand to shake and say, “Hello, Pastor Stuckwisch. Dave Petersen.” He will probably say, “Of course, I know you.” But he might be being polite. No harm has been done by giving him your name and you might well have made him more comfortable and saved him a little mental struggle or embarrassment.

It seems to me, as well, that the first meeting of someone like Stuckwisch, outside your circuit, even if you have been calling him by his first name, is formal. I am pretty good friends with Stuckwisch. So I wouldn’t do that. But if I sat down with Marty Noland, whom I have met and know by reputation but don’t know personally, I would say, “Good morning, Dr. Noland. Dave Petersen.” He would say, “Of course, I’ve read your stuff in Gottesdienst. How are you?” And then I would probably call him Marty for the rest of the meal. Weird. I know. This is foggy ground for me. There are real but invisible class distinctions within the LCMS. I can feel them, but I can’t define them. We aren’t supposed to draw attention to them, but we are supposed to recognize them. Dr. Noland, no doubt, is super polite. But if I sat down and put on airs with him, assumed a relationship and equality immediately that I don’t deserve, the other people at the table would stiffen. They would do the same, by the way, if I made a big fuss over him and acted like he was a war hero. There is an appropriate line were we acknowledge who he is and what he has done for the cause but don’t embarrass him. Some pigs, like Stuckwisch or Evanson or Noland, are more equal than others. If you figure this out in a way that can be explained, please let me know.

How to Act in the Circuit

For my part, I totally blew it with my first circuit. The first names confused me. I misunderstood my relationship to them. I thought that I would be entering into an atmosphere like that of coffee at CTS after Chapel. I thought we would engage in heated, lively debates about Theology and practice. I thought I was in a semi-scholarly environment. Not only was I sorely disappointed, but worst of all, I let it be known in my verbal and body language. I was disgusted with them, disrespectful, arrogant – fulfilling perfectly the Ft. Wayne stereotype. Fortunately for me, they were gentle and kind. They disliked me but they tolerated me and eventually I calmed down and they befriended me. I was surprised to become their friends but I did. That was to their credit, not mine, and I am thankful for it.

What should I have done? I should have shut up. I should have listened quietly and patiently. I should have been more sympathetic. I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. They knew more than I gave them credit for. I was looking for them to be my classmates and to continue what I loved about the seminary. They weren’t. But they were a pretty accurate cross section of the LCMS clergy roster. They had a wide array of skills, interests, and experience.

If you’re like me and have trouble figuring out relationships and social things and are new to the Ministry, I suggest you enter into your first circuit meetings like you would an LWML meeting. Treat them as gently as you would an uncatechized, but pious, widow in Bible class. Even if they are only a few years older than you, defer to their experience. Recognize that they are your brothers, are struggling and striving to be faithful. Withhold judgment. It will take several years to get to know these men. Your first impressions are probably wrong. Everyone says stupid, even heretical things, from time to time in circuit meetings. They are meant to be a safe place to be stupid. Don’t dismiss a man simply because he lets his guard down there and can’t recite the Small Catechism, etc. Withhold judgment. Don’t be that Ft. Wayne guy. Wait. Pray. The Lord created the Office and placed these men into it. You are not wiser than God.

Preparation versus Reality

Being in the Office is very similar to being married. It doesn’t matter how good your pre-marital instruction was – it was mostly worthless. Not because it was worthless in itself but because you were in no frame of mind to hear it. You thought you were. You nodded along. You agreed with all of it. You probably thought you could have come up with it yourself. But marriage is learned in being married. Being a pastor is learned in being a pastor. Newlyweds embarrass themselves when they give marital advice to senior citizens – even if the senior citizen has been divorced twice. Fortunately, senior citizens tend to be very understanding. So are the senior pastors of the LC-MS. So don’t be scared. If you make a fool of yourself, it won’t last. It is sort of expected and it will be forgiven and maybe even forgotten. It is not that your seminary education was lacking, though of course it was, it is just that you are a newlywed. That doesn't mean you aren't fully a pastor or lack authority or ability. But it does mean that you aren't yet fully formed and will learn as you go.

And if you're a Ft. Wayne grad, the voice you will hear in your head, again and again, is that of Dr. David Scaer. You will say, "Holy smokes! I had no idea he was soooooo right."

Call him "Dr." Scaer, and even though he always calls me "Dr." Petersen, to draw attention, I suppose, to my utter lack of any advanced degrees, you can call me "Dave."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Out of the Barn

The stallion is to be loosed in the morning. Need I say more? Subscribe now.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gottesdienst Chicago Audio

Again courtesy of Fr. Erich Fickel, here is a link where you can hear the presentations by Fr. Beane and Fr. Petersen from our Gottesdienst Chicago event.

It's not too soon to set aside the days of October 9-11 for the granddaddy of them all, Gottesdienst Oktoberfest in Kewanee, IL.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

On the reading of many commentaries

"I guess academics need each other to translate the Gospel into Mumbo Jumbo, their heart language." - Mrs. HRC


Read On the Bondage of the Will in an Hour

Thanks to the hard work of Fr. Samuel Schuldheisz, you can now read On the Bondage of the Will in about an hour. I asked for help in creating an analytical outline based on the outline of the Packer edition. My idea was to include key quotations from the text underneath the handy outline created by Packer. Fr. Schuldheisz didn't help - he just did it! The end result allows the reader to absorb Luther's meaning in his own words in about an hour.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Altarware for Nigeria

Mrs. Sharon Jurgens and other members of her LCMS congregation in Ridley, MN are collecting sets of altarware for the Lutheran bishops of Nigeria - 14 all told. Her pastor, Fr. Paul Strawn, has taught at the seminary there and this was the number one request he received.

With the godly humility of a true Midwestern Lutheran, Mrs. Jurgens originally asked for used communion sets containing individual cups. I rang her up and told here that the Gottesdienst Crowd can do better than that and the good bishops of Nigeria deserve to have the traditional and beautiful vessels that inspire piety and reverence. A complete altarware set should include a chalice, paten, host box or ciborium, flagon, and cruets. This would be an excellent project for an LWML group, chapel or VBS offering, etc. I recommend shopping at Autom - an entire set as mentioned above can be purchased and shipped for under $600.

So talk it over in your congregation. To contact Mrs. Jurgens: sjurgens at clear dot net.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saber Winner to Present at Conference in August

An announcement from the Lutheran Catechetical Society which we at Gottesdienst are happy to spread abroad. +HRC

The Lutheran Catechetical Society is hosting the Magdeburg Conference on
Friday August 26th and Saturday August 27th at Christ Lutheran Church in Normal, IL.
We will be studying the first 3 Articles of the Augsburg Confession: 1. Of God, 2. Of
Original Sin, Of the Son of God. The Rev. Brian Saunders, District President of the
Iowa East District, will be our presenter.

The cost of the conference is $35 for individuals and $55 for couples. This
includes all sessions, a reception on Friday evening with address, a copy of the
Augsburg Confession, and perhaps most importantly-German style lunch on Saturday.
More details concerning accomodations and reception location will be forthcoming.

Who is this conference for? This conference is especially designed for clergy and
laity to study the Lutheran Confessions together. We hope that it will inspire a love
of the Lutheran Confessions and also give an example for pastors of how to teach our
beloved heritage in our congregations. Pastors, please encourage you members to come
with you to study the Augsburg Confession, especially men serving as elders.

Registration: You may register online at the Lutheran Catechetical Society’s Website.

Listen Online: You can also listen to an Issues, Etc interview with Pr. Chris Hull of
Christ Lutheran Church about the the importance of the Lutheran Confessions, not just
for the clergy, but for all Lutherans.

For additional information or questions:

Vendors/General questions- Contact Pr. Bryan Hopfensperger at

Questions concerning location- Contact Pr. Chris Hull at

We look forward to seeing you at the Magdeburg Conference!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Funeral Sermons

I was once told that it was the custom in the old Synodical Conference for a Christians's confirmation verse to serve as the sermon text at his funeral. I have no idea what the history of this is (a German thing? a Medieval thing? a Lutheran thing?) and have only half heartedly tried to track it down - maybe one of you will know. But I have found it of immense practical use. A confirmation verse gives, as it were, a port of entry into the Gospel that must be preached at every Christian funeral and thus helps keep the preacher from falling into worn out clich├ęs.

What to do when the church records do not give a confirmation verse (especially common with adult confirmations)? Look at the propers for the Sunday of the week in which the confirmation took place and choose a verse from those propers - the Introit, Gradual, and Verse are the richest mines in this regard.


DDSB Sale: Hardcover, shipped for $33

The end of the Spring conference season is upon us and I have a few copies of Daily Divine Service Book in hardcover left over. These will be first come, first served, shipped to your door for $33. Via the publisher it sells for $38 plus tax and shipping.

Click the PayPal Buy Now button at right to reserve your copy.
PS: If I run out, I will immediately refund your money via PayPal and send you a note.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Issues, Etc. Interview

By Larry Beane

I was interviewed by the good folks of the world's greatest Lutheran talk radio program, Issues, Etc. Wednesday afternoon regarding the topic of my May 3 Gottesdienst Chicaco presentation in Brookfield, Illinois (which I have yet to blog about): Are the Lutheran Confessions Prescriptive or Descriptive?

Click here to listen.

Freed from the Shopkeeper's Prison - IN Presentation

Note: Several of the Gottesdienst editors have given presentations at regional, district, and circuit events. In fact, we are working on creating a speakers' bureau to provide a clearing house to connect district conference committees with speakers who can provide thought-provoking, Confessional, theological, and practical presentations. In the coming days I'm planning on posting examples of these presentations. Here is my latest - +HRC

Freed from the Shopkeeper's Prison
Presented at the Indiana District's North Region General Pastor's Conference, May 9-10, 2011

Lutherans have been highly influenced by the outreach and evangelism methods, outlook, language, and expectations of the conservative American Protestant churches. But is there another path? What about the doctrine of Election? What exactly is the Pastor's job? What is his duty in the task of "outreach"? How did Jesus and the Apostles "do evangelism"? These and other questions are explored in this four part presentation by Rev. H. R. Curtis.

Both text files and audio files are listed below. Of course, there is some stuff in the text that is not in the audio and vice versa. Part IV, especially, is really only fully there in the audio with the text being notes.

Text files (pdf):

Audio files (mp3 - thanks to Fr. Erich Fickel):

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Can You Hear That Stallion Snorting?

Barely held back by the barn door is the next issue of Gottesdienst, ready to be loosed to the public within about two weeks, eager, snorting, stomping, impatiently wanting to be freed. It's going to be a really good issue.

And yes, Virginia, there is a printed version--to return to a report from Fr Curtis that has been disturbing me for months, about the failure of some seminarians and others to realize that Gottesdienst is also in print. Good grief, Gottesdienst has been the Gold Standard for what is both confessional and liturgical in Lutheranism since 1992.

So if you aren't a real Gottesdienster yet, what are you waiting for? Subscribe right now, right here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Indiana District North Region Pastors' Conference

Many thanks to the brothers in the north region of the Indiana District for their kind attention over the past couple days for my presentation on Election & Evangelism. Special thanks are due to Fr. Fickel and the rest of the conference committee that invited me. I'm hoping to have the papers posted on this site shortly with the audio presentations following as soon as I have the files.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dear Candidate for Ordination,

God's richest blessings to you! Lord willing, you will soon be placed into Holy Orders. Pay attention to the vows. These are the things the Church thinks are so important that she feels constrained to squeeze an oath out of you to make sure you will do them. You can safely forget everything you learned in your Pastor as Administrator, Pastor as Counselor, Pastor as Janitor, Pastor as Coach, Pastor as Team Player, Pastor as Tiddlewinks Captain, etc. classes that you took in seminary so long as you just pay attention to these vows.

The scariest thing that will happen to you is Monday after your ordination when you come to your study and have no idea what to do next. Recall your vows. They will help you decide. You are supposed to be constant in prayer for your people, diligently study the Scriptures and the Confessions, minister to the sick and dying, instruct young and old, etc.

For more practical advice, you can read this by Fr. Petersen. And here is some advice we solicited from our readers earlier this year. And you can check out all the resources on the Liturgical Parish Life CD (available at right) - which includes several different pastors' weekly logs. I asked a bunch of men in different settings (senior pastors, sole pastors, dual parish pastors, associate pastors) to jot down everything they did all day for a week. There are many other documents on the CD (confirmation programs, marriage counseling, resources for talking with your elders about every Sunday communion, etc., etc.) that you may find helpful when you get to your new place.

Another brass tacks issue: how to schedule your ordination. It often seems that the powers that be just assume candidates know what is going on and so never tell them. It's up to you to contact the DP in the district to which you have been called. You need to first talk to him to decide where you will be ordained. Some DPs feel strongly about having it be in the place that called you - others will encourage you to have it in your home parish (in which case you will have two DPs to contact). You should have the Lord's Supper at your ordination. Sometimes the DP will simply refuse this - but if he merely hems and haws and "encourages" you not to celebrate the Supper, you can safely insist on it.

The DP has the first right of refusal on all ordinations in his district. He can assign the duty to a circuit counselor or even to some other pastor (your father, uncle, the pastor who confirmed you) if he is double booked. When scheduling, recall that your insurance takes effect on the first day of the calendar month after you are installed in your parish. So whether you are installed on June 5th or June 30th, your insurance takes effect July 1st. If the DP tells you, "I can't make June 26th, how about July 3rd?" don't hesitate to remind him of this fact and stick to June 26. Somebody else can do the ordination.

Some DPs come very prepared. Others do not. You should have photocopies of the LSB rite available for all assisting clergy just in case the DP does not bring them. They will need these during that portion of the rite wherein they read various Scriptures. If the DP forgets to lay hands on you according to the rubrics (anecdotes abound!) resist the urge to reach up and grab his hand and plunk it on your head. It still counts.

You will also need to arrange the opening procession and closing recession of the clergy. It helps to actually print this out visually and hang it in the room where they will be vesting. The order is crucifer, torch bearers, Gospel Book, assisting clergy in single file (Clergy never walk side by side in procession. In the Chicago area they line up the assisting clergy in order of their own own ordinations from newest in office to most experienced - a fine custom.), preacher, ordinand, ordinator. Same order for the recessional except that now the pastor of the parish walks last after the ordinator. When you invite area clergy, remind them to bring red stoles and either alb or cassock and surplice. Believe it or not, I have been to several ordinations where area clergy did not bring vestments because they were not told.

At Gottesdienst we are working on two projects especially aimed at the newly ordained and hope to have them out for next spring: Lutheran Preaching and My First Year in the Parish. Stay tuned to this blog to learn more.

The other things you will need for your first days and weeks: vestments, a travel mass kit, The Conduct of the Service, Daily Divine Service Book, a subscription to Gottedienst. And don't forget to plan now to attend Oktoberfest in Kewanee, IL, on the Sunday-Tuesday of Columbus Day this October.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

CSL Numbers

Well, they did have a couple of "calls pending" after all - but seem confident that those will be filled next month. Here's the breakdown at CSL:

Associate/Assistant: 41%

Missionary/Campus Pastor: 5.5%

Dual Parish: 3%

Call Pending: 2%


The problem

Ugh. Once again the Call Service at CSL is full of childish, irreverent behavior from the candidates and childish, irreverent comments from the presenter of the calls.

Gentlemen: it's a church service. Repent. But, of course, that's their point as our own Fr. Petersen has already pointed out: it's not the Gospel unless you can say "Hey, Jesus, pull my finger."


Call Day II

Thanks to Nathan (in the comments on the previous post) for noting that CSL has already released a statement that says that all 93 certified men at CSL will receive calls this evening.

Thus, of the class of 2011, 5% did not receive calls by Call Day. So my first prediction was right on. (Though I did also include part-time calls in my numbers. If any readers have inside information on how many calls at either seminary turn out to be part-time calls, that would help us get a fuller picture of the situation.)

Alas, when I predicted that the burden would be shared between the two seminaries, I was mistaken. Last year was worse than this year only by the force of the numbers - the imbalance between the two seminaries actually grew worse.

Why? I looked at calls to various districts over the past few years, and the problem does not seem to be with certain districts black balling CTS grads. I found only one district which could not be exonerated of that charge based on the numbers from 2008-2011. As I mentioned earlier, I think the imbalance is largely due to the discrepancy between the two seminaries when it come to the sort of calls they seem to specialize in: CTS in first calls as sole pastor to small parish(es) and CTS in first calls to larger parishes as assistant/associate pastor. At CTS this year, about 16% of the placements were as assistant/associate pastors. Last year at CSL, they placed 43% of their men in assistant/associate positions, and another 12.5% were placed as missionaries, chaplains, worker priests, or part-time positions. The downturn in LCMS membership is hitting small, rural parishes hardest (as well as small urban parishes). This is leading to greater shortages in the sort of calls CTS specializes in. Another interesting thing to look at tonight will be calls to dual parishes - at CTS those make up 13% of the calls. The number will usually be much, much smaller at CSL.


Call Day I

CORRECTED - I miscounted earlier and have corrected some math below. Thanks to a correspondent from the CTS class of 2010 for some additional information now included below in brackets.

Last night at the call service in Fort Wayne, 62 men [2 of whom were actually from the class of 2010] were put forward for placement and 54 [2 of whom were actually from the class of 2010] were given assignments (six others chose to do graduate studies and I am leaving them out of the math). Our prayers ascend for the eight who must continue to wait. I don't know whether any, and if so how many, of the calls were to part-time positions.

We'll offer a full analysis, Lord willing, after the service in St. Louis, but so far it looks that I have been too optimistic in my predictions, to wit:

1. Setting aside those who elect to do graduate studies, 5-10% of candidates will not be placed on Call Day. For CTS the number is just over 12% (or 13% if you remove the two men from the class of 2010 from the math). That number could easily come down into the range I predicted after CSL's placement tonight, but then that would prove me wrong in my second prediction. . .

2. The COP would bend over backwards to make sure that the shortage of calls was borne by both seminaries in proportion to their number of graduates and thus we would not see a repeat of last year where the burden was disproportionately borne by CTS.

Now those two predictions cannot both hold in any way that spells good news.

I wish God's richest blessings to those now preparing for ordination and service in Christ's Church. And I hope that the leadership of our Synod and seminaries can find a way to tackle this problem head on - and quickly.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Gottesdienst Chicago on Tuesday

Ready for a nice post-Easter break, some good conversation about the things of God, and some fraternal consolation from the brethren? Join several of the Gottesdienst editors on Tuesday at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Brookfield, IL.