Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Integrity of the Liturgy

Chauvinism alert: This will likely be of interest primarily -- if not only -- to Lutherans.

The inestimable Philip Pfatteicher has published a comparison and review of the daily offices as they appear in the two new Lutheran service books, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW: published by the ELCA) and Lutheran Service Book (published by the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod [and, yes, it's supposed to be an "em" dash]). Of interest to me is his analysis of the utter weakness of the offices in the ELW, since that's the book we use in my congregation -- over my objections, I will note for the record. For my money, it's both a devastating critique and an accurate statement. Many of us would like to see a denomination's worship book designed so that it serves both the congregation and the family in their respective worship and devotions. It is clear that the powers-that-be who designed the ELW have no sense of that. It is also clear that the worship professionals in the denomination have tin ears, faulty training, no ecclesiology, and bad taste. In short, my expectations for this boondoggle have been confirmed.

What the Rev. Dr. Philip does not mention is that he has produced a prodigious alternative to the ELW for the daily office. The Daily Prayer of the Church contains, in one volume, the office rites, music, hymnody, readings "in the ancient" way. You may consult here for more information.

I'm embarrassed, in a way, to admit that it has supplanted the brievary I used to use. It's difficult to have to choose between two wonderful works, and so perhaps I'll go back and forth every two years. I have been very satisfied with For all the Saints: A Prayer Book by and for the Church. Compiled and organized by my friend Fred Schumacher, this "resource" is rich in other ways from Pfatteicher's. Of chief note about Saints is its including three full lections for each day, together with a reading from the writings of some saint, drawn from the full history and all traditions of the Christian Church. (Pfatteicher's, already a very thick book, can accommodate only a verse or two -- in what I understand to me the breviary tradition.) Schumacher's is also easier to use (you start at the front of volume 1 and work through in order to volume 4) -- but you can do that when you get four volumes to work with. Pfatteicher's takes some getting used to, but that poses no major problem to anyone who is committed to using it.

I say that I'm embarrassed about my defection because I am serve as the Synod liaison for the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, which happens to publish both of the works (in the case of Pfatteicher, in tandem with Kirk House). Loyalty might have obviated the need for one of the two books, had they been published by different groups. But ... .

One advantage the Pfatteicher has over the Schumacher is that it follows the "new" calendar in force with the ELW -- i.e., it relates a little more closely to the secular calendar (we now have "ordinary time" instead of "after Pentecost") and allows for pre-Advent preparations (but without the "-gesima" Sundays). Still and all, they are both great achievements and I hawk them whenever I can. (Too: If you're a Lutheran and don't read -- er, subscribe to -- Lutheran Forum, also published by ALPB, you are missing out on a dandy and inspiring experience.) Note: Both office books use the daily prayer orders and music from the Lutheran Book of Worship, which, while not eliminated from the AugsburgFortress line (at least as I understand matters), has been forsaken for absolutely no good reason by the ELCA. I personally don't think that the music of that worship book's offices is stunning or especially invigorating (nothing compares to the anglican chant settings of Matins and Vespers in the now-ancient Service Book and Hymnal) but it is better than what has replaced it. (And that just goes to show that when you have good texts and historical sense, you can make good music -- all of which are lacking in the new "worship resource," as the promoters insist on calling it.)

Do yourself (and ALPB) a favor and buy one or both of the daily office books that I recommend. And begin to take seriously your responsibility to pray without ceasing.


Chris said...

You wrote: "It is also clear that the worship professionals in the denomination have tin ears, faulty training, no ecclesiology, and bad taste. In short, my expectations for this boondoggle have been confirmed."

Well, I hope you had offered your opinions on the provisional Renewing Worship resources while the church was activity seeking input . . .

Dwight P. said...

To be frank, while I did offer critiques (and so, as I understand it, did our congregation's staff), I never seriously expected them to be read. This was not a project that was interested in the historic practices of the Church. Indeed, it was conceived as a way to take "him" out of the liturgy and to make it possible to worship without once mentioning "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Comments seeking to object to those goals were studiously ignored.