Sservice 09


Through the 18th and 19th century, usage of the traditional western forms declined among Lutherans.  In the mid-19th century, a recovery began, which is still going on.  As you join in the process of making informed decision about worship, you become part of this continuing process of recovery.

Usage of the traditional forms declined for two main reasons.  The movement called Pietism resulted in simplicity in worship, with less use of the ordinary and propers.  Then, the movement called the Enlightenmentled to the greatest emphasis being placed on the sermon.1

In America, the traditional service was rejected by those Lutherans who felt that the appropriate way to worship inAmerican society was to use the structure that developed from the frontier revival services (singing-message-altar call), astructure that is still used in many churches today.  Lutherans who were trying to restore the traditional service scornedthis stance by labeling it “Americanization”.

Meanwhile, additions were constantly  being made to the service which made it longer and which made the ordinary andpropers seem less important and therefore likely candidates for exclusion.  The last chapter already mentioned the addition of extra hymns.  As church choirs were developed, they tended to devote themselves to providing extra music (anthems) rather than to foster a better performance and participation in ordinary and propers.

Another addition was placed at the beginning of the service: a public order for confession and absolution.  This had not been part of Luther’s liturgies, for he maintained the existing practice of private confession.  A public pattern for confession, based on a Roman Catholic text for private confession, was very common in Lutheran worship from the 19th century on.


In the mid-nineteenth century, the leaders of the confessional revival (who meant to recall Lutheranism to its uniqueness by stressing the particular teachings of the Lutheran confessions) were also interested in returning to the worship forms of Reformation times.  At the same time, the Oxford movement in the Anglican church was drawn to study the medieval church, and made many translations of liturgical texts,  ancient hymns and German chorales into English, which were then available for inclusion in English Lutheran hymnals.

 In the twentieth century, Roman Catholic scholars, notably the monks of Solesme in France, have researched the earlier forms of their own tradition, such as the principles and rationale for chanting.  The 196O’s were marked by the Roman Catholic church’s change from Latin to allowing the use each country’s language for worship, and a new stress oncongregational singing and the providing of hymns and new, singable musical settings of the traditional service. The 1960’s also saw theappearance of many popular music and folk music services, as an attempt to make worship relevant to the younger generation.  Most recently, the interest in Jewish/Christian dialogue has led to a new appreciation of the debt of Christian forms to Jewish traditions.

As we look at Lutheran liturgies published in America in this century, we can see that each succeeding publication marks a stage in looking farther and farther back into history and thus coming closer and closer to the original intent of the traditional worship form. The Lutheran liturgies of the early twentieth century mark the stage of research and selection from the German liturgies of the seventeenth century, and made the German chorale versions of the ordinary available again, for example, singing the chorale “All Glory be to God Alone” at the place of the “Gloria in Excelsis”. The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941 provides a complete one-year cycle of introits, collects, and graduals from medieval sources, and prefers the Anglican prose translation of texts like the “Gloria in Excelsis” rather than the use of the chorale.  The Service Book and Hymnal of 1956 restores petitions to the Kyrie, although the same petitions are to be used every week rather than change in accord with the day’s theme. Lutheran Book of Worship (1979) goes further back toward early Christian worship by allowing for complete Psalms to be sung between readings rather than the shortened graduals which were developed in the middle ages.  It clearly marks the public order of confession as something separate from the service order and marks its use as optional. It provides a communion prayer based on the ancient church pattern, as an option alongside Luther’s use of the words of institution alone. Lutheran Worship (1981) advocates chanting of Psalms.  Both of these last books also provide for using a hymn to replace theopening Psalm rather than in addition to it, thus showing a sensitivity to the fact that the function of music for opening the service can be filled with one song; it is not necessary to copy from the recent past by having two songs (opening hymn and opening Psalm) which serve the same function. These two books also have the new hymn, This is the Feast, which can be used at the place of the Gloria in Excelsis.

These new publications show us that it is possible to provide for peoples’ need for continuity and familiarity, by keeping the same basic structure week by week, and still provide the variety that keeps things fresh by delving into the many options available to us and by creating contemporary ways to express the traditional functions.  Following the lead of these new books, your worship planning committee may be able to do even more things along the same lines.  The next chapter will show you how .


 On to chapter ten                           Go to Worship Book menu