Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

Song and dance are two primary ways that we as humans express ourselves. Instrumental music and song are long-standing, strong elements of our liturgical tradition. We sing hymns as unifying proclamation of doctrine and confession of the Lutheran church. Lutheran hymnody and instrumental music in today’s Divine Service come directly from the Bible, specifically the psalms. Music unites our hearts and minds to the One, Holy, and Triune God. Shall we therefore use styles of music, genres, or actions that decay the unity of the Church?

Besides biblical instances of vocal and instrumental music, many references to dance are found in Scripture. Many multi-denominational churches cite these as references as they incorporate dance into the Divine Service. They use cultural illustrations to show that dance was a part of Israel’s culture and declare dance therefore should be a part of our culture. It is! As Lutheran Christians we often use dance as the children of Israel did. Specific references to dance in Scripture include:

Miriam leading dancing – Exodus 15:20-21

Jephthah’s daughter – Judges 11:34

Ladies dancing in the vineyard – Judges 21:21-23

Celebrating victory – 1 Samuel 18:6-7

David danced – 2 Samuel 6:14-23 and 1 Chronicles 15 & 16

When Israel is restored – Jeremiah 31:4-13

Praise God with dancing – Psalm 150:4 and 149:3

Children playing games – Matthew 11:17

The return of the prodigal son – Luke 15:25

There is no denying that dance was and is an integral part of culture in Old and New Testament times. In Hebrew tradition, dance functioned as a medium of prayer and praise, as an expression of joy and humility, and as link between humanity and God (Taylor, 1976). Dancing is so common in Scripture that in passages alluding to rejoicing without specific mention of dancing, it can be assumed that dance is implied (Gagne 1984). It is obvious that people did dance and people do dance today. But the question remains: Should dance be used in our corporate worship?

Worship is not our action, but it is Divine Service, God’s action on our behalf. At Christ Lutheran Church, “We confess that worship (Gottesdienst) is our triune God's service to us, and our faithful responses always direct us back to God from whom all blessings flow. We deny that worship is primarily a human activity, which is constituted by contrived efforts at emotion-centered adoration and praise (Matt. 20:28; Luke 22:24-27; Acts 1:1-2).” Understanding true worship (Divine Service) is the first step to answer the question, “Should we use dance in church?”

The second point comes from an understanding of exactly when dance was used in Scripture. To say that dance was a part of the congregational worship life of the Old or New Testament church is false! In looking at Scripture one cannot find a single instance of using dance in the temple or tabernacle. Dancing was performed outside the building and seldom as a combined effort. Furthermore, examples of dance found in Scripture are extraneous to the Lutheran understanding of corporate Divine Service.

Notes:
Adams, D. (1980) Congregational Dancing in Christian Worship. Austin: Sharing.
Clark, M. & C. Crisp. (1981) The History of Dance, New York: Crown.
Gagne, R., T. Kane, & R. Ver Eecke. (1984) Dance In Christian Worship, Washington: Pastoral
Taylor, M.F. (1976) A Time to Dance. Austin: Sharing

Paul R. Schilf, Ph. D.

Chant is music with great variety, from simple recitation, to complex melismatic melodies requiring the vocal skills of trained cantors.  Much of the chant repertory continues to be sung by clergy, who have limited musical training, and is easily within the capabilities of parish choirs today.  It is functional music, designed to serve the needs of the church’s liturgy and is widely regarded for its ‘timeless’ character.

Gregorian chant repertory was developed for Latin texts in Charlemagne’s (768-814 A.D.) Frankish kingdom, which encompassed modern France, Switzerland and Germany.  We know little of the Church singing used in these areas before this time, because no modern Western system of music writing had yet been invented.  Charlemagne wished the music of the Church in his kingdom to be sung as in Rome, with specific pitches.  In the absence of written music, this may have caused some difficulty, since it would have had to be learned orally, as a folk music tradition.

The Frankish “folk music” chant is thought to have received the name “Gregorian” after Pope Gregory, in order to give it greater authority.  This music was passed down via an oral tradition; much like the secular “folk music” of the time.  It was two hundred years later that the first written, musical manuscripts appeared.  Pitch-defined manuscripts begin to appear in the eleventh century, and were well-established by the twelfth.  In these manuscripts, the pitches can be read, but the rhythmic details are not precisely documented.  These rhythms and pitches were not written down because many of the first Christian church chants were improvised.  Approximately 900 A.D. many liturgical-musical missionaries traveled between Rome and the north.  These traveling musicians wrote down melodies and rhythms so that the chant melodies of the church became consistent and usable by the common people and the clergy.  This same concept of chant applied also to the vernacular languages in churches at the time of the Reformation.

Chanting was and is intended to make the words more distinct and easier to hear.  Through the simple monophonic (single melody line) music, chanting lends beauty to the divine service.  It sets God’s Word of the Psalms and liturgy apart from everyday, secular words and ceremonies.  The early church used five primary modes or reciting tones of chant.  These tones are still used today:  Aeolian, Dorian, Ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian, and Phrygian (A, D, C, G, and E respectively).  The music and modes of the church are deliberately simple.  They are intended to float the words, not interpret them.  This is what distinguishes chants from spoken words in the Divine Service and more specifically chanting from the singing of our hymns.  There are three melodic styles of chant:  syllabic, in which each syllable of text is set to a single note; neumatic, in which two to a dozen notes accompany a syllable; and melismatic, in which single syllables may be sung to dozens of notes.  In general, the more solemn the church occasion, the more somber the music.

All adapted plainchant melodies reflect the fact that during the period when they were made (from the Reformation and Counter Reformation to the nineteenth century) the Latin chant itself was undergoing an additional process of simplification.  During this period, the chant was altered so that accented syllables receive more (or longer) notes than unaccented ones; it was performed more slowly, and the notation recorded a binary rhythmic relation between long and short notes, producing a semi-rhythmic style.  This is what is used today in congregations that chant.

Therefore, the Lutheran church has adopted the following process and procedures for chanting in the Divine Service. The chanting of the Introit is done slowly.  The following example of chant is from the Introit for the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost.

Each half verse of the Introit text corresponds to one measure of the motif.  Therefore, when chanting, the complete motif is chanted with each full verse.  The first half of the verse corresponds to the first measure, the second half verse to the second measure.  Notice that in each verse of text an asterisk marks the beginning of the second half verse.  Also notice that two or three syllables before the end of each half verse is another mark:  a hash mark in the first half verse, and a dash in the second half verse.

When chanting each half verse, each syllable preceding the hash mark is the first half verse is chanted to the tone marked as a hole note in the motif.  The last syllables, indicated by the mark, fit neatly to the last three notes of the measure.  The second half verse is sung in the same way to the second measure, completing the verse and the motif. This is repeated with each verse of the Introit through the Gloria Patri.  The first verse is repeated after the Gloria Patri.

Notes:
Apel, W and Daniel R.T. (Eds.) (1960).  The Harvard Brief Dictionary of Music.  New York, NY: MJF Books and Creative Media.
Crocker, Richard (2004).  An Introduction to Gregorian Chant, London, Guildford and Kings Lynn
Elson, A. (1937).  The Book of Musical Knowledge, New York, NY:  Houghton-Mifflin Company.

 

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

In the Divine Service Christ comes to us in body and spirit. One receives the Word through the ear (Romans 6); the washing of the flesh in Holy Baptism (Hebrews 11); and Holy Communion through the mouth. Our bodies receive His grace after our bodies have received His Word and sacramental touch.

Because Christ is truly present in the Divine Service and that He works through physical means, Lutherans in the Divine Service respond physically to Him. Our worship is Christocentric—Christ centered. Our liturgy draws attention not to ourselves, but to Christ. Our Liturgy is filled with sensuality; it physically confronts us with the presence of Christ. For example, there are visual reminders of His presence: a crucifix, lit candles, paraments, vestments placed on His called and ordained servant of the Word, and symbolic artwork depicting His grace. There are musical sounds that proclaim Him: chants, hymns, psalms, the tones of a trumpet or organ, ringing of bells, music from the choir, corporate creeds and prayer, and the sound of a book slamming in darkness. There are smells: the scents of incense, the perfume of flowers. And finally, there is the taste and touch of Christ Himself. The liturgy is designed to make us physically aware of Christ’s presence. Because of this physical presence, we respond in unique patterns and postures during the Divine Service. These patterns and postures have been handed down to us in scripture and through history.

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Psalm 95:6-7). Reverencing (bowing the head), genuflecting (bowing the right knee to touch the ground), kneeling (technically, a “double-knee genuflect”), and prostration (placing one’s body face-down on the ground) are among the most common and ancient postures of worship. (Gen. 24:26, 48, 52; Ex. 4:31; 12:27; 34:8; 1 Chron. 29:20; 2 Chron. 7:3; 20:18; 29:29-30; Neh. 8:6; Is. 45:23; Micah 6:6; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10, etc.). Historically, as a sign of respect, worship and reverence, the faithful are commanded to bow and reverence their King.

Luther too encouraged postures of reverence. “Worship is not a function only of the mouth but of the whole body. It is to bow the head, bend the body, fall to the knees, prostrate oneself and so forth, and to do such things as a sign and acknowledgement of authority and power … Such outward adoration is what the scriptures really mean by worship … Where worship is offered from the heart, there follows quite properly also that outward bowing, bending, kneeling, and adoration with the body.”

The traditional postures for reverencing, genuflecting and kneeling are done at the following points during the Divine Service:

Upon entering the pew: Reverence the altar. Genuflect when the consecrated Sacrament is already present. The altar is the location at which Christ is or will become present.

When the cross or crucifix is carried in procession or recession: Reverence it as it passes by.

When the name “Jesus Christ” is spoken – Bow the head at the Name which is above every other name.

During the Gloria Patri of the Introit – Bow the head to honor the Holy Trinity.

During the Gloria in Excelsis:

– Bow the head in worship to God the Father at the words “we worship You, we glorify You, we give you thanks to You for Your great glory.”

– Bow the head at the words “receive our prayer”

At the Salutation: Bow the head in respect for Christ’s minister (who also bows to the congregation).

During the Creed: Bow the head at the words “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man” Genuflect in adoration of Christ for having humbled Himself by taking on Human flesh for our salvation.

During the Sanctus: Bow the head at the words “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, Heaven and earth are full of Your glory,” in worship of the Holy Trinity and conformity to the actions of the saints in heaven.

During the words of Institution: Kneel

At the elevation of the Body and Blood of Christ: If not kneeling already, genuflect. If kneeling, bow the head in worship of the physical presence of Christ.

At the Pax Domini: Bow the head to Christ, who is our peace.

During the Gloria Patri of the Nunc Dimittis: Bow the head in honor of the Holy Trinity.

At the Benediction: Bow the head and humbly receive the blessing of our Lord.

When leaving the church: Reverence the altar.

Of course, none of these actions or postures are required of us as Lutheran Christians. However, they provide an opportunity to present our outward adoration during the Divine Service.

Notes:
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Kind, D. (2003). About our liturgy: Meaning, history, and practice. Copyright, David A. Kind.
Luther, M. “The adoration of the Sacrament,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 36, 290-295.
Reed, L. (1947). The Lutheran liturgy. Philadelphia, PA: Muhlenberg Press.

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

In a generation when many churches are trying to create an identity for themselves, the Lutheran Church can thank God for the abundant blessings of a rich heritage and tradition rooted in God’s Word and Sacraments. Christ Crucified is the center of our doctrine. By faith alone, a gift of the Holy Spirit, we are saved. This is the identity of the Lutheran Church.

A recent book by Rev. Daniel Preus, “Why I am a Lutheran,” looks at the serious theological implications of being Lutheran in a clear and readable manner. He expounds that the reason we are Lutheran is because Jesus Christ is at the very center of what we do and who we are. Christ is the focus of our very existence as Lutheran Christians and everything we do should provide others direction toward Him. This has been the reason, philosophy, and focus of Lutheran theologians, musicians and reformers for five centuries.

As Lutheran Christians it is important that we understand our heritage through the theologians, musicians, and reformers that have gone before us. Understanding provides us with support from the past that others, even in their sinful state, outlined to keep Christ at the center of who they were and what they did. Secondly, it allows us to view the Lutheran church as a historical tool for keeping Christ our only focus, patterning our lives and worship after the legacy recorded in historical writings and music.

I invite you all to attend a series of studies on the historical Lutheran Church, its leaders and its music. The studies will be held at Christ Lutheran Church in April and May of 2005. Specific topics for study will be Luther and his life, the church music of Bach and Mozart, Smetana, Beethoven, and Dvorak.

Paul R. Schilf, Ph. D.

As we look at our Lutheran liturgy, we find specific places during the Divine Service where hymns are placed. What are these hymns called? Why are they found at these specific spots? What significance does each hymn bring to the Lutheran liturgy? Who selects the hymns for Divine Service at Christ Lutheran Church? Why do we stand on certain hymn stanzas? Found below is a brief examination of hymn placement and use during the Divine Service.

The Opening Hymn: For centuries the opening hymn used in the divine service has served the function as the opening statement for the day’s worship. Although the selection of this hymn should not try to be all encompassing, it should serve the function of establishing the mood and message for the specific divine service. This hymn often serves as a “book end” with the closing (sending) hymn and contains a similar theme. In many churches it is common to stand for the first hymn because it is a transition to the opening invocation. As a confessional Lutheran congregation, we also stand for specific stanzas of hymns. We rise during doxological stanzas. Doxological stanzas are the specific verses, usually the last verse, that offer praise to the Trinity. It is proper to stand for any doxological stanza, during any hymn.

The Sermon Hymn: The sermon hymn is also commonly called the “hymn of the day.” It serves the function of providing musicality to the sermon text. Most frequently, the sermon hymn or hymn of the day is closely tied to the Gospel or Epistle. Our hymnals provide sections on “Hymns For the Church Year,” in which for any given Sunday, possible selections are provided.

The Distribution Hymn(s): The hymns used during distribution focus on the real presence of the body and blood of our Lord in His Holy meal. They may specifically be from the “Lord’s Supper” section of hymns or they may be selected to reinforce the pertinence of the appointed lessons. Congregational members not at the Lord’s Table should not sing idly, but actively participate by focusing on the distribution hymns as they sing. These hymns serve as a profession to those gathered and to the world “our Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). In other words, these hymns shout our commonality gathered around our Savior’s table.

The Closing Hymn: The closing hymn is also called the sending hymn. It completes the service with the proclamation of the day’s Gospel. The sending hymn attempts to tie together the texts and the day’s sermon. In many congregations, people stand for the final hymn as it sends them out of the church filled with the Gospel to “go and tell.” It is our privilege to be refreshed and renewed in the Divine Service; it is our response to proclaim.

At Christ Lutheran Church the planning of the Divine Service rests on the “Called and Ordained Servant of the Word and Sacrament.” It is our pastor in consultation with the organist, music director, and elders that selects the hymns. It is truly a blessing to have an opportunity to come to our Lord in song and proclaim in true doctrine the blessings He provides for us in the Divine Service.

Notes:
Lutheran Worship, (1982), Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO.
Precht, F. L. (1992), Hymnal companion, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO.

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

When business consultants prepare for presentations, they dress in professional clothing that assures clients that their ideas can be trusted. Law enforcement officials dress in uniforms that communicate their roles. Judges wear robes to present their authority. What we wear in society and in the church makes a statement. This statement in the church, for the choir, is only one of functionality.

The Levitical priests, who assisted in the worship of the Old Testament church, wore robes to present themselves as leaders or assistants. These priestly garments served several functions. The historical liturgical function of these robes was to obliterate human distinction and force due attention on proper practice and procedure in worship. Furthermore, thousands of years of Christian tradition using robes help impart a sense of unified purpose to the choir. It is as if the robes support the choir to accomplish a particular task of worship and they perform this job in their “work clothes.” Robes enforce modesty; the body is fully covered, so there is no temptation to gaze on the choir member or falsely exalt human sexuality.

The Lutheran church choir offers service and provides assistance to the congregational body, by enriching the worship of the entire gathered assembly. In other words, the choir serves as the representative liturgical voice of the baptized. Naturally, the choir should wear the traditional garment of the baptized community. Through the tradition of the Christian church, newly baptized and confirmed members were clothed in a white tunic–like garment called an “alb.” This flowing, usually white, near floor–length garment represented new life the baptized was given in the sacrament. While the alb might be seen to be “clothes for the clergy” or the “robe the pastor wears, the alb is actually a garment of baptism, suitable for all baptized. When pastors or choir members wear these they wear them on behalf of the whole baptized assembly. Also, in some churches, those who serve as lectors, elders, intercessors, acolytes, and presiding ministers wear these robes.

Some church choirs wear stoles or collars around their necks. Historically stoles represent the yoke of discipleship that the church has traditionally placed on only the necks of ordained leadership as a sign as their servant role and specific calling to be the sole leader of liturgical worship. Some may perceive choir members in the gathered assembly wearing such stoles to be assuming a role that is not there. However, the style of the pastoral stole is usually quite unique from the collar or stole the church choir might wear. The pastoral stole wraps over both shoulders and hangs down the front of the clergy, thus symbolizing the yoke. At times, pectoral crosses are worn as ornamented dress of the clergy. These large crosses clearly establish and define the function of the pastor as the leader of the divine service.

The Lutheran church choir has a unique and significant role in Lutheran worship. It can fill that position with music ranging from the simplest to the most complex. What is of the utmost importance is that the choir, their director, the pastor, and the congregation understand the role of the choir in worship and that role contributes to the interest, effectiveness, meaningfulness, continuity, and reverence of the gathered corporate body. Care should be taken to see that choirs wear vestments and accessories that communicate the truth of their role in worship.

Finally, choir vestments or other clothing must not be a distraction to the Gospel or their role within the Divine Service. Article XV (Ecclesiastical Usages) of the Augsburg Confession puts it this way [cf. Confutatio Pontificia]:

Of Usages in the Church they teach that those ought to be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquility and good order in the Church, as particular holy–days, festivals, and the like. Nevertheless, concerning such things men are admonished that consciences are not to be burdened, as though such observance was necessary to salvation. They are admonished also that human traditions instituted to propitiate God, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins, are opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith. Wherefore vows and traditions concerning meats and days, etc., instituted to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are useless and contrary to the Gospel.

Notes
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society for Worship, Music, and the Arts by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1988). Paradigms of Praise, St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Schalk, C.E. (1983). Music in Lutheran worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

Lutheran worship must place the focus squarely on Jesus Christ, who is present for us and with us through His Word and Sacraments in the divine service. Lutheran worship is only Christ-centered, not man-centered. Our hymnal describes worship: “Our Lord speaks and we listen… Saying back to Him what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure…. The rhythm of our worship is from Him to us, and then us back to Him.” Lutheran Worship is not some gathering where man is in control and the use of every new fad or trend becomes the norm. The fact is, Lutheran worship is not our action, but it is Divine Service, God’s action on our behalf. It is God giving His gifts and our thanksgiving with His Words in return.

The Divine Service is “holy” time, meaning, “set apart.” It is a time that we are set apart from the secular, working world. Our holy or set apart time is just that, our worship is set apart from our daily routines and every-day life. In order to have this perspective complete, one must therefore realize that worship is not some form of man-made amusement to “touch our hearts” or “uplift our spirits.” Rather, it should be a real and thorough immersion in the thought process of God’s Word, equipping and strengthening us for greater service to Him and to His people. It is not only a Sunday morning phenomenon, but appropriate any time. As a corporate body of believers, Sunday is the time when we gather together for worship, the divine service.  Most certainly in worship we are gathered together in the presence of the almighty, holy God, and we are a part of the time of “heaven on earth.”

We frequently hear from other church denominations and even churches of the LCMS that we need to make worship “relevant to today’s generation,” or worse, “marketable.” The very sad wrong that is committed here is that making worship relevant is not our job! We limit the power of the Holy Spirit when we believe we can improve upon God’s action. It’s not the job of some praise band, or the job of some emotion-filled speaker, or of high-tech facility to create sensations. The relevance in worship only comes from the Word of God and how the Holy Spirit interacts with us through that Word. Society’s perception of “relevance” of the text, music, and actions should never be the issue; we should leave “relevance” to the Holy Spirit. Without placing the emphasis on ourselves, or what we can do to make worship relevant in some emotion-filled stupor, we simply come to His house, where we are fed with His gifts in Word and Sacrament.

Holy Scripture is quite clear on what is involved in worship. “I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Cor. 14:15b). The mind is also emphasized in Paul’s letter to the Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” With these words St. Paul emphasizes in unmistakable terms that corporate worship, specifically singing, must be with understanding—with the “mind,” attesting the intense intellectual activity that the Holy Spirit produces in worship. Worship is not a form of entertainment, or even a passive attendance. Worship is dignified, reverent, and sacred. Furthermore, we do not worship by conforming to the “patterns of this world” but by engaging in a time set-apart for Him to come to us in Word and Sacrament. God provides all the relevance that is needed for true worship!

Notes
Barry, A.L. (1996). What About Lutheran Worship? St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on Music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Precht, F.L. (1992). Lutheran Worship, Hymnal Companion, St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House
Schalk, C.E. (1983). Music in Lutheran Worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

 


 

What belonged to the theater was brought into the church—and what belonged to the church [was brought] into the theater. Everything was so changed into light jesting, that earnestness was stripped of its worth by wit, and that which is holy became a subject for banter and scoffing in the refined conversation of worldly people.

Yet, worse it was that the unbridled delight of these men in dissipating enjoyments threatened to turn the church into a theater, and the preacher into a play actor. If he would please the multitude, he must adapt himself to their taste, and entertain them amusingly in the church. They demanded also in the preaching something that should please the ear; and they clapped with the same pleasure the comedian in the holy place and him on the stage. And alas, there were found at that period too many preachers who preferred the applause of men to their souls’ health.

— Gregory of Nazianzus (ca. A.D. 330-390), Prolegomena

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

Martin Luther believed in the concept of “say and sing.” This idea was to combine the memorization of God’s word in speech and in song. He firmly believed that children must be taught at a very early age to incorporate the Word into their daily lives. Luther believed that doctrine is taught in part through the music of the church. He emphasized music as God’s—not man’s—creation, and as God’s gift to man to be used in His praise and proclamation. In seeing all of music as under God’s redemptive hand, Luther underscored the freedom of the Christian to use music in the proclamation of the Gospel, working with the Divine service to teach and build the Body of Christ. The music that developed in the “say and sing” concept is the very hymns and doctrine that is found in our hymnals today. Therefore this music and incorporated scripture must be taught to our children.

Secular research supports the beliefs held by Martin Luther. Musical aptitude is a product of innate potential and very early environmental influences. Every child is born with a unique musical aptitude: every child is born with a potential for understanding and performing rhythmic, tonal, and interpretive elements of music. This aptitude fluctuates from child to child in the primary grades, yet every child has this innate potential. However, what is most interesting to note is that research clearly indicates one’s musical aptitude is impervious to practice and training at about age ten. (Gordon, 1971)

The National Commission on Excellence in Education 1983 describes parents as the initial and most dominant educator in children’s lives. Parents begin instruction, often at early ages. They continue that guidance and direction into adolescence. Bensen, Galbraith, and Espeland (1995) in their research, relate that the single greatest need for adolescents is to have parents that really care and are involved in their lives. The Christian psychologist, Dr. James Dobson maintains that our society is one and really only one generation from loosing our distinctive Christian heritage. For example, if we were not to teach our children about Christ, the faith and doctrine of the church would vanish quickly.

We as parents need no further foundation for teaching our children the music of the Lutheran church. Secular research indicates that we must teach our children at an early age and that we must remain an influence in our children’s lives. We learn from Luther the need to “say and sing,” to learn the doctrine of the church and to put it in practice in the Divine Service. Too often parents are influenced by sectarian fads and by what makes our children happy and content. We must remain the guides in their lives by teaching and using the hymns of the Church to teach all purity of the Word. What a tragedy it would be if the doctrine of the Lutheran church were to waiver because either we were not teaching the hymns or we were teaching “watered-down” theology through God’s gift of music.

It is truly a blessing at Christ Lutheran Church to have solid curriculum in our Sunday School. Our pastor and our elders hold high the value of teaching our children firm, confessional Lutheran Doctrine in hymnody and catechesis. Furthermore, it is an additional blessing that we do this from young to old in our congregation with several weekly opportunities for Bible study and the Divine Service.

Coming in November: Hymns of the Lutheran Church

Notes
Benson, P.L., Galbraith, J., & Espeland, P. (1995). What Kids Need to Succeed: Proven Practical Ways to Raise Good Kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing Co.
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on Music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Gordon, E. (1971). The psychology of teaching music, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice- Hall, Inc.
Zdzinski, S.F. (1992). Relationships among parent involvement, musical aptitude and musical achievement in students. Journal of Research in Music Education, 40, 114-26.

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

The Psalms are the prayer book of the Scriptures. They are God’s words that we can use in prayer back to Him. This is much different than the common understanding of prayer today. We often think of prayer as our spoken words and thoughts.

God’s words of prayer, found in the Psalms, are intended to be chanted or sung. We know this because of the specific instructions provided in scripture. We find the word Selah in the text of the psalms. This is a specific musical interlude or instrumental interaction between the stanzas of the Psalms. These interludes were often played on simple stringed instruments and produced several key pitches that reinforced the tone(s) the Psalm was chanted on.

Through the centuries following Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, various bodies of liturgical music schools argued that they each had the best and most appropriate set of pitches for the singing of the Psalms. Thus, Ambrosian, Anglican, Byzantine, and Gregorian forms of chant were developed. Today, it is most common to use Gregorian chant in our worship.

Gregorian chant is the music of the Roman Catholic Church, named after Pope Gregory I (590-604). The music lacks regular meter and measure, and is monophonic, that is, no harmony. Traditionally, these chants have been sung in alternation by a soloist and congregation or choir and congregation and are said to be responsorial or antiphonal. A Gregorian chant traditionally uses one of the eight church modes, or tone centers. These tonal centers have their roots in Grecian music and were surely audible during Paul’s journeys. Most recently these melodies on the church modes have been associated with the Psalms and more Western music for about 1,800 years and are very similar to the chant melodies Martin Luther used.

Chanting was and is intended to make the words more distinct and easier to hear. Through the simple monophonic music, chanting lends beauty to the divine service. It helps to set Divine Words or God’s Word of the Psalms, apart from everyday, secular words and ceremonies. The music of the church modes is deliberately simple. It is intended to carry the words, not interpret them. This is what distinguishes chants from spoken words in the Divine Service and more specifically chanting from the singing of hymns.

The Psalms are God’s words used back to Him in prayer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, "Our prayers should be shaped by the richness of God's Word, not the poverty of our own hearts." Since we use God’s own words in the Psalms, we should set them apart from our everyday, secular words. There are many different ways of chanting the Psalms. They have a simple beauty and dignity to them, which draws the "prayer" into the Word of God.

Coming in November: Teaching Lutheran Music to Children

Notes
Apel, W and Daniel R.T. (Eds.) (1960). The Harvard brief dictionary of music. New York, NY: MJF Books and Creative Media.
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Elson, A. (1937). The book of musical knowledge. New York, NY: Houghton–Mifflin Company.

 

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

The June/July article discussed what should be most commonly understood as "traditional worship" and "traditional music." In that article, I suggested that Lutherans must not hesitate to critically examine their music and worship heritage and subject it to sound theological, psychological, and sociological examination for its meaning and usefulness for our own time. It should go without saying that the Lutheran church must submit its worship and music to the scrutiny of theological examination. It should be the primary emphasis of the church to hold the musical styles to the scrutiny of Lutheran Doctrine. However, what about psychological and sociological examination? Will we gain any additional understanding of our worship or liturgical music by examining them with the scrutiny of psychological and sociological constructs? Because of man's sinful nature, we often desire to hold musical preferences and styles to societal measures. We look to see, one, what we like and two, what other churches are doing. At times people have indicated the need to look to future church leaders as the preferential or authoritative source for discerning proper music in worship. In short, we want to know, "how do others feel?" Some have presented that the church must attract younger members by using the most contemporary forms and sounds during the worship service. Furthermore, they believe that we must use these popular, societal styles to make worship interesting and thereby retain adolescents in worship services.

To the contrary, some recent research addresses just this issue. In an exhaustive study, Barbara Resch (1996) investigated the attitudes of adolescents toward the appropriateness of religious music in worship settings. Her study, using 879 public and private high school and junior high school students in the Midwest, examined their perceived level of worship-appropriateness for 40 American church musical excerpts. Tempo, instrumentation, and style were among the musical elements researched and discussed. The results of this Indiana University doctoral study have grave implications for individuals who believe adolescents are attracted to a more contemporary style of worship music. It was clearly discovered that students perceive contemporary rock and popular styles of music inappropriate for church services. Moreover, it was affirmed that students in junior and senior high school believe that more traditional music is most appropriate for worship. Additional studies have shown that adolescents wish to keep their popular styles of music separate from that of religious services. Nowhere was this more evident than at the July 2003 Confessional Lutheran Youth Conference. More than one thousand youth enthusiastically participated in new and traditional hymns, Lutheran liturgy and several forms of Gregorian chant. The students' witness provided tremendous support for more traditional styles of music in worship.

The church must strive to worship its Lord with the best possible music. Pop music should never replace the solid, historically accurate and correct forms that have served the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church for centuries. The church must educate congregational members about the criterion that determine what musical styles are best and most appropriately used in worship. Musical styles that have goals to make us "feel good" or provide us with a link to secular society are inherently wrong, as their effect is self-serving and will ultimately dumb-down and secularize the church. These sectarian fads often lack appropriateness on sociological as well as theological levels.

October: Why Use Chant?

Notes
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983). Music in Lutheran worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Resch, B.J. (1996). Adolescent’s attitudes toward the appropriateness of religious music, Dissertation, Indiana University.

 

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

Lutherans look at their worship as part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Because of this, the way we worship looks to historic traditions and Scripture as the only important sources of defining proper worship practices. Lutheran worship does not hesitate to critically examine its heritage from the past and subject it to sound theological, psychological, and sociological examination for its meaning and usefulness for our own time. By theological review, Lutheran worship reminds the participant that the individual worshipper is not the primary focus of the congregational endeavor.

Such theological review reminds the participants about their sinful nature and their need for Christ's redemption. Additionally, psychological and sociological review, when acknowledged from a theological and historical perspective, suggests that each age or individual congregation must not start anew to fashions, trends, and sentiments of worship and prayer. But that solid, traditional Lutheran worship is an experience which has gathered the experiences of the church as a whole, through history and doctrinal scrutiny.

For Lutherans, the word tradition—in the sense of the gathered experience of the church at worship throughout its history—is an important working concept. For Lutherans, their worship tradition is always a living tradition, which builds on the experience of the past. In some places, the word tradition is misunderstood to mean merely conventional practices that may have developed in some place and have no relation to the experience of the whole church. Often it means no more than "what we in this parish are used to" or "how we did it last year." More often than not, such traditions merely reflect sectarian fads that have become conventional through individual congregational repetition.

It is Lutheran convictions and perspectives that place the [actual] needs of people central and where they are most effectively met by worship forms and structures of prayer which draw on the collective experience of the one whole, holy, catholic [universal], and apostolic church at worship. For some, such structures and practices—when used for the first time—will be new and, perhaps, disconcerting. Once they become a normal and integrated part of the life of worship, however, their richness, strength, diversity, power to nourish faith and life, and their ability to help Lutherans praise God and enjoy Him forever, soon becomes apparent.

Lutherans must never settle for second best in their worship life. They must strive to worship their Lord with the best possible music, worship forms, and structures of prayer. Never should sectarian fads and pop culture replace the solid doctrinal forms that have served the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church for centuries. Our Lord provides the best for us in His sacramental gifts. Worship styles that make us "feel good" or provide us with a link to secular society are inherently wrong, as their goal is self-serving and are attempts to dumb-down the church. We Lutherans must offer our best; we must attempt to "return to the Lord our God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."

Notes:
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983). Music in Lutheran worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Coming In September: Youth of the church, what are their feelings about appropriateness of religious music?

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

Martin Luther, alone among most of the reformers of the 16th century, welcomed music into the divine service worship. For Luther, music was a "noble, wholesome, and joyful creation … a gift from God." For Luther, music was a part of God's creation with the power to praise its Creator, and thus found its greatest fulfillment in the proclamation of the Word.

"Therefore accustom yourself to see in this creation your Creator and to praise Him through it. If any would not sing and talk of what Christ has wrought for us, he shows thereby that he does not really believe." Dr. Martin Luther

For Luther to "say and sing" was a single concept resulting from the inevitable eruption of joyful song in the heart of the redeemed. In contrast to some other reformers who saw music as always potentially troublesome and in need of careful control and direction, Luther, in the freedom of the Gospel, could exult in the power of music to proclaim the Word and to touch the heart and mind of man.

Luther emphasized music as God's, not man's, creation, and as God's gift to man to be used in His praise and proclamation. Through this, and stressing particularly the royal priesthood of all believers, Luther laid the foundation for the involvement of every Christian—congregation, choir, composer, instrumentalist—in corporate praise at the highest level of ability. In seeing all of music as under God's redemptive hand, Luther underscored the freedom of the Christian to use music in the proclamation of the Gospel. The music that developed in this tradition is eloquent testimony to the fact that the church's musicians and its people found that Luther's views provided a healthy and wholesome context in which to work, to sing, and to make music in praise of God.

Luther encouraged only the most sophisticated forms of the music of his day—Gregorian chant and classical polyphony—to be taught to the young and sung in church together with the simpler congregational chorales. Gregorian chant is a single line of music lacking any form of meter and measure, named after Pope Gregory I (590-604). Polyphonic music is composed of two or more voice parts, but each one has melodic significance. It predates and differs from our current structure of melody and harmony. Luther himself and in collaboration with other church musicians, took the polyphonic music and chants and placed them in strict metrical form to assist congregations in the singing of hymns. The result is what some refer to as "music from the bars." This phenomenon was not "music from the tavern," but appropriate liturgical music of the time arranged metrically (using "bar lines") for congregational use. In contrast to the Latin tradition and that of the Calvinist reformation, it was Luther's understanding of music as a gift of God that successfully encouraged the reciprocal interaction of simple congregational song and art music of the most sophisticated kind. A flourishing tradition of Christian church music was the result.

Next month: Musical Traditions in the Lutheran Church and Recent Research about Attitudes Toward the Appropriateness of Religious Music.

Notes
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983). Music in Lutheran worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

 

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

The Music and History of the Organ

The invention of the organ (Hydraulis) dates back to early Greek antiquity and the time of Christ. As early as the 3rd century after Christ the water pressure of the hydraulis was replaced by pneumatic pressure provided by bellows. In the 7th and 8th centuries the construction of organs flourished at Constantinople, and several Byzantine emperors sent elaborate organs to the court of the Frankish kings (Pippin, Charlemagne) where they were highly admired and deemed the most appropriate instrument for singing. In the 15th century, keys replaced the pedals as well as the heavy “slides” of the earlier instruments. This inventive change made the instrument, considered by most in the church, the only appropriate instrument for leading liturgical song.

The organ has played a significant role in Lutheran worship since Reformation times, even though various aspects of its role have changed since that time. In its unique way the organ, as mentioned numerous times by Luther and Bach, is the “living voice of the Gospel” and its use in Lutheran worship has demonstrated this.

The Role Of The Lutheran Church Organist

The Lutheran organist is a liturgical organist. This means that the movement and requirements of the liturgical action determine the organists’ functions in the service. It is not the function of the organist to entertain, to provide meaningless meanderings at the keyboard, or to fill every quiet moment with music. It is the function of the liturgical organist to lead the congregation in the singing of the hymns and chorales, to accompany, as appropriate, other portions of the liturgy sung by the congregation or choir, and to present other liturgical and attendant music alone or in ensemble.

The most important role of the organist is that of introducing and leading the congregational singing of the hymns and the liturgy. The practice of using the organ to accompany congregational singing was relatively new at Luther’s time, for the chorales were sung unaccompanied and in unison. But today the common practice is for the organist to accompany most, if not all, the stanzas of the hymns. Effective leadership here can do much to make worship the exciting adventure at its best. Through the use of effective introductions, careful choice of tempos, rhythmic playing, appropriate registration, judicious use of varied accompaniments, the occasional singing of a hymn stanza without the organ, and especially through the use of alternation between the congregation, organ, and choir, the organist sets the spirit and carries the momentum of hymn singing from the introduction through to the final stanza. When the organ accompanies other portions of the liturgy sung by the congregation it should do so with a forthrightness and vigor appropriate to the circumstances. In all situations, because of the nature of the instrument the organ leads the congregational singing; it does not merely provide a bland accompaniment.

It is customary in many places that the organ play at the beginning of worship, during the gathering of the gifts, and as the congregation disperses at the close of worship. It is most helpful and meaningful if the organ music at these times is based on the hymns or chorales sung in the service. At the least such music should clearly reflect the spirit of the particular celebration.

In general, when the organist does play it should be liturgically, functionally, and practically to the point. When it has no particular liturgical function it should remain silent. While the liturgical organist seeks to avoid flamboyance and pretension in his/her playing, at the same time (s)he uses all his/her skills in highlighting the inherent drama of the liturgical celebration. Only in this way will the organ’s role as a liturgical instrument be more readily apparent.

Notes
Apel, W and Daniel R.T. (Eds.) (1960). The Harvard brief dictionary of music. New York, NY: MJF Books and Creative Media.
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983). Music in Lutheran worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

 

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

When reviewing the use of the solo voice in Lutheran Worship, three questions must be asked.

1. What is the history of the use of the soloist in worship?

The use of the solo voice in worship finds it roots in the Old Testament Psalms. The cantorial tradition in the Jewish temple, and the continuation of elements of psalm chant of the early Christian church comprise the two main forms of solo singing in the church. In Lutheran worship, it was these two forms that continued and expanded during the time of Luther and Bach. During the latter16th century, counterpoint, or intertwining melodic lines became the compositional norm. Obviously, this compositional technique was not easily adaptable to the solo voice. However, numerous composers wrote for solo voice and solo instrument as a contrapuntal technique. It is this musical style that is most commonly found in our church today.

2. What is the function of the soloist in worship?

Similar to that of the Lutheran Church choir, main emphasis must be placed on the use of the solo voice as a liturgical function. Where a solo voice is used during the service, for example at times when a choir is not available, a Lutheran understanding of corporate worship assumes that the solo voice is really a one-voice choir. Therefore, the soloist must provide the liturgical music necessary for the particular point during the service. Then when possible and desirable, the soloist may present additional attendant music according to his or her ability. The Lutheran Liturgy offers many opportunities for participation by a solo voice in ways – characterized by a spirit of modesty and restraint – that give richness, variety, and enhanced meaning to liturgical worship.

3. Who should be used as a soloist during the worship service?

Specifically, soloists from the church choir where the singing of appropriated liturgical music is the norm will recognize their function in a liturgical context rather than that of presenting "special" music. This is predominately true if the choir is being educated and taught the ways of liturgical worship during their weekly rehearsals. Soloists need not only come from the church choir. However because of rehearsal schedules, musical styles, and selections, they often serve in the best capacity for the congregation.

Notes
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer, Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983).  Music in Lutheran worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

 

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

The confessional Lutheran Church has always welcomed the use of a variety of instruments as an important and specifically festive way of expressing the celebrative aspects of joyful worship. Luther as a reformer of the Catholic church encouraged musicians to "let their singing and playing to the praise of the Father of all grace sound forth with joy from their pipe organs and whatever other beloved musical instruments there are."

A rich treasury of instrumental music used in Lutheran worship developed during the Reformation.  This music includes instrumental selections intended for preludes, postludes and interludes, both choral-based (textual) and compositions for organ and one or more solo instruments. Additionally, more difficult large- and small-scale concertato works for small numbers of instruments and voices became a worship style norm during the reformation era. Recently, more deliberate attention has been given to the solo and concerted works for small numbers of instruments with organ, or in concert with voices, that can be performed by instrumentalists of modest ability.

Instruments can play an important role in corporate worship. They provide leadership for us to sing our faith, helping us to more fully and clearly express the changing moods of corporate Lutheran Worship, from the leanness and sparseness of seasons like Advent and Lent to the more exuberant character of the Easter and Christmas seasons. However, as musical instruments lead our worship they must always work to enhance the textual mood of the season and support the role of the organ as the primary leader of song in our worship. Their role of leadership is best affected not from the front and facing the congregation, but from the side or rear of the congregation. This enhances and supports the congregation rather than competes with it. Furthermore, their presence at the side or rear of the sanctuary removes their "performance" nature and transfers their role to one of support in the divine service.

Instruments can help foster communion with God and the assembled body during the worship service and can serve as an extension of the human voice in sounding the liturgy and attendant music.  Additionally they fully proclaim the joy in the human Christian heart by sharing the gift of God, His music. Instruments and voices in union work to proclaim the message of the day. However, the scheduling and use of such instruments must always be done with careful planning.

The use of instruments and the scheduling of choral activities within a Lutheran congregation work best for the congregation when the parish musician(s) and pastor(s) work closely and carefully together. Regular planning sessions are an important part of the preparation for corporate worship. Although the pastor is always the leader in the spiritual guidance of the congregation, the two parties must meet often to exchange ideas and discuss plans for future services. It is only when God's servants work together toward the common goal of having living, vital music in the divine service that it can be accomplished. Each participant, pastor, and music director, plays their own distinctive role, yet each role must compliment and reinforce the other.

Notes
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer, Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983).  Music in Lutheran worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

 

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

In the Lutheran tradition of worship, the church choir provides two liturgical roles. The choir offers service, and provides assistance to the congregational body, enlivening and enriching the worship of the entire gathered assembly. It does this in three distinct ways.

  1. The Lutheran Church Choir supports and enriches the congregational singing of hymns.
  2. The choir brings richness and modest variety to congregational worship by singing and proclaiming the portions of the liturgy entrusted to it.
  3. The choir enriches congregational worship by presenting attendant music as possible and appropriate.

Now, we focus on the role of the church choir as providing attendant music. Attendant music may be defined as the spectrum of songs, hymns, anthems, motets, Passions, and cantatas that were not covered in the previous articles, but are used during the liturgical service. When the choir director selects and plans the selections for worship, at least three considerations must be forefront:

The selections must be liturgically appropriate to the Sunday, festival or season of the church year. By not following this consideration and allowing music to be out of season or generic in some way, the music detracts from the worship environment and the comprehension of the liturgical environment.

The attendant music should be appropriately placed in the liturgy. The first consideration must be revisited. For example: if the selection supports the Gospel of the day, it should be presented just prior to the reading of the Gospel. Attendant music may be given special emphasis in the traditional Lutheran practice of music subcommunione, or during the distribution of Holy Communion.

The attendant music should always be within the musical limitations of the choir. For example: the preparation of the attendant selections must never supercede or displace the preparation of the other functions of the choir in the liturgical worship.

The Lutheran church choir has a unique and significant role in Lutheran worship. It can fill that position with music ranging from the simplest to the most complex. However, complexity must never be a criterion measure of its liturgical worthiness. What is of utmost importance is that the choir, their director, the pastor, and the congregation understand the role of the choir in liturgical worship and how that role contributes to the interest, effectiveness, meaningfulness, continuity, and reverence of the gathered corporate body.

Take my voice and let me sing 
Always, only for my King;
Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Text: Frances R. Havergal, 1836-1879

Notes
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983).  Music in Lutheran worship.  St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Looking ahead:

March: Why the pipe organ?

April: Luther's view of music in worship: A synopsis

May: The music of the congregation

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

In the Lutheran tradition of worship, the church choir provides two liturgical roles. The choir offers service, and provides assistance to the congregational body, enlivening and enriching the worship of the entire gathered assembly. It does this in three distinct ways.

  1. The Lutheran Church Choir supports and enriches the congregational singing of hymns.
  2. The choir brings richness and modest variety to congregational worship by singing and proclaiming the portions of the liturgy entrusted to it.
  3. The choir enriches congregational worship by presenting attendant music as possible and appropriate.

This month's article focuses on the way the Lutheran Church Choir can provide assistance to the worshiping congregational body through the liturgy.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is a liturgical church. Liturgical worship is centered heavily on Scriptural passages as well as the church year.  The centuries-old liturgy has not merely survived but developed and thrived throughout history. It provides order, stability, and a very meaningful source of continuity to the parishioners. With other congregations, our church shares a concern for ordered worship. Our worship must not be centered in eccentricity or in faddishness. The worship of the Lutheran church must center on the aural and visual elements of stability with worship forms and practices that place them in the line of worshippers from the New Testament to the present. Lutherans must not worship in isolation from other congregations but we must join "with angels and archangels" of all times and all places. For this reason, we must teach our hymnody and liturgy to our children so that they too may join with the heavenly hosts! This therefore, is a primary responsibility of the Church choir.

The choir supports and enriches the congregational singing of the liturgy by devoting regular rehearsal time perfecting the musical nuances and harmonies found in the Lutheran Liturgy.  It is through this process that the church choir effectively leads the congregation in the singing of the liturgy.  Furthermore, the choir can learn new musical settings of the Lutheran Liturgy and enlarge the dimensions of its participation through the instruction of the congregation.

The choir also adds variety to the congregation worship by singing the portions of the liturgy that have been entrusted to it by the congregation. In the singing of the liturgy, specific texts, change from week to week: thus these liturgical texts are more suitable for singing by a group that rehearses on a regular basis. During different points in history these texts have been assigned to leadership groups within the church. However, most often they are suited for a choir or mini congregation leading the corporate congregational members from the side or rear of the sanctuary. Their use is crucially important because they provide part of the variety that is of the utmost  importance to liturgical worship. For example, throughout history in services at which Holy Communion is celebrated, the proper texts traditionally we assigned to the choir were: THE INTROIT, THE GRADUAL, THE ALLELUIA, THE TRACT, THE SEQUENCE, THE OFFERTORY AND THE COMMUNION.

In the services at which Holy Communion is not celebrated, chiefly Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers and Evening Prayer, and other services centered on the Word, the chief variable texts are: THE ANTIPHONS, THE PSALMS, THE RESPONSORY, THE CANTICLES.

This liturgical selection of texts provides the proper basis for the participation of the choir in varying portions of the worship service participation for which the Lutheran Church Choir is uniquely suited and through which it can make a significant contribution.

Notes
Buszin, W.E. (1958). Luther on music. New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983).  Music in Lutheran worship.  St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Paul R. Schilf, Ph.D.

In the Lutheran tradition of worship, the church choir provides two liturgical roles. The choir offers service, and provides assistance to the congregational body, enlivening and enriching the worship of the entire gathered assembly. It does this in three distinct ways.

 

  1. The Lutheran Church Choir supports and enriches the congregational singing of hymns.
  2. The choir brings richness and modest variety to congregational worship by singing and proclaiming the portions of the liturgy entrusted to it.
  3. The choir enriches congregational worship by presenting attendant music as possible and appropriate.

 

In September, culminating in our Hymn Festival, we focus on how the choir assists the congregational body with the singing of hymns. In subsequent issues of our church newsletter we will examine the two additional ways in depth.

The Lutheran Church Choir supports and enriches the congregational singing of hymns.

By devoting regular rehearsal time to the practice of hymns to be sung in the various worship services and special events, the church choir establishes a nucleus of singers who can confidently lead the singing. Acoustically, this is most efficiently accomplished not by singing at the congregational body from the front, but by leading the congregation from the side or the rear of the sanctuary nave.

Through the weekly singing and practice of hymns, the choir works to enlarge the congregational repertoire. The learning of new hymns of solid doctrine and value enliven the congregation by providing new texts and tunes.  These new musical forms provide additional fresh and changing expressions of moods found in the church year.  Additionally, in an appropriate manner, the choir introduces the congregation to new and varied settings of familiar standards. For example, by participation in a Hymn Festival, such as we have the opportunity here at Christ Lutheran Church, we offer to our members and the community traditional Lutheran Hymnody in a different setting.

By leading the congregation in singing familiar hymns in different musical settings, and by introducing the congregation, over a period of time, to new and unique, doctrinally-sound hymns, the Lutheran Church Choir assists in the liturgical service and edification of the congregation.

Let ev’ry instrument be tuned for praise; Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise; And may God give us faith to sing always: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! (Lutheran Worship 449 – Text: F. Pratt Green.)

 

Notes
Buszin, W.E. (1958). "Luther on music." New York, NY: Lutheran Society For Worship, Music, and the Arts, by permission of G. Schirmer Inc.
Schalk, C.E. (1983). Music in Lutheran Worship. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

 

A hymn festival was held on November 6, 2005, at 3:00 pm at Christ Lutheran Church.

The hymn festival folder (>800 KB, pdf).

 

A hymn festival was held on November 7, 2004, at 4:00 pm at Christ Lutheran Church.

The hymn festival folder (>500 KB, pdf).

A hymn festival celebrating the Gospel through the hymns of Martin Luther was held on October 26, 2003, at 4:00 pm at Christ Lutheran Church.

The hymn festival folder (> 3 MB, pdf).