As I mentioned as a passing reference in a previous post, I'm on my synod's Evangelical Lutheran Worship introductory committee. For the past few months, we've been conducting introductory events across the state.
Saturday (that's right, St. Patrick's Day) was our final event.
This has been a wonderful experience for me. About this time last year, the pastor who's headed up the committee gave me a call and asked me if I'd be interested in serving as the designated layperson. They were shooting for a makeup of 2 pastors, 2 church musicians, and one "regular" layperson. Well, even though I'm a church musician now, at this time last year I wasn't--nor was it anywhere on my radar screen. I was, however, keenly interested in worship, and therefore by extension, the new hymnal. I've also always enjoyed getting to know other church folks and, for lack of a better term, "networking." Really, it's more conversation about life, faith, and the church more than networking in the business sense of the term, but whatever you call it, getting to meet new faces and potentially reconnecting with others was a big draw for me.
And I REALLY wanted to see what this new hymnal was going to look like.
So I came in sight unseen, hoping against hope that it wasn't going to be some monstrosity that I was going to have to act like I thought was a neat idea.
And honestly, I'm really happy with it. I think they (whoever "they" are) have done an excellent job of embracing both the past, present, and future of Lutheran worship, and have provided a good core that still is able to touch on the breadth of resources that are out there. They've righted some of the wrongs that were foisted upon us by LBW (I mean, seriously...Lo How A Rose IS GROWING? Give me a friggin' break! And the harmonizations of Amazing Grace? Sad, sad, sad.) and most importantly for me, have made ELW into almost a worship textbook. There's so many points throughout the book where the average layperson has the chance to read about what it is they're doing and why they're doing it. The tools are great. A 3 year daily lectionary, a section of prayers that's been expanded BIG-time, suggested services for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, and the Tridiuum. The entirety of Luther's Small Catechism. A ton of service music in case you want to use something other than what's in the liturgical settings (including almost ALL the music to Marty Haugen's Now The Feast and Celebration liturgy...the only major piece I couldn't find was the Lamb of God). And the hymns--so many to choose from, and so many of them are wonderfully singable and have some good solid theology behind them.
And 10 liturgical settings? Dude.
I love that in the baptism service there's a 3-fold renunciation of the devil and evil to parallel the 3-fold confession of faith in the creed. And that the sponsors actually have a part to play in the service. I love the new "Introduction to Baptism," that gives the congregation the chance to formally express support for those beginning the training process. Any time you can ritualize a major life passage, it becomes that much more meaningful to those involved. Along those lines, I love the "Affirmation of Christian Vocation" on page 84 (no, I don't have the hymnal in front of me right now, but I DO have that page memorized). Another chance to affirm everyone in their daily life vocation.
Good stuff, good good stuff.
It ain't perfect. There's a few things that I've found that if it had been my decision, I would have done differently. But the folks that put it together were aiming for something that could serve most people most of the time. And I think, for the most part, they succeeded.
So, the introductory events are done. At least in the Nebraska Synod.
Pass the green beer, please!