Author Topic: What's the Use of Praising God?  (Read 3215 times)

revjagow

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What's the Use of Praising God?
« on: August 16, 2006, 10:45:33 PM »
Thank you for the outstanding article on "praise" from John W. Klenig.  I just got my copy of Lutheran Forum last week and was extremely pleased to see the openning article on "praise" worship - a topic I seem to recently be discussing/debating/struggling with a lot lately.  Thank you very much for getting permission from "Down Under" to reprint this very helpful piece.

The article starts off unpacking the new practice and theology of praise.  Mind you, if you happen to be one of the churches with "praise" singing, or if you are experimenting with some of that tradition, the tone of the article sounds a bit like criticism.  There seem to be a lot of bold pronouncements about the history and belief of praise singing that seem correct, but I would have liked to have seen some documentation as to where these statements were made.  The one sentence that threw me  in particular was, "[the theology of praise singing] ...presupposes that neither the risen Lord Jesus, nor God the Father, is really present with his people in the divine service."  I may concede that this could have been the original theology behind the practice, but in my experiences with praise singing in Lutheran churches I have not met a single pastor or service leader that felt that Jesus was not present in the Word and Sacrament, and that there needed to be some kind of personal experience to bring the Trinity out of heaven.  Even students who were asleep through most of seminary would know that the presence of Christ in Word and Sacrament is a Lutheran distinction. 

So, I was admittedly a little defensive at first.  But, the succeeding paragraphs more and more rang true with my experiences, and then the author made it clear what he was doing:  "We have much to learn from the increasing popularity of praise singing ..." he writes, "...we need to promote a sound theology of praise as taught in the Scriptures and enact it in a way that is consistent with our Lutheran tradtion."  Very well said.  And, that is exactly what the rest of the article was about.  Not a heavy-handed critique, but a marvelous, readable, and even imaginative exposition of "praise" in the Scriptures that made some fantastic connections between the Old and New Testaments and then to our practice of praise in our lives (not just in worship).  He concludes, "by praising God we enjoy him and share our enjoyment of him with others."

I found this article to be instantly usable and relevant to me and my ministry.  Dare I say it was... praiseworthy?  Yes, I will,  because I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I cannot wait to share it with others. 
Soli Deo Gloria!

Dave_Poedel

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2006, 02:27:15 AM »
I came across the current issue in one of the piles on my desk.  I had forgotten it arrived!  I started the article and immediately thought of this thread, but then got distracted (I would get a whole lot more reading done if it wasn't for those darn interruptions from parishioners....the nerve of those folks!) and will try to get to it later, hopefully tomorrow.

Dave_Poedel

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2006, 11:57:41 PM »
Since things are getting a little testy over at "Your Turn", worrying about those Episcopalians and whatnot, how about a more positive discussion on the joy of praising God during this Advent Season....and I will try to keep away from the cynicism about Christmas starting after Halloween and eclipsing Advent altogether.

We are not having midweek services this year, and I am starting to regret my decision.  Attendance was declining every year. though Lenten midweeks do serve a purpose.

Is Advent a season of hope or a season of penitence?  Any takers?

Gladfelteri

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2006, 12:14:16 AM »
Is Advent a season of hope or a season of penitence?  Any takers?
It is both in equal proportion.

Peace, and a prayerful Advent,
Irl

Mel Harris

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2006, 02:30:43 AM »
Is Advent a season of hope or a season of penitence?  Any takers?
It is both in equal proportion.

Peace, and a prayerful Advent,
Irl

I agree.  As I see it, the primary focus of Advent is He will come again, which is reason for both repentance and hope.

By the way, I was able to get rid of the Midweek Advent Services in my last call, and I was glad that I did.  Very few were showing up for those services, and most of them did not mind when they were removed from the schedule.  A year later, when it was brought up at a subsequent congregational meeting, only one person voted to have Midweek Advent Services added back to the schedule (and she had missed about half of them when we did have the services).  When I was asked if I was planning on having Midweek Advent Services here in this congregation, I said "Not unless the congregation wants them."  As far as I know, only one person has mentioned it since then, and that was not to me.

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J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2006, 08:26:52 AM »
One of the more recent additions to the schedule of services in my congregation (late autumn 1999) is the celebration of the Eucharist on (generally) the 2nd, 4th, and 5th Wednesdays of the month at 12:00 Noon.  This is an abbreviated service lasting about half an hour, mostly spoken liturgy and no hymnsn.   This was in part a replacement for the half dozen or so "quite hour" Sunday afternoon services held throughout the year for those who were otherwise homebound.  Attendance at those services had declined until often it was only one...one, who has adapted so well to this new pattern that she has attended more services in the past six years than probably in her previous sixty.

So these are held year 'round, and what seems strange about this Advent is that there will be only one such celebration, next week.  Most years the calendar is such that there are two celebrations.  And next week, being the feast of St. Lucy I will be vested in red....so the strangeness is augmented by the lack of any midweek celebration in blue.

I precede the service by playing a 15 minute cassette through the sound system, having assembled quite a library of intrumental and vocal tapes, and nearly always choosing them to compliment the daily lectionary.  So now my dilemma for next Wednesday is whether to play some Advent themed music, possibly Teja Bell or celtic harp, or to use something directly taken from the Isaiah 6 lesson, the Berlin Philharmonic chorus singing "Isaiah in a Vision did of Old".
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revjagow

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2006, 11:16:26 AM »

We are not having midweek services this year, and I am starting to regret my decision.  Attendance was declining every year. though Lenten midweeks do serve a purpose.


It just so happens that our Confirmation Class is also on Wednesday nights.  Our youth worker decided to do a worship time before our regular class.  We managed to pull a "praise band" together (he also does guitar lessons) and called the service "Come AZ UR."  This pulled some of our high schoolers into mid-week worship, and I had to find something for them to do during Confirmation (some help out, some are in their own discussion group now).  This helped to revitalize Wednesday nights a year and half ago.  You may think this is just another "contemporay music is awesome and will instantly grow your church" story, but here's the twist...

Lent of 2005 we darkened the sanctuary and put candles everywhere.  I conducted the services and based them on the order of "Compline."  Everyone was instructed to come in quietly to meditate.  We openned with a song from the Taize tradtion, followed by the opening verses and a traditional evening hymn.  That was followed with the Psalmody (quiet guitar music and a contemporary setting, usually), the brief lesson and meditation.  The prayers were again using the Taize songs - "Lord, hear my Prayer" or "Stay Here and Keep Watch."  There were ample times in the service for silence and people were invited to stay as long as they liked in the sanctuary afterward.  And the kids... LOVED IT!  I was so surprised!  So was my youth worker and organist.  You should've seen the look on their faces when they both asked me if we were doing a contemporary or a traditional service and I said, "yes."

This Advent we are doing Evening Prayer.  We start with "Jesus Christ is the light of the world" and the processional, followed by an evening hymn when all the candles are lit.  The youth do a responsive psalmody (spoken) and one of their praise songs.  That is followed by a reading and a meditation (a three part series focused on Gabriel called "(don't wanna be) Touched by an Angel" ;D  The litany is from the service in LSB and we end with a Christmas-y song using both guitars and piano.  It helps that we have a captive audience with the Confirmation Class who have to be there, but we do get at least 30 adults and 15 High Schoolers that come as well.  We have one or two youth who like to do skits, sing and play instruments.  That helps, too.  These services are advertised as a way to get away from holiday stress.  The last service we do the "hanging of the greens" instead of Confirmation Class and we usually get a good crowd of people to help decorate the church. 

Advent = hope and expectation.  And ...repentance.  Well, then there is fear of God, too ...and the angels telling us not to be afraid - so, its about faith.  I'm really mixed aren't I?  Ah, well.
Soli Deo Gloria!

Richard Johnson

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2006, 12:51:15 PM »
Oh, too bad, all you naysayers about Advent services. Ours are well attended (usually 50 to 75). We actually have kind of a gimmick, though; our organist, who is very good, does a 30-minute program of seasonal organ music at 4:45 p.m., and then we have a 30-minute Evening Prayer service. We get an excellent response. Because the organist is well-known in the music community, we get a good number of folks who come specifically to hear him; some leave at 5:15, but many of them stay for Evening Prayer. We've been doing this for more than ten years. Before that, we did a 30-minute Eucharist which usually drew in the 20's, mostly from the parish. But we have always billed it as "in the hustle and bustle of the season, it's a salutary thing to take a few minutes of quiet reflection." People respond to it.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Samuel_Zumwalt

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2006, 03:40:29 PM »
I concur with Richard that midweek Advent services always go well as do those in Lent.  We offer noonday services for those that prefer not to drive after dark.  At noon, we use the spoken rite of Holy Communion from the Service Book and Hymnal.  The folks that come at noon are mostly retirees and love that liturgy.  On Wednesday evenings in Advent and Lent, we squeeze Evening Prayer in-between the end of the Crossways Bible Study (that meets every Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. and repeated Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. except holidays and summertime) and midweek Confirmation class (normally at 7 p.m. but delayed 30 minutes so that students may worship with their small group guides and families).  This Advent we are using sung Holden Evening Prayer.  In Lent, we use sung LBW Evening Prayer.

We also have Epiphany and Ascension Day Eucharists.  This year we will celebrate Epiphany at our normal 6 p.m. Saturday Eucharist and then celebrate Baptism of Our Lord at the two Sunday Eucharists.  On Ascension Day, we have Eucharists at noon and 7 p.m.  We try to schedule special choral music from adult, children's, or handbell choirs on Epiphany and Ascension to encourage stronger attendance.

The primary ministry of the pastor is Word and Sacrament.  It seems to me that scheduling additional services for the two penitential seasons and for the two major feasts that either never or rarely fall on Sundays is the right thing to do.  My sense is that if you build it, they will come.  At least that's been true for the past 25 years of my call as parish pastor.

peter_speckhard

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2006, 04:42:32 PM »
Advent services were always some of favorites growing up, but I see they are in decline pretty much everywhere, the only exception I know of being my home congregation, Immanuel in Valpo, where my parents inform you have to get there early to get a seat sometimes. They do a variation on the Holden Village liturgy that requires the congregation singing in canon, which few congregations apart from Immanuel can pull off well. At my current church we "solved" two problems-- declining advent service participation and hectic December scheduling-- by adopting a regular routine for Wednesday Advent services. One is a service of lessons and carols, one is the Lutheran high school cantata with a few hymns and prayers for the congregation, one of a youth-led service, usually with a drama of some kind in place of the sermon and high schoolers playing instruments, singing solos, ushering, lectering, etc., and one is our Sunday school Advent/Christmas program. A few people really miss the regular, contemplative advent services (I'm one of them), but in general this works for us.

Charles_Austin

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2006, 05:10:42 PM »
Attendance at our Wednesday Advent Services is from 30-50 people.

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: What's the Use of Praising God?
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2006, 05:33:11 PM »

The primary ministry of the pastor is Word and Sacrament.  It seems to me that scheduling additional services for the two penitential seasons and for the two major feasts that either never or rarely fall on Sundays is the right thing to do.  My sense is that if you build it, they will come. 

I have always scheduled services for Epiphany and Ascension; as well as Candlemass; Memorial Day (the Monday holiday), Sts. Peter and Paul; Holy Cross; and, after the year 2001, the anniversary of the Terrorist attacks on September 11.  I am quite content to see 25-30% of the Sunday congregation at Epiphany, Ascension, and 9-11; about 20% at the even lesser days.
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