Author Topic: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?  (Read 43716 times)

Dan Fienen

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CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« on: January 26, 2011, 12:37:03 PM »
Over in the thread about attending the Convocation at Ft. Wayne, the discussion has turned to what is good or bad about the seminary, and why some churches will not call from Ft. Wayne.  One of the suggested difficulties is the attitude toward Contemporary Worship.  Rather than contributing to further thread drift, I wanted to start a discussion about what specifically that is done in Contermporary Worship is objectionable.  I am not very interested here in impassioned defenses of a pastor's or church's right to use varied worship formats, or impassioned defenses of traditional worship as being far superior and far more edifying than that contramporary c***.

I have yet to see a really good and useful of contemporary worship.  My congregation does contemporary worship every Sunday.  It must be contemporary because it is being done right now.  This next Sunday we will worship at that time, contemporaniously, that worship service will not be 50 years ago.  Perhaps such a definition is impossible. 

So lets start stating specific practices that we see in the whole contemporary worship phenomenon that we find objectionable, and why.  Then worship discussions may be more profitable.

Dan
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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2011, 01:01:06 PM »
As one who like's Robert Webber's term - ancient-future worship, and who has led CoWO in the non-denom world, I offer this.

1.  I hate it when in attempting to do CoWo - it is done with little effort and planning and practice.  CoWo isn't the youth of the church bringing their instruments and banging away.  (yet that is the example often generalized)

2.  I hate it as well when the music doesn't resonate with the service and the service with the music. 

3.  I hate it when the service isn't both reverent and celebratory.  It can and should be both.

Equally I hate it when CoWo is generalized to describe what I hate.  If there is to be a constructive discussion about CoWo - take the best example of it, rather than the worst. 

George Erdner

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2011, 01:48:02 PM »
ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Here we go again!!!!!!!!!!

You Missouri guys seem to be as obsessed with this as the ELCA folks are with "the issue" which was raised at the ELCA's 2009 CWA.

So once again, all of the music snobs will kvetch about modern sounding music. I will make my obligatory point about there being a big difference between throwing out the entire liturgy and with preserving the traditional liturgy, but using newer tunes and more modern instrumentation. Then someone else will make the point that some contemporary worship songs don't mention God, Jesus, or faith enough to suit them. Then someone else will point out that after an entire sermon about the concept of a Christian being "Born Again", only an idiot would fail to grasp that a song called "Born Again" was about the subject of the sermon, even if God and Jesus weren't mentioned enough in the song.

Then the usual suspects will post the usual links to the absolute worst examples of the use of Contemporary Christian Music that exist on YouTube as some sort of "proof" that all Contemporary Christian Music is the work of the devil. Then there will be some response links to good CCM videos on YouTube, but the music snobs will sneer at them.

Then we'll digress into arguing over using a pipe organ or an electronic organ, with the organ snobs insisting that any organ that uses chips or transistors is the devil's work, and if it was good enough for Bach, then that's the only acceptable instrument to use.

We won't see the contemporary worship music faction argue over whether a Stratocaster with single coils is better than a Les Paul with humbuckers, which is a shame, as I think that sort of digression would be fun. Nor will we see the contemporary worship music faction argue over Korg versus Roland keyboards.

I'll bet we could do this entire thread with nothing but links to each of our own earlier posts on this subject.


James_Gale

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2011, 01:54:54 PM »
As one who like's Robert Webber's term - ancient-future worship, and who has led CoWO in the non-denom world, I offer this.

1.  I hate it when in attempting to do CoWo - it is done with little effort and planning and practice.  CoWo isn't the youth of the church bringing their instruments and banging away.  (yet that is the example often generalized)

2.  I hate it as well when the music doesn't resonate with the service and the service with the music. 

3.  I hate it when the service isn't both reverent and celebratory.  It can and should be both.

Equally I hate it when CoWo is generalized to describe what I hate.  If there is to be a constructive discussion about CoWo - take the best example of it, rather than the worst. 

"Contemporary worship" and "traditional worship" are skunked terms and should be retired.  

All too often, worship characterized as "contemporary" (i) involves "little effort and planning and practice"; (ii) includes "music [that] doesn't resonate with the service and the service with the music"; and (iii) isn't "both reverent and celebratory."  Such worship is not saved by calling it "relevant" or "Bible-based" or "casual" or anything else.

All too often, worship characterized as "traditional" involves badly played and led hymns and poor, lethargic liturgical practice.

As Pr. Fienen suggested, good worship is both traditional and contemporary.  Different music styles and different instruments can be used.  But I despise the ghettoization of our worship services.  (Fuddy-duddies worship at 8:00 and hipsters at 10:30!  We've got something for every consumer's taste.)

For some, I suppose, this discussion is about more than music style.  However, as Lutherans, we are committed to the historic liturgy.  We are not required to use it in all instances or in a specific form.  However, we understand its richness and its role in passing the faith from one generation to the next.  Those who cast aside the liturgy completely in favor of something completely new are taking an enormous risk that they will pass down a different faith than the treasure that we have inherited from God through the faith lives of our ancestors.

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2011, 02:11:03 PM »
I love Lutheran Liturgy, and I love Contemporary Worship.  I usually attend the Contemporary service, but that has more to do with it being the later service and my son being in the band. 

From my standpoint, what's wrong with Contemporary Worship is that the song selection seems to be fairly random.  I do wish it was better tied to the Church calendar.

Dan Fienen

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2011, 02:23:50 PM »
Perhaps another way to approach this question is to ask what makes for a good worship service.  I have long thought that the only thing deadlier to worship than traditional worship done poorly is contemporary worship done poorly.  Quite frankly any time I see a Lutheran, especially an LCMS Lutheran, trying to be hip I wince.  (Of course, my confirmation class has informed me that nobody uses the term "hip" any more, I'm that far out of it.)

I also intended this to be more of theological discussion rather than simply one of musical tastes or instrumentation.  We can argue until the cows not only come home but die of old age about what music is good for church and what instruments are appropriate?  (Does anyone actually use that secular instrument that was popular in secular theater and thus contaminated by its association with pop culture and unChristian theatrical performances - the pipe organ?)   But that is not the point I want to discuss.  What can and cannot be appropriately done in worship?

Let us also not forget that church is not a museum to preseve relics of our heritage, although honoring and remembering our heritage is valuable.  Very, very few would insist that worship should be in German, even if that was that way it worked in our Grandfather's church.

Are there certain practices common to what many people would call "contemporary worship" that are objectionable to good Lutheran theology?  If we take the Common Western Mass as the root stock of our worship, what elements must or should be present for a service today to be a good service?  Obviously details of the common service have changed over the centuries.  What can change and what must remain?

In talking about worship materials, may I also recommend a resource prepared by the LCMS Commission on Worship: Text, Music, Context: A Resource for Reviewing Worship Materials available from CPH.  The blurb reads:

"Text, Music, Context: A Resource for Reviewing Worship Materials provides a process for pastors, musicians, and others involved in worship planning to work through in assessing a variety of worship materials. Far from simply providing lists of what is and is not appropriate for use in worship, the questions and commentary contained in TMC identify important issues regarding the theological content of texts, the nature of music in worship, and larger issues concerning the nature and purpose of corporate worship. Prepared by the LCMS Commission on Worship."

It is not expensive and provides background and aids for evaluating worship materials.

Dan

 
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Charles_Austin

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2011, 03:09:42 PM »
What I hate most about the topic is the idiotic term "Co-Wo" or "CoWo" or any other ridiculous attempt at making a short-hand title.
All earthly worship is "contemporary". It takes place in the here and now.
CoWo is grating and silly.

From humorist Richard Wright: "I saw a sign that said 'Breakfast at any time.' So I ordered scrambled eggs in the Renaissance."

James_Gale

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2011, 03:13:01 PM »
What can change and what must remain?

The process by which the church answers this question is nearly as important as the answer itself.  The church developed the mass over time and space.  Faithful Christians from around the world and across the ages contributed to its form.  By using the mass as the foundation for our worship, we guard against innovation that might not be able to stand up to the test of time.

A big risk associated with "non-liturgical" worship is that the pastor (perhaps with a few other leaders) composes all aspects of worship (picks the hymns, decides when they'll be sung, writes the sermon, picks lessons based on the sermon, etc.).  In such a setting, worship conveys the teachings, not of the catholic faith, but of a single leader.  I wouldn't want to trust even the most gifted and orthodox pastor with this role.

Thus, a pastor and a congregation should stray from the mass only with great care, taking into account the views expressed by past and present church leaders.

And this answer applies no matter what style of music a congregation chooses to use.

JMK

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2011, 03:58:26 PM »
I am curious about whether the chapel services at Ft. Wayne ever include CoWo? Are their any students at Ft. Wayne who believe that CoWo is a matter of being adiaphora? Do they feel persecuted for their belief by students and faculty members?

From what I understand St. Louis has CoWo from time to time during their chapel. Is this correct?

If CoWo really is adiaphora, than should it not be required in chapel services at Ft. Wayne - due to the feeling of being persecuted, by those who believe it is not adiaphora? See the Formula of Concord (Concerning Ecclesiastical Practices) for the reasoning behind this thought.

Coach-Rev

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2011, 04:05:45 PM »
The liturgy, properly understood and historically applied, is teaching Scripture itself.  the "liturgy" is Scripture set to music.

Most "contemporary" songs lack the content or the message itself, and therefore lend itself to a "worship - lite" style.  A big "for-instance:"  try to find a "contemporary" song that conveys some, if any, part of the Advent purpose. 

My critique of Haugen and the likes with their so-called "contemporary liturgies" is that Scripture is often left short changed or just simply changed.  Another example:  Words to Haugen's Holden Vespers, where LBW service of light quotes Psalm 141 as "the lifting up of my hands as an 'evening sacrifice.'" has been changed to 'the lifting up of our hands as an offering to you.'"  While it doesn't seem so awful on the surface, the implications are enormous - especially in the loss of the word "sacrifice."

As one who leads a "contemporary" service, I often find that contemporary worship is done very poorly, and sometimes I'm the one doing it poorly as well.  There are few good examples out there even today of how one might conduct a "contemporary" service that is fitting, contains the components of worship, and is done in a reverential manner.

Thus, a pastor and a congregation should stray from the mass only with great care, taking into account the views expressed by past and present church leaders.
And this answer applies no matter what style of music a congregation chooses to use.

James, you've hit the nail on the head with that statement.

Dan Fienen

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2011, 04:11:54 PM »
What can change and what must remain?

The process by which the church answers this question is nearly as important as the answer itself.  The church developed the mass over time and space.  Faithful Christians from around the world and across the ages contributed to its form.  By using the mass as the foundation for our worship, we guard against innovation that might not be able to stand up to the test of time.

A big risk associated with "non-liturgical" worship is that the pastor (perhaps with a few other leaders) composes all aspects of worship (picks the hymns, decides when they'll be sung, writes the sermon, picks lessons based on the sermon, etc.).  In such a setting, worship conveys the teachings, not of the catholic faith, but of a single leader.  I wouldn't want to trust even the most gifted and orthodox pastor with this role.

Thus, a pastor and a congregation should stray from the mass only with great care, taking into account the views expressed by past and present church leaders.

And this answer applies no matter what style of music a congregation chooses to use.
What exactly do you mean by "the mass" what are we to follow?  Is it the order of elements, the texts of the elements, what?  I am not trying to be funny, or dumb, but as we use these terms we need to be clear exactly what we are talking about or we often wind up talking past each other.

In planning worship, how much freedom should the worship leader have in picking what to do?  Should the use of an approved lectionary series be mandated?  The exact series?  Should there be an approved sermon text to be used.  What about hymns?  How much freedom should there be to select hymns?

Dan
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2011, 04:33:26 PM »
Perhaps another way to approach this question is to ask what makes for a good worship service.

I've argued that point for years. Before we can judge any liturgy good or bad, we need to establish criteria for good Lutheran liturgy. Too often the criterion is: "I like it" or "I don't like it."

Let me suggest three criteria for judging.

1. theological -- what does the liturgy proclaim about God? Is God the primary actor in our worship, or are we?

2. historical/traditional -- what does the liturgy proclaim about the history/tradition of the congregation? E.g., a liturgy in a Lutheran church should be different than in a Baptist church because we have different histories/traditions. Even among Lutherans, a congregation with an Augustana history will do liturgy differently than one with a Haugian tradition.

3. pastoral -- what does the liturgy say about this particular group of people? What speaks to them? What can they do well? A congregation with a $1.5 million pipe organ can do liturgy in a different manner than a congregation with a hand-me-down Hammond -- or with a donated piano.

Just last Sunday, one worshiper complained to another worshiper, who relayed the complaint to me: "I wish we'd sing the old hymns." What I find ironic about that complaint is that I consider two of the three hymns to be "old" hymns. We sang "Dearest Jesus, at Your Word," which first appeared in 1663 in German, and translated in 1858. Although these lyrics weren't in Service Book and Hymnal (SBH 1958), they were in some older English Lutheran hymnals: Evangelical Lutheran Hymn Book (1889); Common Service Book (1917); and Lutheran Book of Worship (1978). The tune is just as old, first appearing in 1664.

We also sang, "O Master Let Me Walk with You," isn't quite as old, words written in 1879 and the music in 1874; but it was in SBH (1958).

The third hymn was "new": "Christ, Be Our Light," words and music published in 1993, by a composer born in 1957.

Two points: First: "old" and "new" often refer to "what I know" vs. "what I don't know" rather than when a hymn was written. Second: since all the hymns are accompanied by an improvisational pianist, even old and familiar hymns can sound "new" because of the accompaniment.

Until there is a definition of "old" and "new" or "contemporary" and "traditional," hymns and liturgies can't really be judged.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

James_Gale

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2011, 04:36:07 PM »
What can change and what must remain?

The process by which the church answers this question is nearly as important as the answer itself.  The church developed the mass over time and space.  Faithful Christians from around the world and across the ages contributed to its form.  By using the mass as the foundation for our worship, we guard against innovation that might not be able to stand up to the test of time.

A big risk associated with "non-liturgical" worship is that the pastor (perhaps with a few other leaders) composes all aspects of worship (picks the hymns, decides when they'll be sung, writes the sermon, picks lessons based on the sermon, etc.).  In such a setting, worship conveys the teachings, not of the catholic faith, but of a single leader.  I wouldn't want to trust even the most gifted and orthodox pastor with this role.

Thus, a pastor and a congregation should stray from the mass only with great care, taking into account the views expressed by past and present church leaders.

And this answer applies no matter what style of music a congregation chooses to use.
What exactly do you mean by "the mass" what are we to follow?  Is it the order of elements, the texts of the elements, what?  I am not trying to be funny, or dumb, but as we use these terms we need to be clear exactly what we are talking about or we often wind up talking past each other.

In planning worship, how much freedom should the worship leader have in picking what to do?  Should the use of an approved lectionary series be mandated?  The exact series?  Should there be an approved sermon text to be used.  What about hymns?  How much freedom should there be to select hymns?

Dan

In the Lutheran context, I'm not sure how a "mandate" would or could be applied.  However, I do think that pastors should use their freedom very judiciously.

Without extremely good cause, I believe that pastors should stick to the lectionary used by their church body.  Pastors should preach from the appointed lessons and not pick lessons based on a theme of the week.  Using the lectionary ensures that a congregation will hear a range of Scripture that otherwise might be missing.

How do I define the "mass"?  For these purposes, I think that it includes the order of the elements and the texts.  I don't think that absolute fealty to a single version (e.g., some setting from the LSB) is required.  However, deviations should be based on historical use and precedent.  

I'm not sure that this is a fully satisfactory explanation.  But it's my initial quick effort.

Michael Slusser

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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2011, 04:57:38 PM »
Perhaps another way to approach this question is to ask what makes for a good worship service.  I have long thought that the only thing deadlier to worship than traditional worship done poorly is contemporary worship done poorly.  Quite frankly any time I see a Lutheran, especially an LCMS Lutheran, trying to be hip I wince.  (Of course, my confirmation class has informed me that nobody uses the term "hip" any more, I'm that far out of it.)


So far, I see you, Charles Austin, Mike Gehlhausen, and J&S basically in agreement, which deserves some award from the moderators. It seems--even from your initial post--that the title of the thread isn't what either you or the others thinks needs to be talked about. I too have no clue what "contemporary worship" means as a term of (more less) art, but agree with your original point, seconded by Charles, that what we do today is contemporary. So can you retitle the thread to what you really want to discuss?

Peace,
Michael
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Re: CoWo, What's Wrong with It?
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2011, 05:25:28 PM »
The liturgy, properly understood and historically applied, is teaching Scripture itself.  the "liturgy" is Scripture set to music.

Most "contemporary" songs lack the content or the message itself, and therefore lend itself to a "worship - lite" style.  A big "for-instance:"  try to find a "contemporary" song that conveys some, if any, part of the Advent purpose. 

My critique of Haugen and the likes with their so-called "contemporary liturgies" is that Scripture is often left short changed or just simply changed.  Another example:  Words to Haugen's Holden Vespers, where LBW service of light quotes Psalm 141 as "the lifting up of my hands as an 'evening sacrifice.'" has been changed to 'the lifting up of our hands as an offering to you.'"  While it doesn't seem so awful on the surface, the implications are enormous - especially in the loss of the word "sacrifice."

As one who leads a "contemporary" service, I often find that contemporary worship is done very poorly, and sometimes I'm the one doing it poorly as well.  There are few good examples out there even today of how one might conduct a "contemporary" service that is fitting, contains the components of worship, and is done in a reverential manner.

Thus, a pastor and a congregation should stray from the mass only with great care, taking into account the views expressed by past and present church leaders.
And this answer applies no matter what style of music a congregation chooses to use.

James, you've hit the nail on the head with that statement.


Here we go with the generalizations again.  For the last 10 years or so, there has been a lot of music that is properly eschatological and lamenting our present situation, desiring greatly the return of Christ, and the consolation of the Holy Spirit till tis occurs.  A great deal of it is seen in the Catholic Music Association, or in some of the things Michael Card's group in Tennessee is doing, as well as some conservative UMC guys. Then even within our group - there are groups like Koine, that are working on the settings.

With 100,000 songs in the CCLI index, I would hesitate strongly before making such strong generalizations.