At Our Savior Lutheran Church, we have been implementing some interesting musical innovations. Well, developments really. It's not necessarily new to us so much as it is the next step down the road. And it is, to the best of my knowledge, fairly unique in the protestant world. We are celebrating our worship services in different styles. Four different styles, to be exact, ranging from super high traditional to very modern to just plain weird. This actually sounds very run of the mill for evangelicalism, so here's the catch: Instead of doing different services on the same day, each in different styles, so that attendees can choose their preference, we do all of our services (only two) the exact same, and rotate the musical style by week.
I know that confessional Lutheran high-church types may object to the use of modern music on principle, but I will go to bat every day of the week for content and substance over container and style. The fact is, that our contemporary services are still very Lutheran. In fact, they follow the Divine service liturgy pretty strictly. To give you a brief overview of what this looks like, here is the blurb I inserted in our last newsletter to explain the upcoming eclecticism:
The Music Forecast Greetings, all! I hope everyone had a joyful and relaxing Christmas season. As we welcome the new year, we have some exciting developments in the music ministry. Our Savior Lutheran Church has always been an artistically and musically diverse congregation, which is healthy and should be celebrated! I would like to pursue the further development of greater variety while as we learn to perform these styles more skillfully. To this end, I have formulated four separate service styles which we intend to implement with alternating frequency through the coming season. Many churches approach the diversity of style by separating the different services of the weekend according to the music. But at Our Savior we feel that this could potentially create a needless separation in the congregation. Aside from the slight implicit endorsement of a consumerist approach to religion, this could also fail to demonstrate that the gospel has more power to unite us than our preferences do to divide us. So we will continue to employ stylistic variations on separate weekends, with both services being identical. I want to encourage us all to keep in mind the verse from Philippians 2 where Paul says “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” and Ephesians 5, “...giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Not all of these services will be our favorite. I want to encourage us all to be willing to give others a chance to celebrate the faith with music to which they are more accustomed as an act of love and service to our spiritual family. Perhaps through mutual submission we can even come to a greater understanding and appreciation of diverse worship traditions. Ultimately, it is my hope that the musical portions of our services will simultaneously display our unity and diversity in Christ as we worship him with one heart and one voice.
The Vintage service: This service will demonstrate classic and historic Lutheran liturgy, featuring the choir singing with the organ and chanted portions of the liturgy. It lean the most heavily on the hymnal and also include anthems performed by the choir. Aficionados of modern sounds might consider this one the “old” or “boring” service, but remember that when we are worshiping this way we share with Christians from the last several hundred years who worshiped with the same song.
The Progressive service: This service is thus named for its style, not necessarily its theology. It will feature the praise band and endeavor to use the most cutting edge sounds in church music. Traditionalists might consider this the “loud” service, or feel that it is geared a bit toward the younger crowd. Remember, though, that it is important for us all to worship together. As a dear octogenarian once said to me, “I don’t care for this music, but I’ll sing standing on my head if it gets the kids to worship!” Expect to be encouraged by high energy, electric instruments, new sounds, and modern re-workings of classic praises.
The Capella service: A Cappella music is sung by vocalists without instrumental accompaniment. In this service, we will feature the choir singing with the praise team, making it Capella instead of A Capella. [This etymology is actually incorrect, but let’s not bother too much with the facts!] This service will feature the most “blended” of sounds and allow the choir to explore much more contemporary repertoire. There may even be hints of urban/gospel in the mix! Look for contemporary Christian classics, new praise songs, and perhaps creative new adaptions of some liturgical songs. The style will appeal most to those comfortable with a “middle of the road” approach to music in worship.
The Eclectic service: You might consider this the “weird” service. It has at its core the German Mass composed by Martin Luther and included in the Lutheran Service Book as Divine Service 5. This is also know as the “chorale mass” because most of the sung parts of the liturgy are replaced with hymn versions, such as “All Gory Be to God on High” or “We All Believe in One True God.” The interesting aspect of this service will be the avant garde assortment of instruments. The emphasis will be on using only acoustic instruments, which may lend the genre to fall between folk and quasi-bluegrass with a hint of Taize. At the very least, this will be unique.
Now, let me be as clear as possible: The ONLY variation between these services is the musical style, the content stays the same. All of them follow the historic structure of Christian worship: Gathering, Proclaiming, Responding, Receiving, and Sending. All of them even include the ordinary of the mass, most of the time (the Progressive service will occasionally substitute a song about God's holiness for the Sanctus, etc...). All these services contain the full lectionary readings, weekly communion, the Lord's prayer, and the Creed (which we often sing in many, many different ways), and all the traditional elements from the historic liturgy in their traditional sequence. What we are able to do through all this is incorporate untold variety. A church with different service styles on the same day is limited to usually recent American music. Even the traditional services usually don't go to far back in history beyond the old gospel songs. We literally are able to implement music from all 20 centuries of Christendom in our various styles, and all services pull from the same song repertoire (our "Progressive" version of "Of the Father's Love Begotten" is a real contender, let me tell you :P). We can easily incorporate music from other cultures and it won't seem out of place. Variety is exploited for maximum benefit.
I suppose I can save much of the how and the why for another post, but this is the adventure that is my life. Between this and keeping up with teaching responsibilities, is it any wonder I don't blog that often?