Why do we march in and out during the first and last hymns?
What is the point of a “processional” hymn?
Aside from signaling the “official” beginning beginning of the worship service, uniting our voices in song, and directing our attention to the common activity of the assembly, the march in and out (along with many other movements in the service) symbolically represent many different things. In ancient times, an army would march under a flag to identify which side they were on. This flag, called a “standard,” was often modeled after the royal banners of their king. The cross, being the symbol of our King, is the standard of the church militant. So as it is followed into the chancel for worship, we declare the kingdom of Christ to be our loyalty and confess that we are at war with the kingdom of darkness. As the cross recesses out of the church at the end of the service, this symbolizes that we are following Christ out into the world to be his servants and soldiers. There are important two-fold distinctions in the church. The first is the difference between the church militant (those on earth, still fighting against the spiritual forces of evil) and the church triumphant (those in heaven, whose rest is won). In the church militant, our lives revolve around a two-fold pattern of gathering and dispersing. We, as baptized believers, are the church all throughout the week, but one thing the church does is gather weekly around the Word and Sacraments to be nourished by the gifts of God, because Christ is present with us here together in a special way distinct from how he is with us individually throughout the week. This feeds and strengthens us as we continue to fight the good fight. After this, we are scattered back out into world, going in the peace of the Lord to serve Him. The processional and recessional hymns signify these two stages of the church’s life on earth. Now, can you count how many hymns I’ve alluded to in the previous paragraph?
From the Augsburg Confession: Article IV: Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight.