Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Just returned after attending the opening Divine Service, listening to Dr. Wenthe's plenary address, attending choir practice, and restocking the Liturgy Solutions booth. It was simply a fabulous afternoon - for me and for my whole family - and I'll share more detail if this site generates interest. For now, though, let me just share with you today's Divine Service.

I almost titled this post, As It Should Be, because I was reminded of a comment made by a Columbian cellist at my alma matter one evening twenty years ago after listening to someone play Brahms exquisitely: "That was Brahms as it should be played." And today's Divine Service was "as it should be" at a conference like this: the LCMS at its best.

I'm tempted to get theological and muse about how the baptized are truly at "their best" when they are being washed and nourished by their Lord, but for now I'll just say that the LCMS is at its best when we worship according to our culture and heritage, embracing all the Lord's gifts with creativity and humility, and joyously be who we are. But more on that, later.

And today truly was the LCMS at its best. Kantor Janet Muth is to be especially commended for preparing the children's choir so well. They made a fabulous contribution to the service! Today being the Feast of Mary Magdalene, they added true Easter joy to our worship, especially with their vibrand and clear singing of Bach's "With Loudest Rejoicing". They also provided beautiful stanzas on the hymnody, singing stanzas on "For All the Faithful Women", "I Am Jesus' Little Lamb", "O Gracious Lord, I Firmly Am Believing", and "At the Lamb's High Feast" - many in special arrangements. They also provided the Verse, led the famous Victimae Paschli Sequence which was sung in place of the Hymn of the Day, and provided the Voluntary during the receiving of the offerings. That they were able to get all this together so well in less than a day is a testimony to the talents of Kantor Muth - and to the talents of the children themselves (including, I'd like to add, my lovely daughter, Caitlin!).

I was also impressed by the organist. I believe it was Paul Soulek, the director of music here at St. John's, whose sanctuary is our chapel and main meeting space for the conference. I also see David van Kampen played keyboards as well - so maybe they both played organ. Or maybe David was pianist for some of the preservice music. If anyone knows, fill me in! Anyway, the organ is a very nice instrument - a 1967 Schlicker - but it is especially nice when played be these young and capable and sensitive hands. I expect we will all be hearing much more from Paul - and David - in the future.

I would also like to compliment the instrumentalists, who added so much to the service. I saw LS composer and Concordia Nebraska professor Jeff Blersch conducting the ensemble, and want to commend him and Andrew Schultz for doing a great job coordinating that aspect of today's worship. The brass "kicked", as we musicians say, and the various winds and strings added meaningful touches to the service.

I also appreciated very much Dr. Wenthe's presentation: "The Psalms: A Prayer Book for Christians". I'll post more about that after Evening Prayer. To which I'm now headed!


Elephantschild said...

Keep live blogging! It's nice to read what's going on.

Other Christians may accuse Lutherans of being "Weak on sanctification," but they'll never get us on "Won't sing." :)

A '67 Schlicker? I'll tell my hubby.

Unknown said...

Yes, it would be wonderful to hear about LCMS at her best! I would also be curious to know if or how the eventual "but contemporary is good, too" argument will get brought up -- I would also be curious to know who broaches the subject at the Conference and how the subject is spun. Keep us informed! And greet my friend Pr. Randy Asburry there, too, please and if you have time and inclination. :)

John W. Matthews, Jr. said...


Thanks for your excellent article regarding the service at Seward and "The LCMS At Its Best". There truly is no substitute for the Divine Service when it is done as you have described. Several years ago, I heard Carl Schalk talk about woship and how the LCMS needed to stop apologizing for being the liturgical church it has always been. He also stated that if everyone more fully understood what they were receiving in the Divine Service, there would be far less dicussion about worship styles and contemporary worship, in particular. I am addressing this very topic next week with our Commission on Worship regarding the recently (June 26, 2008) "approved" list of contemporary praise and worship songs. The rich resources of Lutheran Service Book are a treasure that all of our parishes need to be exploring. I applaud the work that you and Stephen Johnson are doing on behalf of our synod's worship, and look forward to seeing much more in the future. Our choir and congregation especially appreciate the hymn stanzas and Psalm settings from Liturgy Solutions. These are materials that beautifully augment the resources found in Lutheran Service Book, and this is what our Synod and the Commission on Worship should be encouraging in our church's worship, rather than encouraging the sounds of the community church down the street. The experience that you had in the Divine Service this past Tuesday points up an important fact: beautiful worship can stir up our emotions through the power of the Word, the rich texts of our Confessional Lutheran hymnody, and the music of our liturgies and hymns. Here, we do not see emotion driving the content of worship, but rather, we see emotions stirred by powerful music and words. Our emotions are a by-product of saying and singing what we believe to be true in our worship services. Thank you for your excellent work, Phil and Steve. Gratefully, John W. Matthews, Jr., Grace Lutheran Church, Columbus, Indiana

Phillip Magness said...

Thanks for posting, Pastor Wollenburg and Cantor Matthews!

Alan - I saw Randy on the last day of the conference, and he seemed encouraged by the proceedings. He and Rachel are off for a big drive out west for a family vacation. I'm sure he'll post some of his perspectives on the confernece upon his return. Meanwhile, the "contemporary is good, too" argument WAS brought up, as you suggest, but very obliquely and subtely - in a couple of the sermons. Those were some of the "inklings" I hinted at in my "Friends We'll Miss" post, about which I'll write more later. There were also some workshops on "contemporary worship" put on by some of the recent appointees to the Commission. I didn't attend them, so I can't be too critical; but the synopses of the sessions were not encouraging.

John, thank you for your kind words, and for your support for Liturgy Solutions. I know we haven't put out much new music lately, but that should change over the coming year. I especially appreciate your comments about emotions. Yes, there is nothing wrong with emotions - the problem is when we make our worship "emotion-driven". That was largely avoided at this conference, even as some excellent music was indeed performed. Thanks be to God for a worship confernece where emotions flowed as a consequence of the Word magnified through song, rather than as a mere response to musical stimulae.

Regarding Schalk, are you referring to his Plenary at the conference in Carthage three years ago?


John W. Matthews, Jr. said...

Hi Phil,

The Schalk quotes came from an Indiana District leadership event a few years prior to the Carthage conference, and at that time he only had hand-written notes for his reference during the lecture. I was pleased to see that most of those same materials were in his lecture at Carhage in 2005, available for download.

Phillip Magness said...


Thanks. Where is Schalk's 2005address avaialble for download?

Randy Bulthuis said...

The web address for downloading it is listed below:

Randy Bulthuis said...

sorry about that maybe this will be easier to read

Phillip Magness said...

Thanks, Randy!