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

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Learning By Doing

Our Lutheran culture is big on "knowing what we are doing" - at least, supposedly, about worship. Suggest doing something liturgical and a predictable reaction will be "well, we might want to do that, but let's be sure to instruct and explain before we do it." Now, there is some healthy conservatism in that approach, and certainly we do want to catechize. But sometimes the liturgy itself teaches us, and our fear of "moving beyond" the level of the "average laymen" prevents us from doing just that. This strikes me as ironic, since the average layman doesn't know much about what we are doing in worship to begin with, and so is "learning by doing" all the time!

I'm going to break this down into more than one post - I've figured out that my posts have been too long! - but, to get everyone thinking, consider the following statements:

"Playing an introduction to the hymn of the day that is in the tempo of the hymn, establishes its mood, and reinforces melodic ideas of the tune might very well improve singing - but let's be sure to explain what you are doing to everyone before you do it."

"Using the proper invitatory would be cool. It certianly reinforces the season of the church year. But visitors would get lost because it's not in the hymnal. But I guess we could do that on a special Sunday if you announced it!"

"So you'd like to sing the last refrain of that hymn at the end of communion distribution with everyone standing. Yes, that would literally be 'uplifting' now, wouldn't it? And you've done that in other parishes, too? But I don't know. We wouldn't do that every Sunday. How would people know when or if to stand? Seems a bit too spontaneous to me. People might get confused."

How do these thoughts sound to you? Next I plan on sharing some examples of where people were prepared for something new and where people simply experienced something new as it happened - with both successful and unsucessful results with each approach.


Orianna Laun said...

I suppose one has to analyze the congregation's level. To learn by doing is fine for introducing a hymn: Not too many people will be surprised by an introduction as you described.
A foreword for the proper invitatory might be necessary if the concept is completely foreign to a congregation; same with standing at the end of a hymn during distribution.
There is a difference between knowing what we do and why we do it and being totally clueless. If I were a visitor, I would expect to learn by doing. If I were a life-long member of a congregation that suddenly had something totally new in the liturgy, I might expect a word of explanation.

Phillip Magness said...

I think that's one level (visitor vs. lifelong member expectations). But I think there are some others.

Good point about there being a differnece knowing what to do vs. why we do it and just being totally clueless. I think that is one of the levels to explore on this.

To be continued...!