Gerald L. Lundby responded to Frank Senn’s column “As I See It … The Need to Observe the Rubrics” in Volume 7, Issue 2 as follows:
Pastor Senn’s comments on the proper use of the liturgy were scholarly and appreciated. I sometimes find that the “contemporary liturgies” popping up all over our synod congregations leave much to be desired. Whenever I volunteer to preach at my local congregation, I do with one proviso: that I will pick the hymns, almost always from the LBW, which I remind the powers that be, “have some meat on their bones.” Since I preach pro bono I am granted that privilege. Frankly some of the songs from our “Praise Hymnal” leave this musically deprived pastor wondering when we have begun and when we have completed a verse or chorus. Sometimes one line is repeated three or four times. We could call this “musical stuttering.”
Pastor Senn made it quite clear that he looked for and found liturgical purity and integrity when he visited Lutheran churches in Europe and that he would wish to find this same purity in our American Lutheran congregations. However, he left out an important fact: the pews of most Lutheran congregations in Europe are nearly empty. One would hope that churches that cherish their “apostolic succession” and traditional liturgy would be thriving but I have seen for myself and heard confirmed by recent visitors that the Lutheran churches in Europe are dying. Perhaps a revival of the older liturgies and the Roman Catholic order of apostolic succession in our ELCA may well bring decline rather than renewal. Those who have struggled for years to have the ELCA pattern its church order after our Catholic brothers and sisters would do well to ask themselves if this model of order and worship is what our church wants or needs.
Frank Senn replies:
I thank Pastor Lundby for his remarks and sympathize with his situation. I just want to enter a clarification and make an observation in response to his response.
The clarification is that I do not regard the Lutheran liturgies in Europe as “purer” than American Lutheran liturgies. I simply pointed out that European Lutheran liturgies and the pastors who lead them are under a code of canon law governing worship practices that cannot be considered to be at odds with evangelical freedom, properly understood. The point in my article was that our American notions of evangelical freedom, especially with regard to worship, are influenced by the individualism of our culture.
The observation is that in my visits to Sweden I have encountered full churches on Sunday morning. Perhaps not surprisingly, these are parishes where liturgy is done with great care, even with a “high church” character, and the liturgical role of the bishop is welcomed. For a fine example, check out the Parish at Doderhult: http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/doderhult/dodere.htm. Rather than driving people out of the pews, a strong liturgical renewal has countered the secularism that has contributed to the depletion of worshipers in Europe as well as in America.