". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just Stop Talking, Please

Pastor Messer at Abide in My Word is asking for comments on a video he recently posted. It is a great example of what many of us mean these days when we use the term "Contemporary Worship." (I capitalize the words to make a distinction between worship that is Contemporary and worship that is contemporary. All worship is by definition small "c" contemporary since it is something that happens in the present.)

Anyway, I encourage you to watch the video and participate in the discussion. As I was doing just that, I came across another video from the same church, Faith Lutheran in Troy, Michigan, that I think is quite lovely. It is a flute choir, accompanied by piano, playing an arrangement of "Be Still, My Soul" as the Prelude to the service. Whereas my church would never present anything musically comparable to the video posted at Pastor Messer's blog, I could easily see us doing something like this. It is a reverent instrumental interpretation of a hymn from our synodical hymnal (LSB 752) presented at an appropriate time in the service. The problem comes when the Prelude is over. Instead of embracing the stillness and quiet of that moment when the music is over and the service is about to start, the "audience" breaks into applause. What happened to "Be Still, My Soul"? And then, wouldn't you know it, the pastor has to come out and add his own two cents about the whole thing (starting at about 3:40 in the video):

"Praise God for instruments, right? I hope that that music that was played would help set your minds on, as the Bible says, things above, not on earthly things . . . . When we come in to worship . . . that's God's doing, and He's here, right with us, and He helps us to worship, Amen?" That comment is followed by an introduction and additional chatter.

Before I opine further, here's the video:

Again, I think the music is very nice. The applause and the pastor's comments ruin it. How much better if once the Prelude were over the service continued, without interruption, into the Confession and Absolution. No discussion needed. Just confess the sins and get the absolution. It's almost as if by talking about how God is present, the pastor is trying to convince himself and the congregation of the fact. The pastor is correct in saying that worship is "God's doing" but then he contradicts that statement with all his talk. And that's the problem with much of the Contemporary Worship I see. The people so often seem to be trying to convince themselves that God is acting by their talking and singing about how they feel. If we trust that God is present in Word and Sacrament we don't need to talk about it, we don't need to demonstrate it, and we don't need to look to others to demonstrate it to us. All we need to do is soak it in.

In sum, we don't need to try so hard.


Elephantschild said...

Oh, I can't STAND the talking. Just please shut up. Say the black, do the red.

Undecided on the piece. That tune is a pile-driver to my soul and way too schmaltzy for me, so I can't give an honest judgment on it's appropriateness as pre-service music (although it was beautifully performed, no doubt about that.)

Susan said...

Even the filming of the piece makes me suspect "performance."

Cheryl said...

Hmmm, interesting. That I'm not sure about. I could see that point if the service is designed so as to enhance recording/filming it--in other words, so that the video takes precedence and perhaps even changes the way things are done (thus resulting in a "staged" or stylized sense). But I think there are lots of possible reasons for videotaping a service or part of a service that don't have anything to do with performance.

I do think it says a lot about this church's theology of worship that there is a stage that shares a central position with the altar and that even looks bigger than the altar.

Cheryl said...

To clarify, my first comment above is in reference to videootaping in general, not to the videotaping at this particular church. The effort/expense that it appears they put into the taping and the extent to which they do it might indeed suggest more of a performance motive.

Susan said...

I know what you mean, Cheryl. There are weddings where a video camera or two are set in strategic (non-distracting) locations, turned on, and allowed to run. It doesn't detract from worship. There are other weddings where the camera is operated by a cameraman so that we get different views, panning around the congregation or the chancel or the choir, close-ups and wide-angle views, etc. You know then that the person with the camera is paying attention to filming instead of praying. Like you said, the filming in and of itself doesn't necessarily signal "performance," but some kinds of filming do indicate that the focus (at least for a few people) is not entirely on worship. With this video (as seen in the stage set-up and the pastor's mannerisms) I suspect that there is a perspective of "show" that goes beyond just the guy who's running the camera.

Mary Ellyn said...

I attended this church for 8 years. I had been at a liturgical ELCA church and for many reasons ended up at Faith. Faith does not follow the lectionary, they don't use a hymnal, and without the sign out front you would not recognize it as Lutheran. The only clue is that the words of institution are used at Holy Communion (which is pretty open) and they baptize babies. All music is led by someone (or more) from the stage/altar area in the front. There is clapping at every service.

I would guess that the filming was for Youtube, but this is what you get at a service with or without a camera.

We left Faith and found a church that has traditional worship. Our current church has a contemporary service also. But Faith puts on fair superior performance.

Anonymous said...

>> ...we don't need to demonstrate it, and we don't need to look to others to demonstrate it to us. All we need to do is soak it in.

Amen: Be still, and know that I am God.

on the Wittenberg Trail said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
on the Wittenberg Trail said...

This is a link to the Communion Service at Faith on 12/10/10 led by our newly ordained SMP Pastor.
If you listen to what he says after the words of institution, you will hear him say that if you want some to pray for you or with you after receiving Communion stop and kneel at the Communion rail. Well, the pastor and an assistant (another pastor or elders) pray at the communion rail. The elders distribute the Sacraments and the pastors pray for heartfelt needs at the communion rail. The pastors have all been praying instead of distributing communion since Oct. 2009 after the senior and one of the associates, an elder, women's ministry staff director and a couple members attended the RECLAIM SEMINAR IN TEXAS. THIS IS THE LINK.
This next link is a song that was sung as a opening praise song. This is a David Crowder Band song youtube. Faith did not record this but wanted you to see what type of music is used in a large contemporary LCMS Church. There is much more to this story but will leave you all with these links.


Untamed Shrew said...

Love the piece and the arrangment, but like EC said, shut up! Say the black and do the red. And for heaven's sake, put on a clerical. What are you, ashamed to be Christ's slave?

on the Wittenberg Trail said...

The pastor's son, leading the choir, wearing the green shirt, wrote the music and words to the song,"What our God has Done".
Could be the pastor's way of endorsing his son's worship song. I guess he doesn't see that the song doesn't agree with the Lutheran Confessions and the bible; But that goes for most of the worship songs at Faith.