'Unity' is tone of 2008 Worship Institute

By Linda C. Hoops

For the 720 participants at the 2008 Institute on Liturgy, Preaching, and Church Music, the one word that seems best to describe their experience at the fworship1.gifour-day conference is “unity.”

Rev. David Johnson, executive director of the LCMS Commission on Worship, which hosted the triennial conference held July 22-25 at Concordia University Nebraska, Seward, Neb., said that a sense of unity and fellowship prevailed throughout for participants, presenters, university staff, musicians, and clergy.  “Diverse gifts of leadership among all were uplifted and appreciated-all in the context of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Rev. Paul J. Cain, pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Morrill, Neb., found “much evidence of the incredible unity we enjoy in doctrine and practice, as well as an occasional display of where we need to continue to work toward Word-given unity in what we do at Divine Service and the Daily Office.”

For Dr. Robert Preece, senior pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, Dallas, Texas, it was the opening service with communion that he will remember for the “fullness of the room and the singing of the assembled faithful … people, male and female, young and older, ethnically diverse, participating in appropriate leadership roles.”

With the theme “Sing to the Lord a New Song” reflecting the opening emphasis of Psalm 149:1, the purpose of the conference was to provide information in three areas — liturgy, church music, and preaching, Johnson said.  The conference explained the reasons behind the way things are done in worship, yet care was taken to show the diverse possibilities in worship — in language, graphic artistry, and music — “all bearing witness to faithful Word and Sacrament ministry.” 

In addition to keynote speakers that included Dr. Dale Meyer and Dr. Dean Wenthe, presidents of the Synod’s two seminaries, the conference also offered a variety of seminars and workshops, some designed specifically for pastors, some for musicians, and some for all participants.  A 45- to 50-voice honor choir of high school students from across the country sang during the conference’s hymn fest, as did a select children’s choir.

Preece said he found the Commission on Worship’s preparation for the conference “excellent.” 

“Facilities and equipment were available and ready; the variety of musical expression was apparent and well rehearsed for service usage; the services did not feel performed but worship2.gifoffered with genuine piety, faith, and hopefulness in Christ,” he wrote in an e-mail to Reporter.

He and Cain both said they enjoyed meeting with other conference participants.  “Even with energy and travel costs rising, digital communications cannot replace meeting with real human beings before or after sessions and presentations.  This kind of opportunity to get to know one another helps to de-personalize situations so we can get at the real issues,” said Cain.

Preece said he will use the knowledge he gained in service preparation and execution.  “It was good for this parish pastor to sit in the pew and observe the conduct of Matins, Vespers, Compline, and services of Word and Sacrament,” he said.  He also added that he sees “some idiosyncrasies in my practice that I need to clean up.”

Cain said he will be sharing what he learned with his congregation as well as the pastors and congregations in the Wyoming District, where he serves as district worship chairman. 

“I am hopeful to see a growing appreciation for our received heritage as Lutherans at worship, as well as the importance of adding better worship catechesis for all ages,” he said.  “What served well in the past can continue to serve in our contemporary setting if it is both understood and done well. We have nothing to fear of the new if we can avoid being guided merely by the latest fads and also when what we consider using at worship can measure up to God’s Word and the best of our past treasures.”

Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.

Posted Aug. 21, 2008

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