Young and Stupid; Old and Wise?

Last night my wife and I sat with our organist and her husband at a wedding reception and Amy and I took turns chasing Theodore everywhere, while the other conversed. During the course of conversation, my organist was telling me about a conversation that she had with a recent fill-in pastor about young, so-called “high church” guys and their lack of emphasis on evangelism (no doubt he was observing the empty pews in my church). The conversation then meandered toward the topic of why the older, so-called “bronze-age” pastors and the so-called “Hypo-Euro-Lutheran pastors” couldn’t find some common ground and work together more.

As we talked, I was trying to put my finger on this myself. Why is it that it seems like the older generation of pastors and the younger guys seem to be incapable of finding common ground to stand on. The best I could come up with was that the older pastors are suspicious of us younger guys who where Roman collars and read books on how to conduct the service. Perhaps part of this is because there was a day when the guys who wore collars were the Bible-destroying libs. I think that they don’t trust us. They feel they are bequeathing the Geliebte Synode to a bunch of guys whose main concern is which thumb goes over which when you hold your hands. They are worried that we are all going back to Rome because we wear chasubles and adore Christ in the Sacrament even after all have communed. I could be wrong, but I think they are suspicious, if not a bit annoyed by us.

Of course, the flip side of it is that many of us feel woefully misunderstood. They just don’t get us. We are not all about flashy vestments and liturgical gestures. Our love for the traditional vestments and ceremonies did not begin as such, but rather began as a love for the Confessions and Christian doctrine. This, I believe, is what distinguishes us from the old “high-church libs” of the sixties and seventies. This is not first and foremost a liturgical revival, but a confessional and sacramental one. We deplore false doctrine and rejoice in the truth. Speaking only for myself here, the more I fell in love with our historic doctrine, the more interested I became in the traditional liturgy of the Church. I don’t think this is just coincidence here. Reading books by Paul H. D. Lang and A. C. Piepkorn on the conduct of the service just put the icing on the cake, so to speak. So, I don’t think that I am way off base when I say that we are woefully misunderstood by the older generation of pastors, many of whom think that we are all just a bunch of chancel-prancers.

Perhaps if we are to find common ground with each other, we younger guys should have a bit more humility towards our older, experienced brothers in office. There is a lot we can learn from those who have years of experience in the Ministry under their belts. I think for one thing when it comes to dealing with individual people and having good old-fashioned common sense, many of the pastors from a generation or two before us have us licked. But the landscape has changed since then too. Fifty years ago, when people still respected ministers for the most part, a visit from the pastor was a big deal. Bring out the coffee, cookies, and the best chair for the pastor to sit in. Now, generally, it seems like people, even the faithful, see home visits as something of an oddity, an invasion of their privacy, an imposition, a matter of inconvenience. Believe me–I’ve tried! I’ve tried to set up appointments for home visits with people, and I’ve tried just showing up out of the blue. I can tell when I am unwelcome.

Perhaps we younger folks could also learn a thing or two from the older guys about knowing when to close an eye to something and knowing when to bring out both barrels. Perhaps one of the reasons we often experience a lack of respect is because we have a tendency to make a life-and-death issue out of everything, even the things that don’t matter all that much. Perhaps if we reserved some of that for the things that really are big issues, we might have greater success. I really don’t know–I’m just thinking out loud here.

On the other hand, for those who are older, maybe it wouldn’t kill you to open up Paul H. D. Lang’s Ceremony and Celebration or A. C. Piepkorn’s Conduct of the Service and read a little bit about conducting the liturgy. Perhaps rather than sneer at those who like to wear chasubles and talk about which lectionary is better, or what the rubrics for the Daily Offices are, consider the possibility that there are some things that may have gone unnoticed all these years, and perhaps there are some new and old treasures that some of us are bringing out of the Lutheran treasure-chest. Each generation has its own contribution to make to the Church, and no doubt there will be something that was missed by us, some blind spot that we could not see because the smoke of our incense was too thick. 🙂 Who knows? Perhaps we could all begin by learning not to take ourselves too seriously, and having a sense of humor.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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8 Responses to Young and Stupid; Old and Wise?

  1. William Weedon says:

    Refreshing post. It’s something I ponder a bit too – though I’m sort of in-between, being rather an older guy these days myself. Yet my heart is with the younger pastors on the question of the importance of liturgy. Perhaps your writing will spur the Priestman to get off the can and start writing again. He seems quite adept at getting along with the older brothers. Maybe he’s got a secret or two on the question he could share.

  2. Rev. Paul Beisel says:

    I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. I guess when I say older, I’m thinking of anyone older than me. 🙂 (And I’m only 33).

  3. David says:

    I’ve thought about that too. Your thoughts and my thoughts are pretty much spot on.

    There is a wonderful complementary relationship waiting to happen among seasoned pastors and still barely rookies like us.

    The veterans of the cross know their Bible forwards and backwards. Many of them are well-read in the Confessions too. They have pastoral savvy the likes of which we could only wish for. There’s a lot we could learn from them.

    Don’t think our older brothers haven’t learned a thing or two from guys like us. I recall a well-known brother in office (I won’t mention his name, but if I did, you would know him instantly) who told a group of pastors how much he’s learned about the connection between doctrine and liturgy from the younger pastors. This particular veteran pastor is usually very complimentary of guys like us.

  4. Dcn. Muehlenbruch says:

    An excellent post, indeed. I just wonder where this old deacon fits among the younger and older guys, since I was educated in synodical schools during the 60’s and 70’s.

    My interest in the historic liturgy, and the ceremonial that was retained by the confessions, began right after high school and continued throughout my seminary years. I especially remember my close association with Dr. Piepkorn.

    Following blogs related to church and liturgy is just another way in which I continue my education. LexOrandi.org is my attempt to provide a source of information about the historic liturgy and ceremonial. Writ-in-Red is a way of exchanging points of view along these same lines.

    I fully agree about learning not to take ourselves too seriously, and especially about having a sense of humor. Sometimes, poking fun at a particular point of view is not understood as intended. But is does keep things interesting.

  5. Rev. Paul Beisel says:

    Good Deacon,

    It’s not always a question of age. There are some guys like yourself who graduated from sem during the 60s and 70s who are liturgically inclined. But I’m even thinking of the Preus days of the 80s at FW sem. The confessional and sacramental revival began back then I think, but many of those guys still hate to wear clericals.

    I think that it is important for all of us to realize that our unity should come first and foremost in doctrine and sacraments, and be seen and expressed through our liturgical forms.

  6. The Priestman says:

    Fr. William,

    The Priestman has been a bit busy priesting around – and, Deo volente, will be back at keyboard in good time.

    However, at this time we should note the very priestmanly self-description of your age as “rather an older guy these days. . .” Rather.

    Well, back to my *bottled* wine,
    The Priestman

  7. Past Elder says:

    I always like hearing that pastor visits don’t necessarily go any better than elder visits! I always used to envision being spotted between the window blinds and someone saying “Well, we’ve screwed up now, here come the elders!”

    Two things.

    One is, every side and all sides have a piece of the truth, even the dreaded Pietists. The problem is when we go off into courses of action refusing to acknowledge any truth but our own — for example, the fact that liturgy can indeed become dead formalism leading to no liturgy. Maybe if we spoke to each other about our concerns rather than our courses of action, we might find our courses of action changing.

    During the time frame you reference, I was a college kid in one of the leading RC centres for “reform”. They watched you guys like a hawk, hoping Missouri would finally free itself from its mediaeval, patriarchal repressive stands and join the (then) Twentieth Century.

    The old guys have a hard time not associating with heterodoxy what you associate with orthodoxy. Even now, you can for example tune in to the Sunday service from the big ELCA church in town here and find a totally liturgical service with a vested minister — female. It can be hard to get behind “high church” stuff when it is as easily gotten behind by heterodox. If the ELCA isn’t enough, look at the ECUSA, or for that matter post-conciliar RCC.

    Speaking of which, it doesn’t help when for example the female minister doing her LBW liturgy in the local cable braodcast is, apart from her sermon, doing pretty much what the liturgically minded LCMS guy is doing with DSI or its LW antecedent which has LBW as its antecedent.

    Which is suggestion two. If you want to stand for the historic liturgy of the catholic church, then do so, and don’t pass off Vatican II For Lutherans as the same thing.

  8. Past Elder says:

    PS being 58 myself, I find it encouraging that out here in the blogosphere most of the guys I hang with aren’t within ten or fifteen years of my age — while the guys who are, are off leading “youth” or “praise” groups like it’s 1968.

    My only regret about getting older, and being a part of the generation that made adolescence into an adult lifestyle, is that I will probably die off with the rest of them before the church passes into your hands unencumbered by us!

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