Take all the cracks at the 1941 hymnal you want, or how long it survived in our church body before being “retired,” but I see everyday the long-term benefits of having a uniform liturgy for Holy Communion. Today I conducted my monthly Divine Service at one of the care centers in town, with about 9 elderly folks in attendance. I don’t hand anything out. I just use a slightly abbreviated form of the old Common Service. I sing the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei, and the Nunc Dimmittis. They join right in. Men, women, all join in the liturgy that is etched in their hearts. It is a highlight of my month. After this, I join them for lunch at the Cafeteria.
What will happen in 40-50 years when the Creative Worship generation is at the assisted living centers? Will they be able to participate like this? What about those folks that cannot see anymore? Will they be able to read the words of the creative worship service printed out for them?
For me, this is one of the biggest arguments for having a uniform liturgy throughout our Synod. As nice as it is to have 4-5 musical settings of the Service, it is still too many options I think. Actually, I am not opposed to different musical settings of the Liturgy. There is a lot of precedent for that within Lutheranism, within Christianity as a whole. But there really ought to be one Rite, one set of words, so that those words become etched in the hearts of the people just as they did for those generations that grew up on TLH.
I’m not equating TLH with a “Golden Age” of the Church. I love many features of our present hymnals. I use them with joy. But I take great care when it comes to changing things up, in the hopes that the children and adults who worship in this congregation will one day be able to participate in the Service when their eyes fail them.