Feb 08. Later updates are preceded by the month and year in boldface type. E.g. Updated Jan 2012
Is it true that Piepkorn approved of what we call “seeker services”? If what is meant is special services for the evangelization of the unchurched, the answer is Yes! He also was no foe of experimentation. At the same time, however, he was “profoundly skeptical of ‘informal'” worship services.
In October 1951 a pastor wrote to Piepkorn for help with a paper on the use of the Liturgy for evangelistic purposes that the pastor was preparing for delivery at a pastoral conference. Piepkorn replied:
“The subject is interesting and you should be able to do quite a lot with the evangelistic emphasis in the Confession of Sins, the Nicene Creed, the Common Offertories, the General Prayer, the Preface for Advent, Lent and Easter, the Agnus Dei, the Words of Institution and the Aaronic Blessing. At the same time, you ought to give due consideration to the fact that the Liturgy is part of the Church’s private culture and was never designed or intended for evangelistic purposes. The propaganda service of the early Church was the synaxis [the Service of the Word], not the Eucharist. The synaxis consisted almost wholly of lections and instructions, no prayers. In this connection let me commend to your reading Dom Gregory Dix: The Shape of the Liturgy. My own feeling is that we should not try to make the Liturgy do too much. We should probably do better if we held special services (weekly or monthly, or daily for short periods) for the evangelization of the unchurched. . . . I have observed that parishes which scaled the Liturgy down in the interest of evangelization (abbreviating it, miscegnating it with “popular” hymns, and eliminating the traditional ceremonial) have never been able to return to a really more adequate worship level. My own experience is that my people and I can do more with pagan and Protestant inquirers in a service designed especially for their needs, strongly educational and evangelistic, as informal as possible without vulgarizing the subject matter, and with plenty of give-and-take (achieved through such means as discussion, panel presentations, audiovisual aids, pulpit dialogue, and a question box). After they have been adequately instructed, then they can be brought into a normal Lutheran service and participate in it with spiritual profit.” ( Letter of October 16, 1951 to the Rev. D.)
At the same time, Piepkorn was “profoundly skeptical of ‘informal'” worship services. In November of 1952, he wrote in reply to another pastor:
“I am no foe of experimentation; I have done my share in my time, and please God, I shall keep on doing so. I am profoundly grateful for every valuable insight that I have been able to obtain from the experimentation of other people. After eleven years in the military service, during most of which I occupied a supervisory position where I was compelled to be present at literally hundreds of religious services of all denominations, I am profoundly skeptical of “informal’ worship.
“. . . I have repeatedly insisted that one service a week in our churches is inadequate and that we ought to have a considerable variety of services to meet a variety of needs and, what is ultimately probably more important to accomplish, a variety of functions. Part of the problem, of course, is the size of our parishes. This is only one of many areas where we are paying what seems to me to be too high a price for uneconomically small parochial organizations. At the same time, I believe that each ought as a minimum to offer its membership at least one service a Sunday and other major Holy Days in which the Blessed Sacrament is celebrated according to the order of service prescribed by our Church. If this were done, it would seem to me to be quite within the province of the pastor and the parish to engage in as much legitimate experimentation at other hours as the facilities of the parish permit.” –November 6, 1952 Letter to the Rev. S, City, State
Because I am retired and travel a lot, I attend worship services all over the country.
Here are some comments that I think Piepkorn would concur with:
Written in 2012. Revised several times since. Piepkorn told me once that he had thought of gathering together a group of people from one of his congregations and making an effort to write a liturgy for the congregation’s use, but had never done it.
Piepkorn certainly had the theological knowledge to do it. But few people have the linguistic skill to write a liturgy. Our national church body has published new liturgies, tested them extensively and yet found that the final versions contained language that needed further revisions. In English it is possible to write something that is understandable, but is not the natural way to say something. When we read we read by phrases not by individual words. If the phrase is not written in an idiomatic way, you may find yourself pausing or saying the phrase the way you expect it to read. When you do that others in the congregation are probably doing the same thing.
Some think that the service needs to be new and “fresh” each time it is used. That may actually be harder to worship. As C.S. Lewis said: “A service . . . . works ‘best”– when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing, but only leaning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. . . . The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of, our attention would have been on God.”
I was taught to start the parts of the liturgy that the congregation speaks by prolonging the first syllable of the first word, giving the people time to join in on that word. I was also taught to then lower my voice and let the people speak at their own pace, which they will do if they are allowed to. Today many pastors apparently believe that they should lead these parts of the liturgy in a loud voice. When pastors do that, I often find that we are “off to the races.” If the pastor lets them lead they will speak in the slower and more reverent pace and rhythm they are used to. If you are a pastor and doubt this, try it and you will see, and think your church members and especially visitors will appreciate it.
Added Jan 2012 I learned from attending the offices in a Benedictine monastery when I stayed in one for several days when I was teaching at St. Anselm College, to read my parts of responsive readings at a pace as similar to that of the congregation as possible and without emphasizing any words by raising my voice or slowing my pace. The responsive readings are perfectly understandable without emphasizing certain words, and doing so will inevitably cause the pastor to speak his parts at a pace and rhythm that the congregation will not be able to imitate. Hand gestures during responsive readings and the Scripture readings for the day distract from the importance of the written text.
Piepkorn said the people should look at the person who is reading the Scripture readings. That is especially appropriate during the Holy Gospel, when the Pastor is speaking in the place of Christ. But printed out readings has all but eliminated this laudatory tradition.
Pastors should remember that whenever they are giving directions, the people are not worshiping. As I travel I find this the most disturbing feature of many services, even traditional ones. If you have visitors every service, some oral directions can be helpful, but they are distracting to the regular worshipers and disrupting to their worship. And, of course, every time pastors do this they are attracting attention to themselves.
The traditional order of worship not only links us with the Church of the ages, but has a logic to it. Both that link and that logic are destroyed if the parts of the liturgy are moved around for the sake of variety and freshness.
For example, the public confession of sins is a late addition to the service and was put near the beginning of the service. If it is used, members of the congregation need to have an expectation of where it will occur. If it is early in the service most of the time but suddenly appears later, it can be jarring. If they have to look up ahead of time where it will be, that is another distraction.
Here are some other principles of worship:>> The altar symbolizes the presence of God and should be the focus of worship. Think of how the American flag is the focus of attention before and after public gatherings and at the beginning of sports events.
Added Jan 2012 As Pope Benedict XVI wrote before he became pope: “Now the priest–the ‘presider’– as they now prefer to call him–becomes the point of reference of the whole liturgy. We have to see him, to respond to him, to be involved in what he is doing. His creativity [and, I might add to Benedict’s words, his personal presence] sustains the whole thing. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, translated by John Saward, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000, p. 80. I am indebted to Charles McClean for this quotation, which he quotes at greater length in “The Conduct of the Service Revisited,” which he delivered at Saint Michael’s Liturgical Conference at Zion Lutheran Church in Detroit on September 26, 2011. In his paper, McClean also debunks the myth –believed by Martin Luther and others — that in the early Church, the priest faced the people across the altar. I highly recommend McClean’s paper.
>>Vestments: Vestments are stylized version of the street clothing of Christ’s time and are meant to hide the person of the a pastor, who is acting in the stead of Jesus Christ. A pastor who wear his personal choice of clothing is attracting attention to himself.
>>It is claimed that one can change style without changing substance. That is true of some changes but is obviously not true of many changes. For example, the traditional Invocation 1) invokes — that is, asks — the Trinune God to make His presence known to us, and 2) testifies that we are worshiping the Triume God. If it is changed to “Let’s make our beginning in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it ceases to be an “invocation” and becomes simply a request addressed to the worshippers. Substance has been changed.
In other cases the Invocation is replaced by a prayer similar to the “call to worship” of general Protestantism. That obscures our differences with them.
Similarly, sometimes the benediction, which means “blessing,” is converted into a farewell until the next meeting, leaving out the blessing.
>>I was taught to simply hold my palms up to indicate when the congregation is to stand and palms down when it is time to sit. The regulars will know when to stand or sit, or will follow those gestures, and visitors will follow them.
>>Piepkorn recommended that only persons old enough to act reverently should enter the chancel. Most small children have not yet learned how to act reverently and tend to act mechanically rather then reverently. Also in our times many only have “tennis shoes,” which are okay if they are clean and laced. What I learned in my ministry was that if we let children serve around the altar when they turn, say, 10, when they become, say 12, they may not want to serve anymore.
>>Offerings: I was taught that ushers should face the altar and step backward as they pass the offering plate. That not only shows reverence for the altar (see above) but is less likely to embarrass people who may not be able to afford to put much in the plates. Ushers should remain in the narthex or in the back row of a pew so they can greet late comers or assist anyone who has gone to the narthex and is in need of assistance.
>> Hymns: Piepkorn said that the lay people learn their theology from the hymns. Today hundreds of hymns are simply not being used anymore. It is not a matter of difficulty. Many of the “praise songs” that are being used are more difficult to sing. And their content is extremely limited. I fear we will pay dearly for this in the future.
Since adiaphora (“neutral things”) are neither commanded nor forbidden by God, aren’t congregations and pastors free to do anything they please as far as liturgy, vestments, etc. are concerned? Except in times of persecution, Yes.
But that is not the end of the matter. Article 15 of the Augsburg Confession states: “With regard to church usages that have been established by men, it is taught among us that those usages are to be observed [lehret man diejenigen halten; docent quod…servandi sunt] which contribute to peace and good order in the church, among them being certain holy days, festivals, and the like.” (Emphasis added)
For example, after stating that vestments are “neutral things” and noting that there is precedence for clergy to wear street clothes for worship services since that is what the church’s clergy did for the first three centuries, Piepkorn added the following: 1) We no longer conduct our services in houses. 2) Modern street garments are ugly, ungainly and usually drab in comparison to the graceful garb of the classic era. 3)The floodgates would then be open to bad taste and “irrepressibly individualistic” clergy. 4) “By law or custom our society prescribes that the custodians of our culture wear formal vestments” (judges, diplomats, military personnel, police, firefighters, social leaders at “black tie” affairs), faculty in procession, etc. 5) The wearing of street clothes by clergy for worship services is contrary to the historic practice of the Church of the Augsburg Confession, and gives a false impression about the nature and beliefs of our Church. (CTM July 1959, 482-3]
Is is true that Piepkorn did not recommend the singing of hymns during the distribution of Holy Communion? Yes, because he did not believe that the singing of hymns was conducive to mediation.
If Holy Communion is so important, why isn’t it mentioned in the Creed?
It is! In September 1960 Piepkorn wrote a letter to the British Lutheran stating: “With reference to page four of the July 1960 issue has anyone called your attention to the fact that the pupils of the Confirmation class there quoted were precisely right when they described the “the Communion of Saints” in the ‘Apostles’ [Creed]’as ‘when Saints go to Communion?’ Sanctorum communio refers to the Holy Eucharist, not to the Church, in its origin, and should be rendered as ‘participation in Holy Things,’ i.e. Our Lord’s Body and Blood . . . This original and correct understanding of the term perpetuated itself in England down into the sixteenth century.” Elsewhere Piepkorn documents this use of the term in the early Church Fathers.
Is it true that Piepkorn wore a clerical collar because he loved the attention he got while wearing one? That is an ad hominem attack made by a prominent Synodical official years ago and repeated three decades later in an April 2002 speech by another prominent Synodical official, who is no longer in office. His speech is available on another site on the Internet.
Isn’t it contrary to Matthew 23:9 to call a priest or minister “Father”?
If followed literally, Matthew 23:9 forbids the use of the title even for biological fathers. In an article in the October 17, 1939, Lutheran Witness, Piepkorn wrote: “‘Father’ as a form of address for a clergyman is neither unscriptural nor un-Lutheran nor exclusively Roman. The usage is based on such passages as 1 Cor. 4:14,17; 1 Tim. 1:2,18; 2:1; Titus 1:4; 1 John 2:1; 3:l8. It has been in use not only in the Roman Catholic Church, but also in the Protestant Episcopal, Orthodox, and Far Eastern Churches, as well as in the Lutheran Church.” Examples he gave included the Finnish Lutheran Church (bappi) and the Norwegian Lutheran Church (far, dialect for fader). Martin Luther was called “Father” throughout his life, including on his deathbed. “The Titles of a Clergyman: II,” Lutheran Witness, LVIII:21, 360.
What did Piepkorn believe about self-communion by the celebrant of Holy Communion?
He called attention to the fact that this was the custom of the Church of the Augsburg Confession (AC 24,34 German). It is explicitly called for by Luther’s Form of the Mass of 1523: “Then, while the Agnus Dei is sung, let [the celebrant] communicate, first himself and then the people.” (LW, American Edition, Vol. 53,29). Smalcald Articles II, 2, 8 condemns not self-communication but private masses. The practice of having another minister commune the celebrant is a relatively recent practice. Having a lay server do it is even more recent. In Piepkorn’s words, “the most desirable way” for the pastor to receive is self communion. Volume 3 of The Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn will reprint his 1947 (Holy Cross issue) Una Sancta article on this topic and a one page summary that he prepared in 1965.
Is it okay for a pastor to wear a pectoral cross?
Certainly. Piepkorn did. But he said that pastors should keep them out of sight unless they are bishops in the post-biblical sense of that term, because traditonally pectoral crosses are the sign of a bishop, and the Church of the Augsburg Confession is committed to following tradition unless there are compelling reasons not to (AC 15 German: “are to be observed,” Latin: “should be observed”). Piepkorn used a black cord with his and kept the crucifix in pocket of his black clerical shirt.
What was Piepkorn’s opinion about intinction?
He questioned whether it fulfilled the Biblical requirement, “Take, drink.” Believing that it is more important for people to commune than to receive from the common cup, he said individual cups may be used, but he recommended the use of a chalice with a pouring lip to preserve the symoblism of the “one cup.”
What did Piepkorn believe about the Absolution after public confession?
He believed that visitors who were not familiar with Lutheran doctrine might be confused by Absolution (“In the name and by the command of our Lord Jesus, I forgive you . . .”). He therefore recommended that unless the pastor knew the worshippers who were present, a “Declaration” of forgiveness should be used instead of Absolution. (The Lutheran Book of Worship and Lutheran Worship offer both on pp. 77 and 159, respectively.)
Some pastors, apparently with the intention of personalizing the liturgy use communicant’s first name when administering the Body and Blood of our Lord. I think that doing that is distracting for most worshipers who probably have enough distractions as it is. I also think that gestures — other than the traditional gestures such as the sign of the cross and gestures made while preaching tend to draw attention to the pastor and therefore are also likely to be distracting.