Monday, January 26, 2009

Wish Dreams and Lutheranism

My friend Pr. Weedon has an interesting "wish dream" post at his blog. For the sake of convenience, here it is (my comments below):

IF I Could Start A Mission Congregation...'s what it would look like:

A single Divine Service Sunday a.m., with Matins preceding it (no sermon). Additionally, I'd have Saturday Evening Vespers with opportunity following it for Confession and Absolution each week.

The people would be encouraged in a life of prayer - so we'd offer Matins and Vespers at regular set times during the week, employing material from Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Eucharist would be celebrated on every Sunday and every feast and festival in our LSB calendar.

Sunday afternoons from September through Easter would offer the Catechism Service.

We'd get together for the joy of sharing food and friendship no less than once a month.

No individual cups.

Bible Study/Sunday School would follow refreshments and visiting after the Sunday Divine Service.

It's name would, of course!, be St. Mary, Mother of God, Lutheran Church.

We'd make rich use of the artistic traditions of the Christian Church, but especially of our Lutheran forebears in adorning the nave and chancel.

We'd make clear from the get-go that the parish has but one mission: to BE the Church of God in this place, a colony from the future, a haven of rest for an exhausted world.

We'd implement a catechumenate from the start as our normal way of outreach and bringing folks into the parish's life.

We'd only form committees as needed on an ad hoc basis and evaluate each year if they should continue or if we can do the work better another way.

Above all else, we'd try to foster a community at prayer, in the Word, and feasting sumptuously on the Eucharist and so empowered to love and serve the unbelievers around us, bringing them into our joyful communion.
It's a beautiful dream. I think it captures the spirit of Lutheranism quite least what the spirit was. (Ihre Geist ist heute ganz anders...)

In a sense it is a "wish dream," a fantasy, idealistic. Escapist. One can sit in the chancel and dream about the ideal. Problem is, this world is not ideal. We have what is, what we have been given, and dreaming about the Other can be hopeless, if not sinful.

On the other hand, "Stop dreaming and get back to work!" can be a faithless command. It can mean "Nothing can change, nothing will change and you (and God) are powerless to do a durn thing."

There is much more to this. Stay tuned.


  1. William Weedon said...

    WHY does it have to be a fantasy? It IS our heritage, dang it all. Why not claim it? Is there a way to work towards in our parishes today as they are? I think so. It really is just the description of our Churches from the Lutheran Church Orders for the most part. And, if we take our current hymnal seriously, it is the description of Church life that it would foster among us as well. Though it has long since been the norm, even our current orders presuppose Matins and Vespers as daily services!

  2. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Thanks for commenting...and what you say anticipates some of my thoughts for the next post.

    However, it is a wish in so far as it's not reality, and hasn't been for some time.

  3. orrologion said...

    I take what you are starting to get at as being summed up in the aphorism: "actions speak louder than words".

    Mind you, this isn't a critique of Lutheranism alone. As to whether one believes in the Real Presence, look at how they act when the King is present and not only with the Gifts themselves. According to this standard, most Orthodox don't believe in the Real Presence as they chatter and sit and walk in and out paying little attention for much of the time after the epliklesis and before consumption (which takes place after the Liturgy in an Orthodox setting; meaning that Christ is present while people are chattering away as they kiss the cross and loiter in the nave).

    Likewise, I would argue that Lutheranism's actions over the past while argue that not only the laity but the denominations in toto don't 'really' believe that all this 'Catholic stuff' is either allowable or useful, depending.

    The question then arises as to whether this is the Holy Spirit guiding the Church in handling the tradition, or whether it is a fall or departure that needs fixing - another reformation.

    I always like a phrase I have heard attributed both to Fr. Alexander Schmemann and to Archbishop John (Garklavs?) of the OCA: 'we don't reform Church; Church reforms us' (paraphrased). I guess that depends on what one means by 'Church' - is the LCMS (or WELS, or...) the Church or not such that 'it' can reform us?...

  4. Wess Gray Photographer said...

    As a layman, I guess I don't see a whole lot of difference (or distance) from where we are now.
    What am I not understanding?

  5. Father Hollywood said...

    Dear Christopher:

    I have to join Weedon in saying that I don't think of this as a pipe dream at all.

    There are indeed pastors and congregations that are fairly accurately described by Fr. Weedon's dream of a mission congregation.

    The difference is that a mission congregation is less likely to resist based on the "we've always done it that way" defense for all of the unLutheran practices that have been inherited.

    But even when our churches have been pummeled by Pietism and a bias against our Catholic heritage, pastors can turn back the tide - with patient, pastoral, and yet firm teaching. It may well take generations, but the point is to take steps - even small steps - in the right direction.

    I think too many pastors are paralyzed with fear, and so they end up serving for thirty years and all they can point to is that they're almost ready to wear a crucifix (after a couple more years of newsletter articles and surveys).

    I think we need to take some risks, but do so in a loving manner, being "apt to teach" and with a long-term view in mind.

    I don't consider Weedon's musings as a *dream* so much as a long-term *goal* that, though long-term, is entirely doable.