From a respected Church Musician…
I suspect that many of our readers upon reading that title might ask, "Are we still talking about the 'national worship conference' in Seward from 2008?" No, that was the triennial conference hosted by the LCMS Commission on Worship. What just happened in St. Louis was the "Model Theological Conference on Worship", which the synod in convention directed be held in order to attempt to resolve our conflicts over worship. I'm going to have several short posts about this over the next few weeks, as there is much to digest, and as these conferences are now supposed to continue at the District level. But, for now, I'd just like to put two short items:
1 - For those who knew not or new little of this conference, this reminder for everyone about the official purpose of this conference should be helpful: "to build greater understanding of our theology of worship and foster further discussion of worship practices that are consistent with that theology."
2 - And now for my first of many short observations to come that I hope might continue our conversation together on this important issue:
The conference worship was graciously hosted by our brothers and sisters at Concordia-Kirkwood. They have a beautiful facility, excellent musicians, and are a most hospitable congregation. They deserve everyone's grateful appreciation for their efforts. Their musicians ably led the services planned with them by the Commission on Worship. Though the Commission oversaw the planning, I presumed that we had mostly contemporary sounds because of the musicians available, and mostly traditional content liturgically because of the Commission's oversight and because of Concordia's commitment to historic texts. In other words, we were pretty much experiencing worship at Concordia, not "model" worship.
So I thought it interesting that the questionnaire we received about the conference had many questions about the music, ceremony, and rites we experienced together. It appears instead that the several services are being considered as models of the "variety of responsible practices" referred to in the synod constitution (III:7), to which the convention resolution referred and about which we were supposed to discuss at the conference. This was not made clear to us when we gathered. Sure there were many discussions about the services among the delegates - we are pastors and musicians, after all! - but now that I am considering these as models I find it curious that the musical style of 3 of the 4 services at Concordia was identical, and that the "traditional" model lacked the fullness one would associate with model traditional worship (other than the excellent children's choir from the day school that sang a Voluntary).
Indeed, the worship was all on a rather narrow band for a conference that was supposed to discuss variety. I'm not sure why that was. I am sure that we could have had: choral settings of stanzas of hymns, more variety of psalmody, brass, other instruments, and also a more representative example of "real" contemporary worship. (Many delegates commented that if the "contemporary" worship we experienced at Concordia were representative of what is happening in synod as a whole, we would have not had a synod resolution to have this conference to begin with.)
I'm going to ask Commission members for their thoughts on this. I realize there is only so much one can do with five services, but it does seem to me an opportunity was lost.