Sunday, February 11, 2018

Mark thoughts: A new Hymnal Supplement for Lutheran Service Book?

At the 58th Regular Convention of the Southern Illinois District which concluded on Saturday, I encountered a topic that surprised me.  It was the first time I had heard about it.  I don’t think it will be the last as we look towards the 2019 LCMS convention.  Resolution 2-04 that was presented to the convention stated that the Worship Office of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in coordination with the Concordia Publishing House is to produce a Supplement to the Lutheran Service Book by 2021 as a celebration of the 15th year of the Lutheran Service Book.

I was surprised because historically, hymnal Supplements have been part of the process for replacing hymnals and not “celebrating” them.  In 1966 when The Lutheran Hymnal was twenty-five years old, LCMS President Oliver Harms invited the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America to form an Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) (Frank C. Senn, Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical, 640).  Senn reports that, “The first decision of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship was to agree to the publication of the paperback Worship Supplement, reflecting the work already done by the Commission on Worship of the Missouri Synod, in 1969” (640).

The same can be said about Hymnal Supplement 98 published in 1998. This Supplement was part of the process to replace existing hymnals.  In February of that year the Commission on Worship held a forum that resulted in the book, Through the Church the Song Goes On: Preparing a Lutheran Hymnal for the 21st Century (published in 1999).  A purpose of the forum was “to  explore some of the issues the Commission on Worship will need to examine as it begins work on a revision of the Synod’s hymnals, The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Lutheran Worship (1982)” (1).

Hymnal Supplement 98 was indeed produced sixteen years after Lutheran Worship, and I suppose one could argue that it provides a kind of model for a new Hymnal Supplement for Lutheran Service Book fifteen years after its publication.  Yet a closer look immediately reveals that the circumstances of Hymnal Supplement 98 demonstrate why no Supplement should be produced at this time for Lutheran Service Book.

A decade after the publication of Lutheran Worship in 1982, it was obvious that the book had not been a success.  Its Divine Service I (pg. 136), a modified version of The Lutheran Hymnal pg. 15, had caused a sizeable minority of congregations to reject it. The LCMS was now divided into “LW congregations” and “TLH congregations.”  In addition, although the LCMS had initiated the work of the ILCW, it pulled out of the project that resulted in Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).  Lutheran Worship was a rushed “Plan B,” and it showed.  

A replacement was going to be needed – one that all congregations would want to buy and use; one that addressed issues that arisen in the production of Lutheran Worship.  The publication of Hymnal Supplement 98 was part of the process that sought to meet this need.  As the hymnal project continued, there were those who mocked the whole idea. The hymnal was a thing of the past.  “Who is going to buy it?,” they asked.

They were wrong.  Lutheran Service Book turned out to be a tremendous success.  It was embraced by both “LW congregations” and “TLH congregations.” They all bought it.  If you go to a LCMS congregation today and they have hymnals, you will find LSB. At a time when the worship practice in the LCMS is fractured and unpredictable, the presence of LSB is the one element that provides the possibility of common rites and hymns.  

In light of this situation, I do not understand why the LCMS would want to produce yet another official worship resource a mere fifteen years after LSB.  Such a move would only inject more worship diversity into a church body that is already awash in it.  Many congregations will buy it, but others will not.  There will be congregations that use the Supplement and those that do not.  This will work against the shared and common use accomplished by LSB.

In particular I am concerned about new rites and settings that a Supplement would include.  The previous Hymnal Supplements have not only been about new hymns. They have also been the test bed for new rites and settings.  Sure enough, the original language of Resolution 2-04 stated, “Resolved, that the committee consider including a new setting of the Divine Service in the Supplement.”

Lutheran Service Book contains five settings of the Divine Service.  One can even say it has “5 ½ settings” since Settings 1 and 2 contain two different versions of the Service of the Sacrament on a shared page.  Does this not already provide enough liturgical diversity?  Beyond this, the rubrics of Lutheran Service Book are permissive in providing various options at different points in the service.  If one felt compelled to do so, each setting could be done in wide variety of ways.

Repetition is a key element in liturgical worship and one of its great strengths as it teaches the faith and provides comfort to those who use it.  The continual multiplication of rites and setting works against the very strength of liturgical worship that its supporters claim to believe (the same can be said about the use of a different setting of the Divine Service each Sunday).  The LCMS now has five settings to use, learn and make a part of us. This is what we should be doing, not creating a sixth (even if it is a “new old” setting such as the Saxon agenda from the synod’s first official hymnal).

One often hears it said that, “A hymnal is good for about twenty five years.”  However, the people who say this are almost always those who are involved in producing new hymnals.  A Hymnal Supplement inherently points forward to the next hymnal.  Those who work in official church positions dealing with worship as a subject often have the insatiable desire to tinker and create new orders of service.  After all, they want to do projects and create things.  Yet this desire actually runs counter to the strength of the subject with which they work.

The history of its origin and the ensuing success of Lutheran Service Book speaks against attempts to produce new rites, settings and hymnals.  The current milieu of the LCMS in which the very existence of liturgical worship is challenged does as well.  Fifteen years after LSB is not the time to produce a Hymnal Supplement for LSB.  It is the time to be using the Lutheran Service Book.




  1. I am not sure about a supplement but it is clearly time to more fully explore the possibilities of Lutheran Service Builder. I would advocate for including all TLH and LW hymns that did not make it into LSB into Builder and to begin adding new hymns that could be tried and evaluated so that they are well vetted by the time another hymnal is produced. I would also advocate for more Psalm settings -- new tones, refrains to be used with cantor or choir on the verses, etc... A supplement would also be a great deal of work and money and I believe the market would not justify a supplement at this time. But... adding to Builder would be cheap, easy, and quite effective. Besides the distribution system is already in place.

  2. A CTSFW seminarian has just recently released a software module that adds the public domain TLH hymns not found in LSB. The only problem is they don’t show up in the “Suggested Hymn” field for each Sunday.

  3. A supplement with more hymns? Fine. More hymns available regularly via Lutheran Service Builder? BETTER. Another setting for Holy Communion? NO. NO. NO.

    I'm sure I'm not the only who sees this for what it probably is, yet another attempt to push the Eucharistic Prayer into the Missouri Synod. NO!! Stop. Just. Stop.

  4. If anything, the LSB, like the ECUSA's 1979 Book of Common Prayer, should have two versions of Setting 3: the current setting and a "traditional English" version copied word-for-word from the TLH.

  5. Worship has evolved throughout Christian history, and never was, or should be, static. We need not fear this as long as it is done well. This is not the time or place to define "well." Those who know, know. Those who don't can remain uninformed, or they can learn. But it does take years of study for this high knowledge to distill.

    That said we have a much larger problem in the LCMS than the condition of our worship book. We could use it as is for a long time. But what we can't abide is parishes and pastors that don't understand that Christian worship is -- The Eucharist. For the baptized to celebrate it on the Lord's Day is definitional and constitutive of Christian Worship. "THIS CUP ... is the New Testament in my blood." Or said with different emphasis, "This cup IS ... the N.T. in my blood."

    Until we get that right, until every pastor and congregation understands that the Eucharist is not optional, but constitutes the worship of the Father in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24) Lutherans will live below the spiritual poverty line. (What a shame, when the Bread of Life is freely offered us, and we turn away from it.)

    Once we understand what Christian worship is, then we can proceed with further liturgical change that is slow, steady and in keeping with the church of the ages. (Again, those who know what that means, know. And those who don't need to learn.) Rev. Dean Kavouras, Pastor. Christ Lutheran Church. Cleveland, Ohio.

  6. A brief comment on the multiplicity of service settings.

    I, for one, am very much in support of having more service settings. However, for my money, what LSB offers is not service settings but rather alternative rites.

    Historically (i.e., since at least the early Middle Ages but probably earlier, until 1982 in the LCMS and my own church body, the ELCE), there has been just one rite: one set of words in one given order. Of this rite, there may have been many settings: different musical renderings of the one rite.

    This is desirable. To vary the music by season—festive settings at Easter and Christmas, plain or austere settings in Lent, etc.—is, I contend, wisdom, since the garb the rite wears matches the occasion. Frankly, it makes questionable sense (if any) to sing the Sanctus to the exact same melody on Ash Wednesday as Easter morning.

    What we have instead is this: two settings of the LW rite (DS 1&2), a single setting of the TLH rite (DS3), one brand-new paraphrastic rite(DS4) and an approximation of the German Mass in English (DS5).

    This cacophony of rites is an innovation in Christian liturgical history, and not a good one. The pastor says/sings, "The Lord be with you". Whether the congregation replies "And also with you", "And with thy spirit", or "And with your spirit", depends entirely on which service we're in. There is no justification for this (other than the desire to get everyone to buy the one book, regardless of which rite they use).

    This wasn't always the case. Before the 1960s liturgical project began, the LCMS actively sought to commission and publish alternative settings of the Common Service. Two were published: Jan Bender's and Healey Willan's. Likewise, under the leadership of Luther Reed, the Service Book and Hymnal (published by the predecessor bodies of ELCA) had several musical settings of varying styles of a modified Common Service: Anglican chant, Gregorian chant, newly-commissioned music.

    So here's my suggestion: what the church needs is this uniformity of text and variety of music. So why not take the varying rites of the LSB, unify them into one, adapt the existing music to fit this text, and commission other settings while you're at it.

    1. A brief examination of the liturgical texts immediately reveals that there has never been "just one rite: one set of words in one given order." This is true for the early church, medieval and Reformation periods. To cite but one easy illustration: Does the Lord's Prayer come before or after the Words of Institution? One finds both practices in the Reformation Kirchenordungen.

  7. I should have been clearer: I meant that there always was a single rite in any given jurisdiction. Certainly, rites have varied from place to place and from time to time; but to have a multiplicity of rites in one jurisdiction (e.g.a synod), let alone a single congregation, is unheard-of.

    1. You need to qualify your statement by saying that the intentional existence of a multiplicity of rites in one jurisdiction has not been the practice of the Church. It has happened - twice - in the history of the LCMS, though it was not an intentional decision/action but instead arose because of circumstnaces. Between the founding of the LCMS in 1847 and the publication of the synod's first Agende in 1856, the congregations of the LCMS used two different rites: the 1812 Agende they brought from Saxony and Loehe's 1844 Agende. Again, around the time of World War I as the synod transitioned from German to English, congregations of the synod were using the 1856 Agende as well as the Common Service as found in the 1912 English hymnal and the 1917/1921 Agenda published by the Synod. Theodore Graebner described the 1920's and 1930's as a period of "liturgical chaos." I agree with the point your are making. But our rhetoric cannot ignore the facts of history.