A Lutheran Divine Service (done in a very "catholic" manner)

Hat tip to Pastor Weedon for this link to a video of a Lutheran Divine Service in the States. If you have never been to a Lutheran service, this will give you a good idea of how it happens. The church is quite beautiful and typically Lutheran in the arrangement and style of the furniture, and the rite itself is “straight from the hymnal” as they say (traditional Lutheran Service with Common without a Eucharistic prayer).

But the ceremonial is anything but typical of a Lutheran service. It is, in fact, about as “catholic” as you can make the Lutheran rite: chasuble, server, genuflections, elevations, signs of the cross everywhere (but curiously, no kneeling to receive communion–as would usually be the case in a Lutheran Church–and individual cups as well as the common chalice). It is quite acceptable to do it that way, of course, but you won’t find any Lutheran services in Australia that go that far in the Romanising direction. Not even I went quite as far as that when I was a Lutheran pastor (although I had chasubles and genuflections etc and never allowed individual cups — I was rather more “novus ordo” in style than Tridentine). Perhaps the closest the Lutheran liturgy ever came to being done like this in Australia was when Marco was pastor at Melton, but he was regarded as extreme (he’s mellowed over the years!).

The incongruity between the lavish (by Lutheran standards) ritual at the consecration of the bread and wine (elevations, genuflections) and the rather low-church manner of distribution of the consecrated elements (standing, individual cups) makes me wonder if there is some kind of disconnect between the preferred liturgical style of the pastor leading this congregation and the piety/faith of his congregation members. They probably “tolerate” his oddities in much the same way my congregation tolerated me when I did all these “catholic things” in their liturgy (I figure the level of tolerance in Marco’s parish was even higher). But I know for a fact that the liturgy isn’t done like that any more in either my old parish or in Marco’s old parish. It was just us–it wasn’t the faith of the people–and they didn’t end up owning it no matter how hard we tried to push it.

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10 Responses to A Lutheran Divine Service (done in a very "catholic" manner)

  1. William Weedon says:

    Dear David,

    The elevation of the Sacrament is actually not all that uncommon in our area among Lutherans. I know that it is practiced – just naming off-hand – at St. Paul’s in Hamel, at Concordia in Granite City, at St. John’s in Maryville, at Trinity in Herrin.

    Whether or not the people kneel for the Sacrament is usually determined by the presence or absence of an altar rail. At St. Paul’s, we kneel for the Eucharist except during the Paschal season.

    If you attended St. Paul’s, you’d also notice numerous folks who sign themselves with the cross either before or after receiving and sometimes both. I don’t think it would be fair to characterize either St. Paul’s or Trinity (our daughter parish) as just doing things the pastor’s way – there is a genuine thirst in both places for the old reverent Lutheran Divine Service, and this is also evident in the other places I named (and in a number of others besides).

  2. Marco says:

    Herr Schutz,

    I am deeply offended at being called extreme :D Yet trying to fit Fortescue into a Lutheran setting was fun, if a little undoable.

    Yet, the issue goes much further. Lutheranism (or in my second life, Anglicanism) can add all sorts of catholic elements to its liturgical life but that does not make it catholic. The issue for me is quite simple: the liturgy not the Church makes but the Church has liturgy.

  3. Tony Bartel says:

    From my experience of American Lutheranism, you can find a great variety of expression in worship from church growth entertainment evangelism to fairly high up the candle stick.

    This type of worship would be fairly common in parts of the Missouri Synod (especially in the English District) and in some parts of the ELCA.

    The difference is that in the ELCA bells and smells is more often than not associated with theological liberalism, while in Missouri it an expression of adherence to the Lutheran Confessions (like all generalisations there are plenty of exceptions to prove the rule).

    Sometimes you get oddities, like a parish which only celebrates the Eucharist once a month, but the pastor wears a chasuble when he does. Back in the fifties a previous pastor thought it was more important to have a chasuble than to increase the frequency of communion!!!

    Parishes of all persuasions tend to look for a pastor who will follow their tradition.

  4. Marco says:

    Just watching the video and thought I might follow the link on the right. Here you can find this: Order of Divine Service with rubrics and diagrams for LSB with Celebrant only. Any comments??

  5. Dixie says:

    David, I have to agree with what you say. In my 17 years as an LCMS Lutheran in the United States, in having been a member of 4 different congregations, 4 different cities and 3 different states–three of those congregations in the more “conservative” midwest–and having visited countless Lutheran churches in my travels, I have NEVER witnessed the prayerful posture (hands folded in prayer) of this pastor anywhere other than on web sites for Zion Lutheran in Detroit and Redeemer Fort Wayne.

    In all that time, I had one pastor, a local vacancy and relief pastor (a Seminex grad in town getting his PhD in social service), who wore a chasuble for communion…but only wore it for the Communion part of the service, and not for the whole service. The people of the congregation where fairly critical of the use of a chasuble but tolerated him because his wife’s parents were part of the congregation. In fact, the most devout Lutheran service I ever attended was in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada…no chasible there either and no kneeling…although I have attended other Lutheran churches that had kneeling during contemporary services. And as far as signing the cross…the only place I saw that practiced by more than just a smattering of the laity was in the Lutheran church my husband currently attends…smack dab in the middle of one of those less traditional salt water districts…where the service is “blended” and the worship is “creative”…never the same from week to week lest the people get bored. Sigh.

    Chanting the liturgy…a 50:50 proposition in my experience.

    Those dreadful individual cups? Ubiquitous.

    So, indeed, in my experience Lutheran services in the US are a mixed bag…what is on the video is not so typical. Actually one would be hard pressed to identify “typical”…although I once saw a WELS video that came close to the mental average I have based on my own experiences.

    All in all, I am rather glad that what was portrayed in this video is not a reflection of my experience. Had it been, who knows how long I could have convinced myself that I had no reason to leave Lutheranism…I spent two years doing that anyway, knowing my local situation wasn’t good but hanging on to the fact that there were Zion Detroits “out there”.

    We even considered relocating to an area that offered a more traditional and devout service but decided against it for the exact reasons you say…that pastor could have been called away at any time and the new one would have brought his own thing.

    But the search for the pearl of great price did not go unrewarded. Glory to God in all things.

  6. William Weedon says:


    It will be interesting to see what role the adoption of Lutheran Service Book will play on getting the LCMS Lutherans back on the same page. I’ve already noticed some rather hopeful signs that way – in places where I least expected them.

    What is fascinating about Pastor Curtis’ video is that he is really just following – almost exactly (not quite – he’s replaced the opening confession of sins with the confiteor that we have in Compline and he’s added a hymn as the gifts are presented) Divine Service 3 in the new book. I have a friend who is an organist in Hawaii and he told me that they did that service last week as well – and the people loved it. It really is a very fine setting of the Divine Service, and it’s back like a breath of fresh air in the Synod.

  7. Dixie says:

    It will be interesting to see what happens with regard to uniformity (or “harmonization” as we say in my industry) and if that improves as a result of the LSB…perhaps it will.

  8. William Weedon says:

    By the way, we have a pastoral conference coming up in a month. I was delighted to hear what would be offered for that liturgically:

    Day One:

    Responsive Prayer I (Suffrages)

    Divine Service III

    Day Two:


    Evening Prayer

    Day Three:

    Morning Prayer

    Responsive Prayer II (Suffrages)

    I was especially pleased to see the Conference adopt Divine Service 3 (the Common Service) for the Communion liturgy. Now you need to pray for the Conference, Dixie, because they’re stuck with me as the musician!!! Kyrie eleison X40!

  9. Dixie says:

    Oh, I am sure you’ll do fine as long as you don’t try to sneak in any Marty Haugen! ;)

  10. Christopher says:

    You could always do the 400 Kyrie done in Orthodox cathedrals and monasteries! Why do a little if you can do a lot? In that rite, the priest blesses the 4 corners of the earth with the cross form hands outstretched up all the way down to the ground and back up in the space of 100 Kyries. (I think another 100 might be done just for good measure, too, but I can’t remember at the moment). It’s a little tough on the choir, but the only real tough part is chanting it in the different liturgical languages of our parish: English, Georgian (just about all consonants), Slavonic, Romanian and Greek.

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