CHRISTIAN WORSHIP SUPPLEMENT.
CHRISTIAN WORSHIP SUPPLEMENT. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2008. 255 pages. Paper. $13.50
Reviewed by Timothy Maschke, Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, WI.
Just halfway through the expected life-span of their synodical hymnal, Christian Worship, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s Commission on Worship prepared a hymnal supplement which provides newer resources for their congregational worship life. The goal of the committee was to “prepare a supplement to Christian Worship that will assist worshipers and worship planners by providing them with a resource that reflects worship as proclamation of the gospel; affirms the liturgical and historic practice of the church; provides an expanded repertoire of liturgical materials and hymnody; represents the best of a variety of musical genres appropriate for worship; intends to unify worship; is balanced, allowing worship to be both contextual and countercultural; is beneficial to and usable by WELS members at church and at home” (6).
From the very first pages, unique options are presented. Two “Gathering Rites,” drawing upon the common ELCA’s four-part liturgical structure—Gathering, Word, Meal, Sending—introduce this supplemental material. The first focuses on baptism and the second on the Word, supplying hymn stanzas with responsive readings. The Gathering Rites replace the opening hymn, confession of sins, absolution and song of praise. These introductory sections of the liturgy are augmented by two musical settings (along with the Proper seasonal Prefaces), one is a new setting of the Common Service in Christian Worship, and the other is an adaptation following Luther’s use of hymns in a modified hymn-based liturgy with footnotes explaining various elements of the liturgy (this latter feature underscoring Luther’s strong educational emphasis of worship). No music for the congregation is included in this second setting, except for the Alleluia and Agnus Dei, since the hymns are set to familiar settings. In addition, a Eucharistic Prayer has been provided after the Sanctus and before the Words of Institution in this setting.
Renewed emphasis on the importance of expanding the public reading of Scripture in worship can be seen in the alternate Old Testament and Epistle lessons which correspond to the Gospels in the three-year lectionary, following the lines of the LCMS’ Lutheran Service Book. Similarly, an additional selection of twenty-four psalms (ten are new to Christian Worship) with refrains and psalm tones provide greater opportunities for congregational participation in parish worship life. Noteworthy is the fact that several of these settings are arranged by LCMS musicians. Seven “Meditations” for use at home or school are offered along with a set of topics for intercessory prayer throughout the week.
Eighty-five new hymns and three canticles are the most obvious contribution of this worship resource. Many of these hymns are recent compositions and over half are among those included in Lutheran Service Book. For example, ten hymns are composed by Stephen Starke, ten by Henry Stuempfle, five by Jaroslav Vajda, in addition to compositions by Fred Baue, Gerry Coleman, Kenneth Kosche, Joseph Herl, Steve Mueller, Oliver Ruprecht, and Jon Vieker, to name a few other familiar names. An increasingly popular setting of the Te Deum in LSB by Stephen Starke using a setting by Gustav Holst is not included, but the Holst setting of this English folk-tune, THAXTED, is well-utilized for the popular hymn by Bernard of Cluny, “Jerusalem the Golden” (728).
Editorial work on this book was carefully conducted, following many of the “improvements” drawn from the Missouri Synod’s Lutheran Service Book in arranging materials on the page and the use of white space. All the hymns have a simple accompaniment, although an accompaniment addition is available. In addition to the paperback edition, which is being reviewed here, a hard copy (“pew edition”) for congregational use along with a guitar edition is available. An electronic version has also been prepared for congregational use with appropriate licensing.
Strikingly clear and significant is the theological distinction between the WELS and LCMS in the understanding of the pastoral office. The lex orandi, lex credendi principle is most obvious in the devotional setting entitled, “Meditation on the Ministry of the Keys.” In that service, the worship leader, whether lay or clergy, speaks a formal absolution to the confessing gathering. Similarly, the absolution in the supplement’s Divine Service II only refers to the worship leader’s authority as being “through his called servant” (29), an understanding and practice of the office of the ministry in the WELS which is expected, yet distinctly different from the LCMS.
Enriching worship is always a thrilling task. The WELS’ Commission on Worship is to be commended for its careful and conscientious work in preparing this supplement. LCMS worship leaders may wish to peruse some of these resources, especially the hymns not included in LSB as well as some of the devotional materials. This resource will be used in WELS congregations for the next dozen years until a new hymnal is again prepared and presented for God’s gathered guests.