New worship book is respectful of diversity

Published April 1, 2006

After 28 years of singing to the Lord from the Lutheran Book of Worship and in response to the mission needs of a changing church, Canadian and American Lutherans will soon begin using a new worship book called Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Scheduled for release in October, flexibility is paramount as the hymnal will be available in different formats including CD, Web/Internet and print. Evangelical Lutheran Worship will contain 10 musical eucharistic settings as well as a few non-communion settings, a Psalter of 150 psalms, Luther’s Small Catechism, more than 700 hymns, songs and service pieces. It will also incorporate special liturgies for Lent, the Great Three Days, baptism, Affirmation of Baptism (Confirmation), marriage, funeral and healing services. The new worship book is the centerpiece of the Renewing Worship Project of our sister church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and to which we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) were granted standing with our own co-ordinating team of advisors. This is a five-phase process which began in 2001 with international church-wide consultations, followed by editorial teams which revised and developed the proposed worship materials, then introduced them at regional and synodical events and assemblies within the ELCA and ELCIC for direct feedback. Canadian response to the new book has been overwhelmingly positive. At our 2005 National Assembly in Winnipeg, more than 400 lay and clergy delegates voted with 99.9 percent approval. Since the signing of the 2001 Waterloo Declaration, questions have arisen about the prospect of work on a combined worship book between the Anglican Church of Canada and the ELCIC. Unfortunately, such prospects have not materialized, said Rev. Andre Lavergne, a Lutheran parish pastor and text specialist with the Renewing Worship Project. Firstly, the two churches have been out of synch. Upon the heels of the 1978 publication of the Lutheran Book of Worship, the Episcopal Church in the United States revised and released the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) in 1979. Then in 1985, the Anglican Church of Canada produced the Book of Alternative Services (BAS) and thereafter, its hymn book Common Praise (1998). Secondly, Mr. Lavergne noted that, unlike Lutherans, Anglicans “never mix their peas and potatoes,” that is, their hymn and prayer books are always separate. As a parish pastor serving a bilingual (English-German) parish, I find that the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship supports worship in all Lutheran congregations regardless of size, location, style of music and ethnic heritage. Many of the newer hymns not only reflect a sensitivity to the multicultural reality within the Christian community, but are a reminder of our Christian unity in the midst of worship diversity. Rev. Peter Mikelic pastors Epiphany Lutheran church, Toronto, and writes for various church and secular publications.

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