Lee, Derek, LutherPunk and others around the blogosphere are chatting about Philip H. Pfatteicher’s article over at Lutheran Forum, "Reforming the Daily Offices: Examining Two New Lutheran Books." Some thoughts . . .
The settings for Daily Prayer in Evangelical Lutheran Worship may or
may not be good, as far as Daily Prayer setting go – I wouldn’t know.
I am not an expert on the shape, practice or tradition of The Daily
But please excuse if I’m not terribly worked up about the Daily Offices in Evangelical Lutheran Worship. I know some of you who keep an eye on my blog are devotees of the Daily Office, and I commend you for your discipline and love for a great tradition of the church. But in the nearly 500 years of Lutheran history I am hard-pressed to find a widespread congregational practice of praying the Daily Offices in community or in personal piety. Of the many things Lutherans are known for – the proclamation of the Word, grace, a paradoxical theolgy, sacramental practice, hymnody, etc. – a spirited dedication to the Daily Offices is not one of them.
Futhermore, the closest thing we Lutherans have to a prescribed form of daily prayer is found in Luther’s Small Catechism, where he writes:
In the morning, as soon as you get out of bed, you are to make the sign of the holy cross and say:“God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit watch over me. Amen.”
Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you wish, you may in addition recite this little prayer as well:
“I give thanks to you, my heavenly Father through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected me this night from all harm and danger, and I ask you that you would also protect me today from sin and all evil, so that my life and actions may please you completely. For into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
This order of daily prayer appears with slight enhancements in Evangelical Lutheran Worship as "Responsive Prayer," and also was published in the Common Service Book, the Service Book and Hymnal, and the Lutheran Book of Worship. Of course, this order of daily prayer is contained within the Small Catechism, which has been a tool for teaching and praying the faith in church and home for hundreds of years. Perhaps this simple order of responsive prayer – traditionally referred to as The Suffrages – has seen more ink in Lutheran circles than any Daily Office that is shared with Anglicans, Catholics and others. Perhaps this is the closest thing we Lutherans can claim as a native or closely-held tradition of Daily Prayer. Perhaps.
Nonetheless, I have no idea how widespread this practice of prayer is, either by congregations or by individuals. Anecdotally, my college parish offered this service at noon on Thursdays, and I know of some churches who use this order for prayer prior to council and committee meetings. My experience with the Daily Offices in the Lutheran tradition has overwhelmingly been in Wednesday evening seasonal services, particularly during Lent.
But back to our friend Philip H. Pfatteicher. I’m inclined to agree with Tom in Ontario, who remarked on LutherPunk’s blog, "Pfatteicher sounds like a grumpy old curmudgeon in his entire article." From his complaints about the lack of Latin terminology in the rubrics to his griping about the variety of worship practices enabled by Evangelical Lutheran Worship, he seems to hold onto a modernist hope that all the Lutheran world would pray in an identical (Latin-rubric-defined) way despite our cultural, social, economic and theological diversity.
Furthermore, we are a tradition that has always allowed, even if not always celebrated, diversity in worship practice. What is central is the Word and Sacrament, not any Latin-phrased rubric or ancient pattern of prayer. We Lutherans are bold enough to believe that it
. . . is enough for the true unity of the Christian church that there the gospel is preached harmoniously according to a pure understanding and the sacraments are administered in conformity with the divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by human beings, be observed everywhere.
– Article VII, Augsburg Confession (Kolb/Wengert, Book of Concord)
As I said above, these liturgies may or may not be excellent examples of Christian liturgics. Surely Evangelical Lutheran Worship diverges in some ways from the liturgical plumb line that many consider the Book of Common Prayer to be. But is this awful? I recently led our congregation in a Thanksgiving for Baptism, a rite that I believe is an innovation of Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Though it can use greater congregational participation – it’s a presider-heavy rite – this new rite appropriately lifts up baptism as core to our identity, and calls on Christians to recall the gift of grace bestowed in baptism at the opening of the liturgy. Again I ask, is this awful?
Finally, a word about Pfatteicher’s conspiracy theories. The liberal anti-masculine language leftwing of the ELCA did not drive the need for a new worship book, and neither did the needs of a struggling publishing house. I am a former sales rep for Augsburg Fortress Publishers, and was amazed at the number of churches who were purchasing and using much more than simply the Lutheran Book of Worship. From GIA resources to evangelical songbooks to With One Voice and a number of non-Lutheran downloaded resources, increasing number of churches were setting Lutheran Book of Worship aside, or supplementing it significantly. If the ELCA did not step up to create a new worship book, our congregations would simply look elsewhere for worship materials, as they already had been doing since the early 1990s.
And did anyone notice that masculine language is alive and well in ELW? Father, Son, King, Lord, He . . .
Oh my, there is so much more to say, but children beckon me to the playground . . .