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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

A Few Minutes with Fr. William C. Weedon, LCMS Director of Worship and International Center Chaplain

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few minutes chatting with Fr. William C. Weedon, newly installed LCMS Director of Worship and International Center Chaplain, to ask him a few questions about his new post. Here's his response.

Fr. William C. Weedon, LCMS Director of Worship and International Center Chaplain

GOTTESDIENST: As Director of Worship and IC chaplain, what will some of your duties entail?
WEEDON: Let's start with the easier one: as IC Chaplain I'm responsible for coordinating and planning the services that take place in the International Center Chapel (it needs a name!), and in general finding ways for "the Word of God to dwell richly" among the employees in the building as they seek to seek to serve the needs of the Church. In today's Chapel, President Harrison spoke of the three meanings we find in the NT for "confess" - confession of sins, of the faith, and the confession of praise. As chaplain in this place, it's my calling to assist the workers in embracing all three meanings: learning what it means to live together under the forgiveness of Jesus – and so forgiving one another, building each other up in our wonderful doctrinal heritage, and also growing in the joyous praise of God. They are all tied together as we learn to "say back" to God what He has graciously said and revealed of Himself to us.

As Director of Worship, I'll hope to entice the pastors and parishes of the Synod into a joyous, reverent, and intentional embrace of our heritage as Lutheran Christians – a heritage that virtually drips with the sweetness of the Gospel at every turn. One wonderful thing about that heritage is that it is always open-ended: the Lord of the Church is never done giving His gifts. He always has more: new gifts, new songs, new joys for His Church. But (and this is crucial) these "new" gifts never come by way of replacement of the heritage that has gone before but always as its natural unfolding and growth. "One generation shall declare your works to another." This happens as the song of previous generations lives on on our lips and in our hearts, and as we teach that song to the next generation, and add whatever new the Lord gives in our own day along with it. Also, keep your eye out for workshops for hymn-writers, continued publication of the Let Us Pray series – AND the addition of a set of historic, one-year Let Us Pray cycle, ongoing Lectionary Summaries and perhaps a revival of the Lutheran Musicians Enrichment opportunities.

GOTTESDIENST: You’ve said before that we have a “rich, intentional and beautiful liturgical heritage” and that within that heritage “we possess a wide range of freedom.” What does that mean for LCMS congregations?
WEEDON: The sainted A. C. Piepkorn once famously wrote that the responsible exercise of freedom is itself a catholic virtue. He was right, of course, and yet the chief freedom we are concerned with when we speak of Christian worship is not the freedom from our liturgical heritage, or even the freedom to mold our liturgical heritage, but the freedom that that heritage bears such sublime witness to: the liberation of creation from its bondage to decay, sin and death! Freedom isn't making up a new liturgy each week – in fact, that can end up being bondage to the itch for the novel that Luther decried in the intro to the German Mass. On the contrary, the freedom to which our liturgical and hymnological heritage bears witness is the freedom to live in the Spirit where all is gift from the hand of the Crucified and Risen One (even the sufferings!) who IS the Forgiveness of our sin and the Destruction of all our death, and so where all of life is referred in thanksgiving to His heavenly Father, who has now become our Father. This is the freedom to be the children of God that our Baptism has made us, the freedom to which absolution constantly restores us, and that the most venerable Eucharist strengthens within us every time we receive it in the joys of repentance and faith.

GOTTESDIENST: How can pastors be more purposeful in cultivating a rich liturgical life within their congregation?
WEEDON: First let them be men of prayer. The Daily Office should be no stranger to our pastors. We have rich resource here. I think of Treasury of Daily Prayer or The Brotherhood Prayerbook among others. Let the pastors be men of prayer and among their concerns in prayer, let them pray for the renewal of their parishes (that they might truly become outposts, colonies of the Age to Come)and for a growing and deep reverence and love for the Blessed Eucharist in their congregations. Let's also watch HOW we conduct ourselves in the service of bringing the gifts of God to the people of God. Not stiff and wooden and choreographed, certainly not casual and comfortable, but with fear and trembling, commingled with the unutterable joy of being in the presence of the Lamb of God with all the saints and angels. When pastors orient themselves toward this great present but unseen reality in our worship, it will then invite the congregation along with them into the holy presence. We also need to remember this: the liturgy is at its heart simply prayed confession, prayed doctrine. Discomfort with our historic liturgy may sometimes be a sign and symptom of discomfort with the Lutheran doctrine embedded in it. That needs then to be addressed for what it is: not a quarrel about worship style, but a struggle to confess the truth of God.

GOTTESDIENST: What can the pastors of the LCMS be doing or praying for that will assist you in your new role?
WEEDON: The pastors of the LCMS need above all to attend to this: the preaching of the Word entrusted to them. The preaching of God's law in such a way that the sinner is not merely irritated but slain; the preaching of the Gospel in such clarity that the slain are raised from the dead by the life-giving Spirit. I have said for many years that what we face in the Synod is not so much a crisis of liturgy as a crisis of preaching. Lutheran liturgy tends to take care of itself when the preaching is strong. There is nothing that would so strengthen the worship life of the congregations of our Synod, nothing that would so delight our Lord's heart, as more careful attention to our preaching. If there is one thing we should ask the Lord of the Church to grant us, it is renewal in the pulpit. That will lead, I firmly believe, to renewal at the altar, in the choir loft, and out in the community.

Fr. Weedon's installation as LCMS Director of Worship and International Center Chaplain