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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

How to Make Your Church like St. Paul's in Kewanee

Lutheran pastors from around the world will often ask me something along the lines of "How do I make my Church like Redeemer in Ft. Wayne (or maybe, St. Pau's in Kewanee)?" The answer is simple and short but rather unpleasant: you have to stay there for 60 years, plugging along, day after day, and die there so that the next guy can have the glory.  There really aren't any shortcuts. I don't mean by this that you shouldn't make any changes to practice or ceremonies. I mean that you should make necessary changes and be prepared to suffer for it. I mean that you should also think long and hard about what is truly essential and what is adiaphora. Just because it is adiaphora does not mean anything goes, but it does mean that since it is adiaphora you can live with weakness. If you can, if you live with weakness and keep plugging away at being faithful, at upholding that which is most beautiful and reverent, in a generation the congregation will turn, but probably not much quicker than that. One final piece of advice from my predecessor, who did most of my suffering for me, the Rev. Dr. Charles Evanson, "It is easier to add things than take away things." So if, for example, your congregation has a sunrise service on Easter Sunday, rather than killing it, think about how to reform it or just leave it alone and add the Vigil on Saturday night. Rather than insisting that Reformation and All Saints be observed on the actual dates and not moved to a Sunday, do them twice.  

David Petersen