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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

The Need for Catechesis (Bless our Hearts)

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We have our work cut out for us at Gottesdienst

One of the things that we are planning on focusing on is liturgical catechesis.  In our church body, plagued as it has been by decades of liturgical degradation, there is a real need for teaching the basics of worship: both theology and practice - from the rubrics about what to do, to the names of the various items used in worship.  There are people who have never learned the basic terminology, and who may feel a little insecure about being in the dark.  

Here is a case in point:

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Well, I don't know who the author is, but, as we say in the South, "bless his heart."

The pastor in question - who is the photographic focal point of the author's complaint - is the Rev. Steven Anderson - a faithful brother in the office whom I've known personally for years.  The occasion for the photo was a synod worship conference in which Pastor Anderson was serving as one of two chaplains for the attendees.  At the moment this picture was taken, he was graciously making himself available for hearing confessions and offering Holy Absolution (which is one of the six chief parts of the Christian faith per the Small catechism).  The picture was included with the following article explaining the desire that we more fully make use of  Confession and Absolution in our congregations, as well as various ways to implement that godly inclination.

The author refers to Pastor Anderson as a "man in a robe." 

Pastors don't conduct worship in robes.  At least not unless they have recently escaped protective custody (if this is the case, you might want to back away slowly and call 911).  "Robes" and "vestments" are quite different things.  Sometimes people call vestments "robes" out of genuine ignorance, while others do so as passive-aggressive disapproval.  I don't know which is the case here.  What Pastor Anderson is actually wearing in the picture is a vestment called a "surplice."  At least that's what it appears to be from this angle (it may also be an alb).  At any rate, it's not a "robe."

  This is a robe.

This is a robe.

The author's other error is referring to this picture as "outreach."  Of course, we Lutherans do engage in outreach, but being available for Holy Absolution isn't outreach, but rather pastoral care.  It's a form of "inreach" if you like that sort of terminology.  Of course, we need both pastoral care and outreach, but when a pastor is meeting privately with people to give pastoral care, he can't also be engaged in outreach at the same time.  Pastor Anderson, the sole pastor of a congregation with a school, is a capable (and busy!) servant of the Lord.  But when it comes to being in two places at once, I'm afraid he is wanting.  Apart from our Lord Jesus Christ, no person can be in two places at once.  

There is one other thing that the author could use catechetical help on.  He should not have to learn it from a journal devoted to liturgy, but we rejoice in all such catechesis and pray that it is taken to heart:

"We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way."

Yes, indeed.  The state of catechesis among us may well be just as bad as we said they were. 

Bless our hearts!