A journey from death to life


A journey from death to life

As a worship team gathered by the ELCA considered how to renew the church’s worship forms for Lent and the Three Days (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil), they came to realize that it really was nothing less than that: a journey from death to life.

This time of the church’s year is laden with meaning for the Christian life and calls for worship services that can bear that weight.

"Evangelical Lutheran Worship" provides such services, based on patterns that have dramatically revealed the presence of God shown to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to Christian worshipers for centuries. But how do you get to know these riches? How do you use these worship forms while taking into consideration the rich diversity, unique contexts and varied worship gifts of your congregation? How do you introduce them to your congregation? How do you do them?

That’s the focus of a pair of resources from Augsburg Fortress: "Worship Guidebook for Lent and the Three Days" and "Music Sourcebook for Lent and the Three Days."

The "Guidebook" was written by Ben Stewart, Gail Ramshaw, Mark Mummert, Liv Larson Andrews and Susan Briehl. Their work focuses on Ash Wednesday, the Sundays in Lent, Passion/Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Vigil of Easter. For each of these days or seasons, they provide:

- an invitation to the day;
- "Understanding the Day" -- insights and history that help provide the “why” of the service;
- "Unfolding the Day" -- the core of the resource, this surrounds the actual service texts from "Evangelical Lutheran Worship" with commentary, musical suggestions, practical how-to hints, visual and poetic enrichments;
- "The Stuff of Worship" -- continuing in the practical vein, these are real hands-on aspects of making the services work in real-life situations.

The companion volume, "Music Sourcebook," helps fill in the gaps in the places where "Evangelical Lutheran Worship" says something like, “Assembly song or other music may accompany ... .”

While such openness can be inviting and invigorating, it can also be troubling: What sort of music is appropriate here?

Where do I find it?

The "Sourcebook" can help.

It provides acclamations and other assembly-based songs for the same services the "Guidebook" deals with. The composers include both well-known musicians in the Lutheran church and composers with new musical perspectives, including Marty Haugen, Anne Krentz Organ, Mark Mummert, Carolyn Jennings, Ike Sturm, Robert Buckley Farlee, Jay Fluellen and many more. Also included are some established pieces that have proven to be useful in the life of the church.

The music itself is practical, intended for use in your assembly. All of it is based on assembly participation, sometimes with the help of a modest choir or a cantor, sometimes just with simple instrumental accompaniment.

The collection is comprised of short acclamations, Taizé-like refrains for use during the imposition of ashes or footwashing, and a few longer pieces, such as a beautiful new setting of the Easter Proclamation for the Vigil. With reproducible assembly parts included on a CD-ROM, this is indeed a valuable source for enriching your worship in this time.

Finally, don’t forget the insights and suggestions provided in the "Using Evangelical Lutheran Worship" series, particularly "Keeping Time: The Church’s Years."

Lenten worship resources

Looking for resources for midweek Lenten worship? "Holden Evening Prayer" is a popular choice. Other congregations are making good and creative use of the evening services in "Evangelical Lutheran Worship," Evening Prayer (p. 309) and Night Prayer (p. 320). The melodies are beautiful and the orders are adaptable to a wide range of circumstances.

The print edition of "Sundays and Seasons, Year C 2010" includes suggestions for a flexible order of evening prayer for Lent including suggestions for readings, psalms, song and sermon series based on Luther’s Catechisms. Further information about adapting an order of daily prayer for midweek Lenten services or other occasions can be found in the worship pages of the ELCA's website.

A new set of additional resources to consider is the volume "Holden Prayer Around the Cross" by Susan Briehl and Tom Witt and its companion "Singing Our Prayer" resources (available as a full music songbook, assembly songbook and audio CD). While the basic handbook has been in existence, published by Holden Village, this is a new, enlarged edition, with 14 liturgies and many helps on conducting the services. The music resources feature a wealth of short, simple pieces useful for these services as well as many other occasions.

For more information about the season of Lent, Palm/Passion Sunday, the Three Days, and services of daily prayer, consult the third volume in the "Using Evangelical Lutheran Worship" series, "Keeping Time: The Church’s Years," which contains a wealth of information about the church year and daily prayer.

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