I just got home from a meeting of the 100th Anniversary Committee at Holy Trinity. We’re making plans for our centennial coming up in 2016. One of the ideas that keeps surfacing is having worship one Sunday the way people would have worshiped back in 1916, using the old black service book. Every time the idea comes up, I’m like a wet blanket, so now they all know that I’m against it. But, that doesn’t mean we won’t do it. Holy Trinity is not a dictatorship and I don’t always get my way. I’m starting to realize that this would be meaningful to a number of people and maybe it’s time for me to get out of the way so the train can leave the station.
Tonight, as I was driving home from the meeting, I was trying to figure out why this is something I have consistently discouraged despite the fact that folks continue to raise the idea. They obviously want to do it. What would it hurt to worship this way just once? A few would relish the archaic language with the thees and the thous. There also might be those who gain a greater appreciation for the way we worship now after experiencing the old style that Lutherans once practiced. Most people, I suspect, would find it interesting to learn what it was like to worship at Holy Trinity a hundred years ago.
But as I was thinking this through and imagined how it would feel for me to be present for this service, I suddenly realized the depth of my feelings. I literally felt nauseous. It had little to do with the style and content of the worship itself. For the first time, I understood how it probably would feel for an African-American to be asked to take part in a re-enactment of the good old days on the plantation before the Civil War.
The fact is, I would not have been leading a worship service in a Lutheran church 100 years ago. I would not have been allowed to vote, or serve on the Council, or give communion, or read aloud from the Bible in worship, or teach adult men, or usher, or even light the freakin' candles on the altar. If we decide to re-enact a worship service from 100 years ago, I should be sitting in the congregation.
There are those who will think I’m being overly sensitive about this, I’m sure. But it's honestly how I feel. And I don’t know what I’m going to do about it, when and if the time comes. Perhaps I will have resolved it for myself by then. If it happens, I may take a vacation week and miss the whole thing. The very thought of it hurts me.
So, it’s a conundrum for me. I don’t want to impose my personal agenda on my congregation. But I also don’t want to be disingenuous with the people I serve beside. I don’t want to insist on my own way, but I also don’t want to remain silent when something is important to me.
I wonder if Lutheran pastors worried about stuff like this 100 years ago. My impression is that they didn’t. They just told their congregations how it was going to be and that’s the way it was. While that may have some appeal to me at times, it’s not the way pastors are any more. Most of the time, that’s a relief to me. And I suspect it is to the people in my congregation, as well.
The irony of the situation isn’t lost on me. 100 years ago, as pastor, I would have told my congregation exactly how we would be worshiping on a Sunday morning and that would be the end of the discussion. Well, not exactly. 100 years ago I would have been listening to a man tell me exactly how we would be worshiping on a Sunday morning and I would have kept my pretty little mouth shut.