The false modesty and subtle condescention of low expectations

The false modesty ( & subtle condescention) of low expectations

One of the arguments – way it’s done.  Not how train in college choirs – don’t say, “sing these because it’s all most ocngeregations can handle” – don’t do that in football – well, you guys will be coaching high school football, so get used to lousy equipment and simple plays now.  Or worse – after college play pick up backetball, so just do that.  No play at level you are at.  College ball example, leads the way for high schools.  College choirs some of best in nation.  (Saint olaf is world-renowned not because they “sing high shcool music” but because they sing very high level music very well.  They have even been braodcast on PBS – surely a sign of the objective quality of their choir.
Yet seminaries water down chapel worship because “it’s what you have to deal with in parish.”  Then how will it ever improve?  Why not have poorly trained organists at seminary, and choir directors without music degrees.  Indeed the theological sophistication of m0ost people is not ona  par with seminary professors, (and must of what is taught at sem would go over the heads of the “Average laymen”) – so why not simply have four years of round table discussion bible studies, and small group studies, rather than actually leanring theology.  And why not match the bueaty of some of our “high litruy churches” – after all there is a chance that they might be sent to one of them as well.  They need to be ready.
Deliberate attempt to sabatoge any efforts to i prove worship life, and indeed to degrade the worship liofe of the churches in our synod.  If we play to the low3est common denominator, then we are a lowest common demoniator sort of church.  And quite frankly, that sort of worship never attracted anybody.  Becuase it’s not only schlock – it’s poorly done schlock. (After all, others can’t do it as well, so we don’t want to over-achieve.)
(What about boring sermons, poorly written outlines, etc…)  What about people who don’t believe our doctrine, should we teach that it doesn’t matter because everyone doesn’t agree qwith it

Near the end of my seminary training, I had opportunity to attend church at one of our synod’s “crown jewels” of liturgy.   I had never seen liturgy done that way before, and have seldom since seen such majesty in worship.   More than anything, that one service influenced the way I conduct the service, and started me on the road to being a “liturgical nazi”.  (What’s the difference between a terrorist and a high-liturgy pastor?  You can negotiate with a terrorist.)

The question that I never asked until recently was : Why wasn’t I ever explosed to this in Seminary?  Now don’t get me wrong, I had seen chasubles and copes and even heard the chanted Gospel on rare occasions.  But most of what I had seen at this church – though admittedly practiced rarely in congregations – was kept from our eyes in seminary.

Today, one of our seminaries tries, in the chapel, the duplicate the worship experience of the average congregation in our synod.  This is absurd, and my feelings regarding the practice are summed up in the title of this post – false modesty and subtle condescension.

Their argument is that congregations are doing it this way, and we need pastors to understand that this is what is out there, and this is what they should expect.

I sang in a college choir.  Oddly, the director never encouraged anyone to sing off key, because in most congregational choirs, one of the members will sing off key. I was never encouraged to let my voice stand out because most congregational choirs have someone whose greatest attribute is volume.   I don’t criticize congregational choirs.  I simply observe that the caliber is not as high as a college choir.  We all use our talents to the best of our ability.  But not in the worship life of this seminary chapel.  There, we must settle for the average, and never aspire to anything beyond it.

Saint Olaf  has a world renowned choir.  Their concerts have been broadcast on PBS – certainly an objective measure of the caliber of the choir.   Most of the graduates probably never do more than sing in community choruses, or church choirs.  But the director does not, for that reason, have them sing simple SAB music for church choirs. Why not? Because they CAN do better.  They can aspire to something more excellent.

Imagine if the college football coach said, “Guys, after you graduate, most of you will never play organized ball again.  So we’re going to teach you how to play a good game of pick-up ball.  We aren’t going to worry about complicated plays, or extreme conditioning drills.  Just go on out and play in the park and have fun.  See you Saturday for the game against Notre Dame.”  Absurd?  Only slightly more so than what is happening in the seminary chapel.

Imagine the positive influence those Saint Olaf graduates have on their church choirs and community choruses.  They raise the caliber of the choir simply because they are a higher caliber singer.  Eventually, the choir may actually start singing better music.

Yet seminaries water down chapel worship because “it’s what you have to deal with in parish.” Then how will parishes ever improve? Why not have poorly trained organists play for chapel at the seminary, and choir directors without music degrees leading the seminary choir, like most churches do.  These days, many congregational organists fall into it because “they can play the piano”, and there are no trained organists in the congregation.  If that is your organist and your parish, then you are lucky to have anyone who can play, rejoice in the gifts God has given.  But don’t seek out the person who is poorly trained because “then we can be like the church down the road.”

The theological sophistication of m0ost people is not on a par with seminary professors, (and most of what is taught at seminary would go over the heads of the “average laymen”) – so why not simply have four years of round table discussion bible studies, and small group studies, rather than actually learning theology?

Even were this argument valid, why then does the seminary not occasionally match the beauty of some of our “high liturgy churches” – after all there is a chance that they might be sent to one of them. They need to be ready.  They need to know how much incense to add, how to properly bow and genuflect at the altar, how to sing the Gospel according to Luther’s tone ( I heard somewhere that Luther is supposed to have some sort of influence in the LCMS, but I haven’t seen it) etc.  If it’s what the people are used to, then you need to continue it.

This is not “Getting men ready for the parish.”  Those who perpetrate it may think it is.  But they are deceived.  It is a deliberate attempt to sabatoge any efforts to improve worship life, and indeed to degrade the worship life of the churches in our synod. If we play to the lowest common denominator, then we are a lowest common demoniator sort of church.   And quite frankly, that sort of worship never attracted anybody. Becuase it’s not only schlock – it’s poorly done schlock.

What drives people to church is not the type of liturgy, but a clear understanding that, whatever you are doing, is being done well, and that you take yourself seriously, and believe what you are doing.

If we are only going for “what’s going on out there”, why bother to insist on correct doctrine?  Many don’t actually believe what our church teaches.  So we need to downgrade that.  Many don’t think that it really is the body of Christ.  Let’s soften that.  Many don’t think we shold spend so much time on sin.  Many don’t agree with our stand on homosexuality, abortion, or even the divinity of Christ.  So don’t push things.  Just go along with it.

You see the hypocrisy?  I’ll believe that seminary chapel worship should “Reflect the average” when the faculty announces that Gramma Schmidt is saved because she was a good person.  After all, that’s what most people believe.  Of course, at that point, why bother?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: