Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Often, I think we mistake the word "traditional" for "stuffy" or "conservative." In some contexts these other words may be synonymous or even more accurate. However, recently, I have been considering what "traditional" worship is.

At the root of the word "traditional" is "tradition." This, I believe, gives a lot of insight to traditional worship. I also think it explains why, as of late, I long for "traditional" worship.

Traditional worship is singing songs that connect you with other Christians, generally, and (in the case of my church) Lutherans, specifically. It connects you with the community of saints past and present (and hopefully future!) who have sung, sing, and will sing the same songs. It binds you together in a way that, I think, is often overlooked.

Traditional worship is reciting a creed--words carefully chosen 1500 years ago to explain core Christian beliefs. When we recite the creeds we are joined together, once again, with Christians reciting the same words today and those who have said them in the past. We are connected to early church theologians who were seeking to articulate the faith and defend it against heresy. To me, saying the creeds provides a bridge that spans centuries, geographical locations, and denominational differences.

Traditional worship is observing the Lord's Supper--eating the bread and drinking the wine together as a community along with churches worldwide who are also coming to the table. Additionally, when we eat and drink we are participating in the meal Jesus shared with his disciples, thus connecting us to Christ and his earliest followers.

Traditional worship is baptizing babies and/or new believers and remembering our baptism. Recently, I was given the opportunity to remember my baptism, along with everyone else in the congregation. Together, we dipped our hand in the water, made the sign of the cross, and remembered that God chose us and together, we have been baptized into the same community.

So, traditional worship is not so much about singing the right song to the right instrumental arrangement as it is singing the songs, reciting the creeds, uttering the psalm, etc. that connect us to other Christians around the globe and to the "great cloud of witnesses" that have come before us.

I think this is what draws me to traditional worship these days--wanting to be part of something larger than the 250 people who come to the service I attend, something that extends beyond the hip worship tune written in 2001. I want to participate in the traditions of the faith, as I experience what it means to be both Christian and Lutheran.

1 comment:

  1. And I thought it was just me? I really appreciate this Blog Heather. Perhaps that's because I keep saying "yes" or "that's how I feel" as I read it.

    With regards to worship I like the traditions and do not always find and/or feel God in contemporary music. Or said differently, I am not always as comfortable to allow for this to happen. By no means am I suggesting to do away with contemporary either - it is clear that many are finding meaning and purpose and by no means would I want to deny anyone else.

    I did attend a church in college that sang the Lord's Prayer every Sunday. For some reason this really meant a lot to me too. I'd give anything to stand with that congregation and sing this prayer once again. I mention this because it was 'contemporary' but because they did it every week it felt like ritual.