Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whither Reformation Sunday?

I'm standing in church today, singing "A Mighty Fortress" with the customary gusto of one who's grown up in the bosom of Michigan's Lutherland. I mean, it's Reformation Sunday. Our day. The one day in the year when a people accustomed to dwelling far in the background of both popular culture and American Christian culture can represent; can celebrate our contributions to the greater Church.

But I notice that no one else around me is singing with any energy. I'm reminded of my college days, when I'd sometimes accompany my Roman Catholic friend to Mass and marvel at the huge, standing-room-only congregation's anemic singing.

Come ON, people, I think. It's Reformation Freaking Sunday! Whatsamatter with you?

I wonder if this is to a certain extent a function of attracting more members without a Lutheran background, who have neither the informational grounding nor the exposure to Lutheran culture to really understand why this Sunday is special. Or perhaps it's because there's less tension between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism these days, when more often than not both our traditions find ourselves in solidarity over and against fundagelical American Christian culture, and the serious differences that do remain between our traditions tend to be treated with the same forbearance exercised around a holiday dinner table on behalf of more difficult members of one's family: Uncle Joe really is a decent guy...just don't get him going on religion.

Who knows. And I know that party spirit, and the divided Body it encourages, is one of those things cautioned against in Scripture.

But I still miss old-school Reformation Sunday.


Auntie Knickers said...

We didn't sing it, just had it as organ postlude. Then again unlike my former UCC church in Land of 10,000 Lakes, there are probably not that many former Lutherans here. We did mention Martin Luther "and the other reformers" in the pastoral prayer.

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

We did sing it and the sermon was very Lutheran-about-the-Reformation, and it sounded good, but that may have been an illusion. I was in the choir, in the front. We can hear each other. We are slightly miked to help the songs carry the congregation. However, in the off-choir-season, sitting in the pews, all the singing sound anemic. We aren't a singing culture anymore.

Sheryl said...

We had the full choir this week, complete with a trumpet, so we sounded really good when we sang this week (not only A Mighty Fortress, but Amazing Grace and The Church's One Foundation as well), but when we don't have a full choir (because we don't have a choir director this year - transitions in pastoral leadership are hard), the singing is pretty weak. We do OK with the service music, but not the hymns.

I think that part of it, at least for me, is that they play almost every hymn in a key that is too high for most in the congregation to manage. I'm a natural alto, and I had surgery on my neck that left me with vocal chord damage. I can't sing in a high key anymore, and looking around me (and listening around me), I think a lot of other people struggle with that. The cantor is a tenor, though, so the organist tends to play with him in mind.

Sally said...

As a relative newcomer to the Lutheran church, while I enjoy Reformation Sunday, it feels a bit foreign to me, and as a cradle Roman Catholic, it always makes me feel a bit defensive. I was heartened and inspired yesterday by our visiting pastor's sermon, in which he talked about how (as you put it Tawonda) that party spirit, and the divided Body it encourages, is one of those things cautioned against in Scripture. He spoke about how no one group has the absolute Truth, and how we all need to learn from one another.

As an other-denomination joinee, I could be a contributing factor to the anemic singing, but I kind of doubt it - I sing pretty gustily and enthusiastically. The music is one of the things I love about my church.

zorra said...

O my sister! It was our closing hymn, and I had the church-music-nerd impulse to yell, "Sing it out, people!! This is one of the great hymns of our faith!!" Fortunately I controlled that impulse...but singing it--I really let 'er rip.

I love Reformation Sunday.