From Pulpit to Pew

I had occasion to attend Divine Service as a lay person for the first time in almost 20 years.  What follows is not all that I experienced but all that pained me.  I know; I know; “you got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.”  But as the first verse of that song goes I “feel a sermon coming on,” and by all means even though I’m preachin’ from the pew I will heed the advice of the rest of the song and won’t “mess with Mister In-Between.”

I attended a church that represented itself as confessional, traditional, liturgical.  It was certainly the last.  The pastor had just returned from a Higher Things conference.  Both in sermon and Bible class he emphasized emphatically, if you’ll forgive the tautology, that “they worshipped just like we do here at _________.  Chanting, sign of the cross, and incense.”  I wanted to raise my hand and ask, “So they do have women distributing Communion at Higher Things?”

There you have it; the cat is out of the bag, or perhaps more aptly put, the woman is in the robe.

When I turned toward the back of the church for the processional and saw the crucifer was a girl, I said, “Well that’s just how it is now a days.”  Besides at 10 years old there’s really not much outward difference between boys and girls, but there is between men and women, between priest and priestess.

This church had both up there: a husband and wife vested team of communion assistants.  Mind you; this was to serve a congregation of 40 worshipers.  You couldn’t plead necessity.  You could only plead political correctness; giving everyone their turn; letting people participate in the service. (Gee, I thought it was primarily Divine Service in the sense that Divinity serves me.  This idea that everyone has to be doing something in the Divine Service certainly erodes that idea.)

In Bible class the pastor explained how he gave two presentations at Higher Things to over 120 people each time.  He was humbled by the experience.  I was crumpled by the experience of worshiping at his church.  Prior to service when I simply announced by self as a member of the LCMS just passing through.  He had invited me to commune.  I demurred having had the experience too many times of being surprised at what I was communing with.

So is it a confessional position to have woman communion assistants?  It’s surely not traditional.  It’s surely not apostolic.  While we may have a hard time agreeing what is catholic.  Can’t we agree that what has never been done at any time, in any place, by anyone heretofore certainly can’t be catholic? But it can be cute, kitsch, and contemporary.  And you know, I’ve been all of those things from the pulpit at times.  Now I see how it plays in the pew, and I repent.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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