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Monday, September 10, 2007

The Common Service and Lutheran Liturgy

For those familiar with The Lutheran Hymnal, the Common Service of 1888 has been the principal divine service in American Lutheran churches. (The service is strangely missing from the ELCA's "Evangelical Lutheran Worship" hymnal published in 2006). Setting Three in Lutheran Service Book follows the order of worship of the Common Service.

I recently downloaded an article on the worship service used by the SELK churches in Germany. I have only begun to look at the outline and commentary, but it seems to be what we would regognize (with a few differences) as the Common Service. Unless the article notes otherwise, I believe that this SELK divine service traces its liturgical history back to the Reformation.

The basic liturgy of the Common Service is:

Gloria in Excelsis
General Prayer
Sanctus and Hosanna
Exhortation to Communicants
Lord's Prayer and Words of Institution or Words of Institution and Lord's Prayer
Agnus Dei
Collect of Thanksgiving

Three additons were noted: an invocation hymn prior to the Introit, a sermon hymn after the Creed, and a hymn after the General Prayer.

The Public Confession and Absolution was included before the service. Common European Lutheran liturgies used private confession and absolution, but the American Lutheran liturgies used public confession and absolution.

Some European Lutheran liturgies placed the Lord's Prayer before the Words of Institution, while others place the prayer after. I wonder how the SELK divine service has it?

The Nunc Dimittis was an optional post-communion canticle in the Common Service.

The Common Service drew upon the 16th century Lutheran liturgies, and helped bring liturgical unity among American Lutheran churches using English. The Missouri Synod's English hymnals used the Common Service exclusively until 1982. Every synodical hymnal since then has included the Common Service as an order of divine service, Each American Lutheran church body tweaked the service for their hymnals, but all of them retained the basic outline of the divine service.


nonezoner said...

Have you ever looked into the Order of Corpus Christi? They have their own proposed liturgical outline for ecumenical use among Lutheran and Reformed churches that is liturgical with Eucharist and prayer as central. It is an attempt to balance the overly rational and overly emotional. They have a website. Take a look and tell me what you think. Apparently some Lutherans think it is pretty decent.

Jonathan Trost said...

Pastor - I was reared in a congregation originally which was a member of the (German) Evang. Synod of North America (derived from the Prussian Union Church.) In every communion service, there always was The Exhortation (not to partake if impenitent or if not believing in the real pesence and the forgiveness it effects, lest partaking to one's own judgment.)

SELK has it, but neither the LCMS nor the ELCA has The Exhortation. Why's it been removed?

Pastor Zip said...

The Common Service did not appear in the Lutheran Book of Worship, used in the ELCA and its predecessors beginning in 1978. So, except for the very few ELCA congregations that continued to use the liturgy in the 1958 Service Book and Hymnal into this century, the Common Service is at best a fond memory in the ELCA.

In the Common Service of 1888, the Exhortation is part of a separate Order for Public Confession, which was to be used on the Friday or Saturday prior to the Holy Communion. Just last Sunday, as part of an anniversary celebration our parish used the Common Service as published in the 1918 Common Service Book with Hymnal (of the United Lutheran Church in America) and the Exhortation was not part of the liturgy.

Dave W said...

You said "The Common Service is at best a happy memory". This is certainly true for me -- I grew up in the 50s. Do any recordings exist of the service and how could I get a copy?

LJM said...

I am interested in obtaining the service in German. How can I obtain a copy with the full liturgy to include the music.

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