02 June 2011

ASCENSION DAY

seems to be dying a slow death here in the USA.  So few Churches celebrate the feast on the 40th day after Easter anymore.  In Roman Churches here, it is mostly moved to the Sunday following.  Some Lutheran parishes join together for service on its own day, but the congregation still diminishes yearly.  Is it really unthinkable that Christ's people gather on a Thursday once a year?  I often think, though, what a blessing that the first Ascension was attended only by 11 men on the earthly side of the service, but it was overflowing joy as the countless hosts of Angels and Archangels trumpeted the enthronement of Mary's Son as their King and welcomed home the human flesh to the throne it was first created for.  Maybe it has ever been so - heaven realizing the greatness of the day and earthlings mostly oblivious.  People loved by God, do not deprive yourselves if the unique joy of this splendid feast!  I don't know how many showed up at St. Paul's tonight, but my sense is that each year it is less than the year before.

21 comments:

Rev. David M. Juhl said...

Most of our circuit gathers for an Ascension Day Divine Service at a rotating location. This year it was at the north end of the circuit. No one outside my family came from my congregation. Nevertheless, there was a nice attendance.

Yes, Ascension is dying a slow death. My congregation may very well do away with Advent midweek Vespers this year owing to sparse attendance. With all the pre-Christmas festivities it's hard to get an appreciable group together. Lent is a different story, but one wonders if those days are numbered too.

Cheryl said...

We seem to be heading the other direction. Our Ascension Day celebration gets bigger every year! Today we had activities for the children from 3:30-5 followed by a parade around the church grounds, Divine Service, and a picnic with snow cones, cotton candy, and moonwalk. http://roundunvarnishedtale.blogspot.com/2011/06/ascension-day.html

Josh Schroeder said...

Church on Thursday once a year? We already have that. In fact, it's mandated.

No, Pastor Weedon, what you're asking for is Church on Thursday TWICE a year. That's asking a little much, don't you think? Oh, especially if this special second Thursday service lasts longer than 60 minutes. Katie, bar the door!

Jim Huffman said...

I find interesting to trace the declining number of Ascension hymns from TLH (12) to LW (6) to LSB (5). I'm not sure what the connection is, and whether there's a chicken and egg question here, but the decline in Ascension services in Lutheranism seems to parallel that in the service books. One of the messages of Ascension is that we live by faith, not by sight, where the emphasis is not on Christ visible to the eyes, and that we hear Christ, rather than see Him. I also wonder if the post-Vatican II changes in the Western churches contributed to this, with a seeming greater emphasis on Pentecost.

Dixie said...

While I understand your lament about fewer people attending, that is sad, I don't understand what Pastor Juhl says about discontinuing midweek Advent. I thought you confessional guys were not number keepers. So long as one person comes, hold the service. The thing about attendance is that it both waxes and wanes. For a while I was the only one attending our Wednesday evening Vespers service (apart from the priest and alter server) but my parish did not stop offering Vespers on Wednesday night. Today we have at least 7 of us show up for vespers each week. Someday I expect there will be even more.

Pray for your parish, that the hearts of the people will be opened and realize there is nothing better after a hard day of work, after a day of trials, after a day of disappointments, than spending time in community, in Holy space and time, with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is real medicine.

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

I suppose that in a distant third place among Lutherans for yearly Thursday feasts would be Corpus Christi. One day that one will be revived too, I think. Last night I attended an Ascension Mass done by two parishes, Luther Memorial Chapel and Our Savior just up the road from there. It was nice; Common Service-ish in some ways, with the LMC vicar preaching. Root beer floats afterward in the gymn. How could I turn that down?

Kurt Flathers said...

We have not had an acsension day service for many years. I even ask those around me, and they do not even know what day it is, and it is one of the 4 major festivals of the church year. Pastor and I have talked about having one, but so many others say no one will come. I miss hearing the Word, knowing that even though he is not in our sight, he dwells with us thru Word and sacrament. Why is it so many just place church on Sunday morning, and other time, it is not a good time? Celebrate!

christl242 said...

In Roman Churches here, it is mostly moved to the Sunday following.

It sure was, and while I was Catholic it always felt odd to me to have Ascension on a Sunday.

The move was supposedly made to keep Ascension in the "Easter Cycle" but rumors were that the conference of bishops hoped that it would result in an increase of people attending the mass for Ascension, which attendance had dropped on the historic date of observance.

It is unfortunate that some LCMS parishes do not observance Ascension.

Christine

Anonymous said...

In high school I remember going
to Thursday Night Ascension Service
in Milwaukee at Bethany Lutheran
Church. There were trumpets to
accompany the hymn "Crown Him With
Many Crowns" and it became one of my
favorite hymns.

Jim Huffman said...

Another idea that may account for some of the problems associated with Ascension. There's a strain among some Protestants that feels that the only legitimate holy-day for the church is Sunday. I wonder if some of the dying of midweek or "other than Sunday" holidays may have something to do with this. There seems to be an increasing loss of church-year consciousness.

Dixie said...

There seems to be an increasing loss of church-year consciousness.

Ah...now we are perhaps getting closer to the issue. I think this is happening across churches and cultures. And I think the churches are enabling this loss by moving the feasts to the next closest Sunday. Why do they move it? Because not enough people come? It is almost a self feeding thing.

I like the idea of mulitple churches in an area having a joint celelbration. We do this in the Orthodox Church with Sunday evening vespers during Lent.

Terry Maher said...

The churches are assisting in their own demise indeed Dixie, enabling the very thing they try to prevent.

Always the same -- change this, change that, then the people will come.

When I was a supervisor, Muslims and Wiccans regularly submitted time off requests when their normal work schedule conflicted with a religious observance. Not once did I ever get a similar request from a Christian, of any kind.

christl242 said...

And here's the real irony. I work for a global firm and noticed on our June calendar that several European offices were closed for the observance of Ascension. Yeah, in good old "secular" Europe.

Many European countries have a higher percentage of Muslims than the U.S. but still make room for Christians to observe their customs.

I remember as a kid here in the U.S. many businesses gave their employees the day off for Good Friday. Now we're lucky if we can beg a couple of hours to attend a noon church service.

One of our local banks is owned by a Catholic family of long-standing. The owner closes promptly at noon on Good Friday.

Good for him.

Bill Hansen said...

It seems to be part of a trend to move observances from their weekday home to a Sunday. Not only Ascension, but also Reformation Day, All Saints Day, sometimes Epiphany. Perhaps we could just move them all: Ash Wednesday Sunday, Maundy Thursday Sunday, Christmas Sunday, etc. Sort of like we have moved civil observances to Mondays to create a nice three day weekend.(I'm not really serious about this suggestion, but sometimes I fear that is where we are going!)

Joe Herl said...

We had a great Ascension service here in Seward, Nebraska. Great liturgy, preaching, hymns, and choral music. There were two choirs—an adult choir of about 50 and a children's choir of about 20—plus brass, violin, and harpsichord. After the service the woman in front of me exclaimed "How honored I am to be in the presence of God!"

After the Lord's Supper we had what the pastor called a "heavenly dessert" in honor of the Ascension into heaven: brownies with ice cream on the lawn.

I don't have a count of the attendance, but I would guess we had perhaps 150 people.

Terry Maher said...

We've brought this on ourselves, trying to pander to the world with a Burger King Have It Your Way approach -- Sunday inconvenient, come Saturday night instead; don't like this Divine Service, we got four others; ready to barf hearing those same old readings year after year, we got new ones where you barf every three years; sick of organs and hymns, we got a band too; etc.

Hold the pickles hold the lettuce special orders don't upset us. That's the impression we give off. Why wouldn't people want it their way?

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

You're my kind of Lutheran, Terry. That, and a buck fifty, might get me a cup of coffee in this man's Synod.

Michael L. Anderson, M.D. said...

"Hold the pickles hold the lettuce special orders don't upset us." -- His Royal Highness Burger King, in justifying the imperial order that President Lincon and President Washington's birthdays be officially observed in aggregate, together with those of the eminent Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan ... but on a fixed Monday, so as to better ensure a long weekend at the mall.

It's true. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.

But might the disowning of a sense of holy time, somehow lead to a disorientation as to where those gates-to-be-assaulted-and-laid-waste, are to found?

"No, no, Herr Doktor ... we're counting on the Wise Virgins to sell us the oil, when our lamps go out."

William Weedon said...

Jim,

On the hymns, there was actually just a bit of rearrangement. LW listed "Hail Thee, Festival Day" as separate for Easter/Ascension/Pentecost, and in LSB, it was put together as a single hymn with Easter/Ascension/Pentecost stanzas, but listed it under the Easter hymns. Also note that #525, #529, #531, #532, #534, #549, #821 are all hymns that may be justly characterized as Ascension hymns.

Darian Hybl said...

Here at Emmanuel Goodland, KS, we had the first Ascension Service of record. It is my prayer to continue with more services like this in the coming years!!

May God continue to bless all of us!
YIC,
Rev. Darian L. Hybl

Anonymous said...

Granted, I serve in a different setting (CCRC, aka apartments for retired folks, assisted living, and nursing home all rolled into one community) but we celebrate the festivals that fall on weekdays on the days they fall. Our attendance isn't "great" but people come. And this year we added The Annunciation, The Purification of Mary, and The Visitation to our schedule of worship, as well. Sunday is still our best attended worship service, but our folks seem to appreciate opportunities to worship, whether they happen on Sunday or other days during the week.
Rev. Keith Weise
Chaplain, LSS at Meramec Bluffs,
Ballwin, Missouri