16 January 2008

Builder: Friend or Foe?

There's been a lot of buzz in some circles about the potential EVIL of the Lutheran Service Builder, letting pastors play fast and loose with the ordo of the Divine Service and producing all kinds of oddities. I think, though, that whatever is good can be corrupted and that's just a case in point. The Builder is, in my opinion, good and on the way to becoming "tov maod" indeed!

Four ways that we've put it to use:

1. Compline

Compline doesn't vary, but sadly the rite as printed in the hymnal didn't include the appointed three psalms or the regular hymn. So there was more than a bit of page calling and paging around when we used to use the hymnal itself. A couple weeks back I remembered that I could do this in the Builder, and within minutes we had a fabulous and easy to follow ordo, ready to be printed up, collated and stapled. We've been using the printed ordos ever since and they make is so easy just to pray, to sing, to listen, and not to think: "where are we supposed to be now?"

2. Catechism Services

On Sunday evenings, we hold a Catechism Service using the Service of Prayer and Preaching. Here I've got a mix of adults new to the Lutheran faith and younger children. Having the whole thing printed out in an ordo that they can all follow along with, pray and sing from, and take home to work on memory - well, it was a God-send indeed. It takes mere minutes each week to ready the service.

3. Evening Prayer

We use this service in Advent and Lent during the midweeks. Again, this is a service where the flow of the liturgy is interrupted if we have to call out Psalms, or wait for folks to find them. It just makes sense to print it out and give the people the service entire in their hand, so that they can simply worship without worrying about where to turn next. Builder makes it a cinch not only to give them the words, but even the service music.

4. Divine Service Five

Whenever we use the chorale service, Divine Service Five, (pretty rarely for our parish), it again BEGS for printing out the music of the chorales instead of waiting for the people to catch up with paging through the book. Since the chorales used are only referenced in the liturgy itself in LSB, the Builder seems almost a necessity if the flow of the service is not to be disrupted.

Does this mean we print out every service? No. Divine Service, Setting Three, is our parish's chief service and it will always be such, I imagine. That liturgy the people know and hardly use the book for anyway. But we don't print it out. It's referenced in the bulletin, but no more than that. I was VERY hesitant to move to the Builder and thought it was really just a money-making gambit from CPH. More fool I! It has proven a great tool in our parish, and I'd recommend it to anyone. Is it perfect? No. Does it have a way to go? Yes. But Ryan Markel and team are constantly working to improve it. I hate it when Paul McCain is right, but he told me a long time ago: "get it, you won't be sorry." So I'm admitting it: he was right. I haven't been sorry at all.


Anonymous said...

How has the copyright recording been for you? Is there a monthly cost for printing?


Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

:) Be still my heart.

William Weedon said...

The copyright recording is done automatically over the net as you use the program. There's no cost for monthly printing. Just the yearly fee to use the Builder (and of course, the initial cost of the software). Fee for the year is determined by the number of worshippers present on the weekend's worship total on average.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

The other really cool features of the Building is how easy it makes it to search the texts of the hymns, and the lectionary readings, etc. It's truly an amazingly powerful piece of software that unlocks the joys of the hymnal like never before.

Could somebody use it to do a "mash up" liturgy? I'm sure they can, and probably will.

But if we are going to eschew the program because of this, we may as well say the same thing about any piece of software that allows you complete access to texts, digitally.

I thank Pastor Weedon for pointing out just some of the many great features and benefits of Lutheran Service Builder.

Doorman-Priest said...

I have to say that I think the Baptism service is the wrong way round - at least in my service book. The baptism should be BEFORE the promises otherwise it looks as if the ceremony depends on us pleasing God by those promises which then make us worthy for baptism. It is God's grace which accepts us so the baptism should come first and the promises then follow from grateful descipleship.

Just a thought.

Guess who's doing liturgy this term?

William Weedon said...


The thing to realize about the liturgy of Baptism is that ALL the ceremonies clustered about the thing itself - the baptism in the name of the Triune God - are there to extol what God is doing and giving in the water. Don't think of them as temporally following one from another or being conditioned upon each other. They are all there to confess what God's up to in the Baptism. So, the questions coming before and renouncing Satan and receiving the sign of the Cross to belong to the Crucified and even the exorcism (if your rite has that still) are all confessing that in Baptism, God delivers us from the dominion of darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. Likewise with the anointing with chrism - that in Baptism God gives us the Spirit. Likewise with the candle - that in Baptism Christ's light has entered our life. Likewise with the white garment - that we have been clothed in the holiness and righteousness of our Lord Himself via Baptism.

So lose the temporal "first this, then that" and see it all as connected to the washing - each action, a ritual confession of the boundless gift of Baptism.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I find that the service builder is actually a wonderful tool for service planning - as I don't read music very well the midi files at hand are very nice. I just end up not publishing it when I get done (and I haven't used it as much as this congregation has some unexpected gaps in melody recognition - I had the organist circle all the hymns from TLH they knew - so I end up using the LSB hymn selection guide and double check through that, it's safer. I recognize a lot of tunes they don't, and I don't teach singing that well).

Also, on the topic of its "EVIL" usages - I actually think this is a benefit - it provides a way to see that those that are using "contemporary" style worship have easy access to sound liturgical components and hymns - and hopefully will use them more. Will this be done by the hardcore CCM folks - no. But it will help the dabbler be better - which is a great thing.

Jim Huffman said...

I suspect any problem isn't with the software itself, but with a Lutheran propensity to mess with the liturgy. The Service Builder simply facilitates what is already a problem.

William Weedon said...

"Lutheran propensity to mess with the liturgy?" Novus ordo, anyone? ;)

Anonymous said...

Fr. Weedon,

You wrote: "Lutheran propensity to mess with the liturgy?" Novus ordo, anyone? ;)"

But you Lutherans did it first by excising the canon. And you did it again after VAtican II basically adopting everything wholesale from the RC's reforms and the novus ordo.

The Liturgy is Divine; quit messing with it!

Anonymous said...

I use Service Builder a lot. I have printed some services to the bulletin, but mostly do not. The times I do are primarily special services that I am adding choral work or something similar so I just print it all. I also print every funeral service. I do NOT modify the liturgy at all, other than adding a choral Kyrie, Alleluia Verse, Anthem substiting a Canticle, etc. The software has been very easy to use, and I am very pleased with it.

Ryan Markel will be received as member of my congregation soon (by transfer) and I love picking his brain about what's coming. :)

Rev. Michael Kumm

William Weedon said...


Who messed with it by adding the Cherubic hymn? That certainly wasn't in the original liturgy of either Chrysostom or Basil? ;) My point is just that the liturgy has ALWAYS been changing, and to pretend that it is static flies in the face of historical fact.

William Weedon said...

Pr. Kumm,

Let me add that Mr. Markel is also astonishingly prompt and helpful with questions that arise with the use of the Builder.

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

Oh, I just can not take it anymore. I must say this:

I told you so!!!!

Thanks, I feel better.

William Weedon said...

And for the free advertising, I think you should take me to lunch again. Greek before the Fast?

Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

You read my mind.

Anonymous said...

The Cherubic Hymn was in place in the Liturgy of St. James, c. A.D. 125, thus preceding either St. Basil's Liturgy or St. John Chrysostom's Liturgy. But still, it has remained there for nearly 2000 years. It is a divine gift; why mess with it for the sake of variation?

William Weedon said...

A few assumptions in there, my friend. The hymn: "Let all mortal flesh" was there, but that's not quite the same thing as the Cherubic hymn that came into the St. John Chrysostom liturgy at the presentation of the gifts, no? Wybrew says that the gifts were marched forward at Chrysostom's time in silence and placed upon the altar without any verbal ceremonial at all.