Sunday, July 19, 2009

Zion Liturgical Conference

Bp. Stechholz and Fr. Braden

Here is a conference that I would love to attend. I had made it to a couple of the annual St. Michael Liturgical conferences at historic Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit while living in the tundra of Fort Wayne as a seminarian.

And in spite of Zion's reputation for "high" liturgy and unabashed devotion to the Western Catholic tradition, she remains not only firmly within the confessional heritage and theological moorings of Lutheranism, but also enjoys a surprising level of respect from rather mainstream folks within the Missouri Synod. This includes professors from both seminaries who have attended and spoke at the annual conference, as well as the Rev. Al Barry, the now sainted president of Synod, who was videotaped officiating liturgically at Zion's altar, vested in a cope and carrying a traditional bishop's crosier, while incense wafted its way heavenward and as votive candles flickered before the statues of our Blessed Lord and His virgin mother.

Zion's devotion to reverence and tradition stands in stark contrast to the frenetically hyped youth-driven approaches to worship often touted by those in positions of power in Synod. Traditional liturgy is driven by the confession that Jesus is physically present in our midst in a physical and miraculous way, as opposed to the more Protestant notion that worship is primarily information to be conveyed, often using secular techniques and gimmicks to do so.

This year (as in years past), the District President will not only participate in the conference, but will be giving the benediction at Mass at the event. He is pictured above on the left (The Rt. Rev. David Stechholz, District President and Bishop of the English District) along with Zion's new parish priest, the Rev. Fr. Mark Braden - a classmate of mine at seminary, who is not only one heck of a Greek scholar, but a highly respected pastor and colleague in the ministerium of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

Note also that the keynote speaker this year is the Dean of the Chapel of Concordia Seminary - St. Louis, the Rev. Dr. Kent Burreson.

I highly recommend this conference, and I also recommend a visit to Zion for anyone who can get there. Zion is living proof that American Lutheranism doesn't have to jettison its Catholic heritage, can unabashedly use traditional churchly terminology and ritual, and still be within the mainstream of the Missouri Synod and hold steadfastly to the Evangelical doctrine of the Lutheran Church.

Soli Deo gloria!


Brian P Westgate said...

Just a quick correction. Fr. Braden is celebrating Mass. At Zion we have a special benediction that the bishop will give:

Peace be with you: And with your spirit.
Our help is in the Name of The Lord: Who made heaven and earth.
Aaronic Benediction.

(Zion uses the priest's blessing from the Roman Mass: Almighty God bless you: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost).

Rev. Thomas C. Messer said...

I have attended this conference for the past several years, twice at Zion before Fr. Fenton left, and each year it has been held at Redeemer in Ft. Wayne. It is always outstanding!

It's good to see it come back home, so to speak, although I didn't mind trekking down to Ft. Wayne, and the conference was certainly in very capable hands under Fr. Petersen's careful watch. I'm sure Fr. Braden will do wonderfully. Can't wait to attend!

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I second Fr. Hollywood's praise of Zion Detroit, and of Fr. Braden. Fr. Braden is a good friend, a fine pastor, and a good man.

Brian: At St. Stephen's, Milwaukee, we also use the blessing of which you speak. I suggest the most accurate way to refer to it, though, instead of it being "from the Roman Mass" is that it is the traditional final blessing in the Mass of the Western liturgical tradition. On Mondays it sounds like this: Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus; Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus. R: Amen.

Regarding Bishop Stechholz's role in the liturgy for this conference,
I don't know if he was asked to be celebrant and refrained, or was not asked for some reason, but personally, I think it would be ideal, when a church's bishop is present, for him to have the honor of celebrating mass.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Brian:

Thanks for the correction - I fixed it in the blog post.


Father Hollywood said...

Dear Tom:

I'm sure it will be most edifying, and maybe some day I'll make the trek from NOLA.