24 April 2009

Out of Curiosity: How Many?

So, how many Lutheran congregations require their communicant members, regularly and individually, to recite from memory the six chief parts of the Small Catechism before communing on any given occasion? (Or ever again beyond the rite of confirmation?)

And how many communicant members of Lutheran congregations, beyond the current confirmation class, would be able to recite from memory the six chief parts of the Small Catechism?

If a member (of any age) is unable to recite the six chief parts from memory, should he or she be excommunicated?


Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

It's an interesting point, but I imagine if you pop quizzed someone who at one time could recite the six chief parts, they'd have better results than someone whose only exposure was the six weeks of Adult Confirmation.

We're always in need of continuing education. :)

Preachrboy said...

On the other hand, I wonder how many of my members could even NAME the six chief parts

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

It has always kind of puzzled me how we make kids who are baptized members of the church, in regular attendance, hopefully being raised in the faith at home since birth...go through two years of catechesis, recite speeches and what not before the congregation during one of their most socially sensitive periods of their lives...but are fine with adults going through six weeks and giving a few "I do so intend with the help of God."

Mike Keith said...

Whiel I have not abandoned confirmation because I am not willing to deviate that radically from the practice of my church body, I sincerely believe that the "system" that we have in place for confirmaiton is broken. I believe it is overly rationalistic. That, perhaps is the greatest of the problems. However, on another level it is simply not functioning well because it assumes that teh children entering your confirmaiton class are being raised in a Christian family and they have the background of several years of Sunday School. This, sadly, is not always the case. We are trying ot make confirmaiton do what it is not intended ot do - it is not intended to be introduction to Christianity 101.

Mike Keith said...

I wanted to expand briefly on my statement about confirmation being overly rationalisitc.

If we believe faith is a gift from God; If we believe that infants can indeed have faith; then why do we seem to have two seperate categories of believers? Confirmed and not-confirmed. The only difference is a certain level of intellectual maturity. But what does that have to do with faith? While I am still presently working through some of this in my thinking, and I would be happy to be corrected, it seems to me that the present day practice of confirmation is entirely rationalistic and pietistic.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

I share your concerns, Mike, and these are among the very things that have prompted my own rethinking of catechesis and admittance to the Holy Communion.

I appreciate, also, your reference to the catechesis that is (or is not) happening in the home. At some point I realized, in a way that I had not fully recognized before, that the life of daily prayer and catechesis in the home and family is every bit as fundamental as memorization of the Catechism. A little child who is praying and confessing the Word of God with his or her family is more firmly established in that Word than an older child who memorizes the six chief parts quickly and easily, but who is otherwise not immersed in the Word of God at home or in the life of the congregation.

-Josh- said...

I've been wondering about this recently and this seems like a good point to jump in. I've always been troubled by the section in the confession where is states that we examine and absolve folks before we admit them to the supper. Strike that. What bothers me is that I don't do this for/to my flock.

How often would you suggest asking them to recite the 6 chief parts?

Would you expect Dr. Luther's explanations as well?

I like this because it adds comfort to my own conscience. I would be able to say a hearty "amen" to their spiritual life and commune them.

just another 2 cents from a long-time reader, first time commenter.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thanks for your comments and questions, Josh.

Actually, I would not suggest that you routinely "examine" your members in their ability to recite the Small Catechism from memory. I don't think that's a bad thing to do, necessarily, but I don't believe it's the main or best point.

The "examined and absolved" has more to do with pastoral care, also including the practice of Individual Confession and Absolution.

Along with that, and really belonging to the same overarching context of pastoral care and ongoing catechesis, finding ways to pray with the congregation on a regular basis (if not daily, then at least weekly, in the Divine Service certainly, but during the week as possible); and also doing whatever you are able to serve and support the households and families (and individual members) of your congregation in daily prayer. By daily prayer, I mean the regular hearing and confessing of the Word of God, the praying and confessing of Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, the reading and repeating of the Catechism on a regular rhythm, etc. The Treasury of Daily Prayer is a wonderful resource for encouraging and facilitating such a practice; but a pastor can also do various things within his own parish to provide such encouragement and help. You can check out the "Daily Catechesis on the Way" that I provide for my Emmaus congregation on our website; which is simply my version of what I learned from my dear friend and brother in Christ, Rev. Peter Bender (and he from his fathers).

One of my "arguments" in these areas is that no individual is "examined and absolved" by himself, by his own reason and strength, by his own ability and achievement; but it brought into this examination and absolved by the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, not only from such things as the Small Catechism (such a glorious gift, praise God), but also from parents in the home and pastors in the life of the congregation.

If you haven't seen it or been following it, you might check out some recent posts on this topic on the Four-and-Twenty+ Blackbirds blog. It's been a vigorous conversation there, representing several differences of opinion.

The Lord be with you, Josh, in your vocations and stations in life.