The past several months the Kantor’s Korner has given you a basic history of how the garments that worship leaders (most commonly pastors) have come to be. Starting this month, we will take a look at the individual garments that worship leaders wear for Divine Services and othe services, take a peek at their individual history, and their current usage.

This month we look at the basic garment worship leaders use in worship – the ALB.

AlbThe ALB is the basic garment of worship leaders. Acolytes, choir members, organists, assisting ministers, lectors, and clergy in general may wear this vestment. It is the undergarment for all of the other liturgical garments commonly used, and also the alb reminds those gathered for worship of the white baptismal robe worn by the earliest Christians. It’s also a great reminder of the baptismal robe that each of us (or at least most of us) wore when we were baptized into the Christian faith.

The word ALB is actually Latin for the word white. This garment is derived from the tunica linea (woolen tunic) or the tunica alba (white tunic), an ankle-length garment worn in the days of the Roman Empire. Originally, this tunic-like garment, also known as the chiton or colobium (depending if it had openings for sleeves or not), was white or off-white. In its traditional form, the garment looked like a nightshirt, though it had a robe belt called a cincture (cingulum) or girdle. A hood, known as an amice (from the Latin amictus, derived from amicio, to wrap around), was folded to form a detachable collar on the otherwise collarless alb.

During the history of the early church (which was primarily centered in the Roman empire), pants were considered barbaric. Only after invading tribesmen brought Rome to its knees did military-style trousers appear among the lower classes. Before this time, particularly during the second and third centuries, the upper-class aristocracy of Rome wore the tunica alba or the long colobium, which conferred dignity on the wearer because the garment’s length made it impossible to perform manual labor. Near the end of the third century, long sleeves and decorative stripes were added to this garment. From the fourth to the eleventh century, all ranks of clergy wore the plain alb. Around the twelfth century, the alb underwent a significant change, following the design of the tunics worn by Anglo-Saxon nobles and civilians. From the time on, the alb disappeared under the highly ornate outer vestments, which became exclusive marks of the medieval clergy.

The alb has regained visibility and widespread use in Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, and Lutheran Church during the last half of the 20th century. The present-day alb is worn like a coat and fastens with snaps, buttons, or Velcro. A belt or cincture (robe belt) is worn at the waist. The alb, plain or with apparels, and with only minor changes in fashion (for example, amplitude of cut, use of lace or other decoration) has continued to be worn until the present day and, in a sense, is to be thought of as the archetypal white robe of Christianity.

Next time … the Cassock and Surplice.

In the Service of Christ,

Kantor Boettcher

Kantor, Emmanuel/Adell

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Last month we looked at the vestments of the leaders of worship during the time of Martin Luther. We noted that Dr. Luther retained the basic vestments of the Catholic Church, as they were not a hindrance of the teaching of the one true faith, but in many ways assisted in that very teaching. We also noted that Lutherans looked at vestments as something neither commanded not forbidden, but rather an adiaphora, something that can be utilized as the Christian (in this case, the pastor or worship leader) and the local custom saw fit. As time moved forward, and as Lutheranism migrated from Europe to the American side of the Atlantic Ocean, we see more and more of this adiaphora playing out in the various groups of Lutheranism throughout the world. Many of these American trends had their roots on the European side of the ocean.

During the difficult years of the late seventeenth century, a group broke from many of the traditional practices of Lutheranism. These Pietists, as they became known, followed the continuing Reformed or Calvinist practices, as well as the Rationalist tendencies of the day. Pietists rejected all clerical vestments, opting for the common dress of the academic elite—a black gown. Sometimes called “Geneva gowns” because of their Reformed origin, these vestments became the standard dress for many early Lutheran clergy in North America. I was born and raised in the WELS, and I remember as a young lad (1960’s and 70’s) that all of the WELS pastors in the area that I lived wore Geneva gowns in the pulpit.

Throughout European Lutheranism, several distinct liturgical vestments were retained. The alb, surplice, stole, and chasuble seem to have been used regularly in several regions. Arthur Piepkorn, sainted professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, reports that “the use of white surplices and colored chasubles embroidered with golden crosses was general at this period in Saxony, Brunswick, the territory of Brandenburg-Nuremberg and elsewhere.” At the same time the academic or preaching gown was becoming more prominent among Protestants. By the end of the eighteenth century, most northern European Lutheran pastors had ceased using chasubles; only a few retained the surplice for preaching and liturgical functions. European Rationalism and a gradual Protestantizing of North American Lutheran churches had a negative influence on most Lutheran clergy of that era.

By the nineteenth century, the black preaching gown and the bands (two white tabs of linen that overlapped the collar) had become the regular apparel for most North American and European Protestant clergy. Some Lutheran congregations kept the alb, stole, and chasuble, but they were the exceptions to the rule. Thus for more than a century the “preaching gown” was considered the only vestment for use during Lutheran worship. Along with anti-Roman Protestants from Europe, many North American Protestant groups adopted the common garments of contemporary society. Most Lutheran clergy of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries followed this general social custom.

The 1950s witnessed a new interest in liturgy, which caused a shift in liturgical dress among Lutherans. Luther Reed, president of Luther Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and his associates reintroduced the cassock with surplice and stole to North American Lutheranism. A decade or so later, the alb with stole was introduced and found almost universal acceptance. The use of the chasuble, though it has a long history in Lutheranism, has not been as universally accepted as the alb. Today there is no universal vestment for Christian worship. Looking through commercial church supply catalogs underscores the lack of uniformity. The alb, stole, and chasuble are available in a variety of styles. Liturgical colors, as well as national, ethnic, and even political images, are incorporated into the designs. Although many different kinds of vestments are available, not all items are edifying or appropriate for God’s people to use; therefore, vestments should be chosen with discretion.

lohn Pless, assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry and Mission at Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS), Fort Wayne, reiterates two significant reasons vestments have been retained in Lutheran congregations. First, vestments are emblems of the office of the holy (public) ministry. Vestments cover the man so the congregation sees not the person but the promises of God proclaimed and purveyed by the pastor. Second, the historic vestments visualize the connection and continuity with the Christian community. We stand as the faithful “with prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors of all times and places.”

Next … A detailed look as the various vestments of the Lutheran (Christian) Church.

In His Service,

Kantor Boettcher

Kantor, Emmanuel/Adell

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As the Church moved along through history, the vestments of the priests and pastors often reflected their theological understandings. Even in the earliest days of the Lutheran church, there was diversity in liturgical garments, even as there is today.

Martin Luther wore the vestments of the medieval priest in most of his worship activities even after his break with Rome. However, because he preached frequently for the University of Wittenberg’s daily services, Luther often came straight from the classroom, still wearing his academic gown, for the exposition of the Word. This double use of academic robes for worship and for teaching continues in some Protestant denominations. On the other hand, Luther’s colleague Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt rebelled against clerical distinctions, threw out all vestments, and even wore feathers in his hat during a service of Holy Communion in Wittenberg. Following the Anabaptists and Enthusiasts of his day, Karlstadt considered vestments to be symbols of papal tyranny.

In general, however, Lutherans viewed vestments as adiaphora, meaning they were neither commanded nor forbidden by God’s Word. Some Lutheran congregations, following Luther’s pastor, Johannes Bugenhagen, retained some of the traditional vestments of the church, particularly the chasuble (the same outer garment Pastor uses for Communion services). Other Lutheran congregations, for example, many in Scandinavia, considered vestments to be symbols of continuity with the Roman Catholic Church, As expressions of opposition to the radical reformers, the Enthusiasts, and some of the Calvinists, Scandinavian Lutherans maintained the traditional vestments. A few Lutheran congregations followed a more Reformed tradition and adopted an academic robe (the type of robe you see at school graduation ceremonies) for all worship activities.

For the half-century following Luther’s death, most Lutheran congregations continued to provide “Mass vestments” for their pastors. These vestments included an alb with stole and chasuble, as well as a dalmatic for the deacon who assisted in worship. One concern was whether Lutheran clergy should wear the cassock and surplice, which in many areas were perceived to be “papistic” garments. Despite this connection, the cassock and surplice were used throughout the sixteenth century for preaching, for public ministry to the sick and homebound, and for funerals.

Early in the seventeenth century, pastors who did not wear at least a surplice for the Lord’s Supper were suspected of being Calvinists. Surplices were used by the officiant and the altar boys who assisted in the service. One of the most detailed records of Lutheran vestments comes from the sacristan’s records of St. Nicholls Church in Leipzig. More than 20 chasubles were used throughout the year, including one of green velvet with an embroidered image of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which was used for Advent; one of white damask with a crucifix; one of black velvet with a crucifix, which was used for Good Friday; one of red-brown velvet with a symbol of the Holy Trinity embroidered in pearls and gems, which was used for Pentecost; and one of red velvet embroidered with Madonna and Child. In addition, copes in various colors continued to be used by Lutheran bishops in Denmark and Norway for ordinations and other special occasions.

Next – As Lutheranism comes to the Americas …

In His Service,

Kantor Boettcher

Kantor, Emmanuel/Adell

PS: Here’s a website that gives you pictures of all the primary vestments of the church:

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THE UNIFORMS OF THE CHURCH – Biblical and Early Church History

Vestments played a significant role in Old Testament worship. In Exodus 28:2-3, God told the people of Israel, and Moses specifically, “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.” In response to God’s command, Exodus 39:1 reports: “Of the blue, purple, and scarlet thread they made garments of ministry, for ministering in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron, as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

The high priest, as the leader of the worshiping assembly, wore a unique garment to signify his role in the worship life of Israel. This garment was of the highest quality because it served the grandest purpose: to give God glory and to mark the singular activity of worshiping God. In addition to the high priest, the Levites, who were the temple assistants, wore particular garments while serving the Lord. Young Samuel annually received such a garment from his mother while he served in the temple with Eli, the high priest (l Samuel 2).

The Gospel writers record that Jesus wore a tunic-like garment (Matthew 5:40). Jesus was wearing this calf-length outer shirt (Greek, chiton) when He was arrested in Gethsemane (John 19:23). John wrote that the souls of those who had been martyred received a similar white robe (Revelation 6:11), which reminded them that they had been redeemed and cleansed in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). John tells us that “[T]o her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:8b).

While there is no command to follow Old or New Testament styles of dress in worship, the church followed these biblical precedents, making slight adaptations throughout the centuries.

From the time of the apostles, clergy wore the style of clothing common to the well-dressed people of imperial Rome. As Christianity became the dominant religion during the fourth and fifth centuries, clergy continued to wear the common garb of professionals of the late Roman Empire. During these early centuries, Old Testament liturgical vestments were strictly avoided. The first evidence of a garment designed specifically for liturgical use in the Christian church is reported around A.D. 330. Emperor Constantine gave a robe of gold tissue to Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, to wear as he presided over baptisms during the Easter Vigil. Jerome (A.D. 341-420) spoke of the garments he wore for church as something different from his everyday clothing, referring to his churchly apparel as a “suit of clean clothes.” By the sixth century, a church council meeting in Narbonne dictated that the alb was the official vestment for Christian worship!

By the seventh century, clergy wore three specific vestments – the alb, the stole, and the chasuble – as signs of their ecclesiastical office. These gracefully flowing garments were distinctively nonbarbarian in style, emphasizing the Roman “civility” of the Christian clergy in contrast to the barbarians, who had introduced military trousers into contemporary society. About a century later, during the Carolingian period (A.D. 700-986), rich brocades and delicate embroidery were added to clerical vestments. Orphreys – narrow bands of floral or geometric designs – were incorporated along the hems of the garments worn by the clergy, which mimicked a style popular with public officials of the same era.

As the distinction between the clergy and the laity became more pronounced, vestments became more unique as the church assigned special duties and roles to the clergy. Not only in style, but also in design and ornamentation, vestments became different. Some of the later ornateness of medieval vestments can be traced to the fact that they were gifts from royalty, who relished lavish decoration. For example, in England, Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, bequeathed “to the Abbey of the Holy Trinity my tunic worked at Winchester by Alderet’s wife and the mantle embroidered with gold, which is in my chamber, to make a cope. Of my two golden girdles, I give that which is ornamented with emblems for the purpose of suspending the lamb before the great altar.” Thus it was that the clergy received elegant materials from which they made distinctive garments.

Next up: Lutheran perspectives on the uniforms of the church.

In His Service,

Kantor Boettcher

Kantor, Emmanuel/Adell

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How many times have you heard something like that from someone you loved? Especially this time of year? Maybe the conversations went like this…

“Aww, you promised! You said we could go shopping together this afternoon to get a present!”
“Is it really that important, dear?”
“Yes it is!”
“But we don’t have the money.”
“Can we at least go window shopping?”
“No, we don’t have the gas.”
“Well, we can walk.”
“Honey, I don’t have the time today.”
“Aww, but you promised!”

“Aww, you promised! I really wanted that toy. I was a good boy ALL year.”
“I know, but there’s no time to go today to buy it.”
“How about tomorrow?”
“But we don’t have the money for that kind of toy.”
“I have some money in my piggy bank. That will help!”
“That won’t be nearly enough. I’m sorry, but the answer is no.”
“Aww, but you promised!”

But it’s not just we adults saying things like that to our children. Sometimes we hear those words from our own lips. We really want to do something, to buy something, to be with someone. But, try as we might, somehow for some reason it just can’t be done. Aww, you promised!

Maybe it is a lack of money. Maybe it is a lack of time. Sometimes, it is more like a lack of connections to the right people (it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know), or maybe it’s the power and clout that is lacking. Or maybe circumstances beyond our control took the person or thing from our reach. Then, as we get older, sometimes the reasons are more like a lack of time because we’re too busy, or maybe just a lack of energy (and the abundance of frustration!).

“Aww, you promised!” is something we tell other adults, or even ourselves. This was the year we were hoping to see so-and-so. The economy is just starting to recover, and we were just starting to get ahead. We licked the cancer; but ultimately cancer licked our wallet; and this will be a meager holiday. Jake thought Sadie promised to meet him at the mall, and now he saw her walking with Bill. Broken hearts, broken promises, broken dreams. Aww, you promised!

But broken promises are why we celebrate Advent and Christmas. Promises made in the Garden of Eden, promises made to love and obey God — broken by Adam and Eve. Promises you yourself have made to God to love and obey Him — broken time and again. Broken promises in our wrongful actions, in our lack of love for those around us, and in our relationship with God. Aww, you promised!

Sometimes, we try to make excuses. Maybe following ALL of those Ten Commandments isn’t so important, we try to tell ourselves. We try to justify our lifestyle, saying, maybe we’re just sinners and can’t help the way we are. But the Lord God looks at these excuses and realizes, Hey! When all the excuses are over, the answer is still no … no relationship with Him, no eternal life, no heaven. Broken promises are why we celebrate Advent and Christmas. Our broken promises.

But we are also here because of promises which the Lord God has made. And kept. Yes, Adam and Eve sinned; and because they sinned YOU and I have that Original Sin clinging to us from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5) until the day we die. Yes, because we are sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we act like our parents. We make promises to God and we don’t obey perfectly. And God refuses to take the lame excuses people come up with. In fact, God refuses to take anything less than perfection. He is holy, and He hates sin.

We celebrate Advent and Christmas – we sing the beautiful hymns and carols of the season – because of God’s Promises. Beginning with the earliest history, just moments after the Fall into sin, God began a promise of Salvation. It was not a salvation by what we do right or what we don’t do wrong. It was a promise that we would be saved by what He would do for us. God would become flesh and dwell among us.

This Promise is like a scarlet thread woven in the tan cloth of history. It enters at Genesis 3:15. It weaves through the history of the Bible, holding everything together. It shows brightly in Abraham, “Who believed in God, and faith was credited to him as righteousness.” It knits together King David and a harlot named Rahab, farmers like Judah, carpenters like Mary’s husband, exiles like Josiah, and executives like Boaz.

As we are reminded throughout the Old Testament, there are literally hundreds of direct prophecies which point to the Coming Salvation God promised to send. And thousands more verses which allude to the God-man who would be born of a Virgin, in humility, in Bethlehem. God’s salvation solution was the Man named Jesus Christ. Jesus came to live a perfect life (something you and I could never do). Then Jesus acted as our Substitute, dying on the Cross for all of our mistakes, wrongs, and evils.

When we make promises, we sometimes are not able to carry them out. God, who made heaven and earth, and all things both visible and invisible, can never be prevented from keeping a promise. God promised to send the Savior to us. Jesus came at Christmas. God also promises that Jesus will come again on the Final Day. As surely as He came once, He shall come again. God never breaks a promise.

God also promises to come today, to us, in Word and Sacraments. He comes with news of pardon and peace in Christ Jesus. When God promises that all your sins are forgiven because of that Baby in the manger, you can count on that promise. When God promises that nothing in all creation can separate you from His love in Christ Jesus (Romans 8), you can count on that promise. When God promises blessings of faith, hope, and love to all who read and believe His Word, that’s a promise you can depend on. When God promises you peace, joy, patience, gentleness, and self control as the Holy Spirit works faith in your heart by Word and Sacraments, that’s a promise you can be sure of.

Christmas is not a celebration of what we give others; it is a celebration of what God has given us … the Savior, Jesus Christ. Christmas is God’s answer to all of our broken hearts, broken promises, and broken dreams. Almighty God took on flesh as promised. The Promise of love and forgiveness lived among us, and was sacrificed once-for-all about three decades later on Calvary. By His death, He has destroyed death, and brought life and immortality to light thru the unbreakable promise of the Gospel.

That Promise is yours this Advent and Christmas. If your heart is full of sadness, remember Christ’s promises to comfort the hurting. If loneliness is your only companion, recall He promises “will never leave you or forsake you.” If sin is crushing your spirit, take it to the cross: He paid for it there. Then go in the joy of His salvation and live anew.

As we sing with gusto the hymns and carols of Adventide and Christmastide, ponder this in your heart: God never says, “Aww, you promised!” Instead, He promises us new lives in Christ Jesus. Yes, joy to the world, the Lord is come! He promised, and He delivered!

A blessed Adventide and Christmastide to one and all,

Kantor Boettcher

Kantor, Emmanuel/Adell

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Uniforms of God’s House

You can’t go far in this world to see uniforms in action. The mailperson that delivers your mail in the morning – especially if you live in the city, he or she’s wearing USPS-regulation clothing. Drive down the road just a little too fast, and the armed person that turns on his flashers and walks up to your car is wearing his official police officer uniform. Got a doctor’s appointment? The nurses and doctors are all wearing scrubs and lab coats, all in line with the clinic rules and standards. Prison inmates usually all wear the same kind of jumpsuit, to make it easier for the guards to identify who’s who at the institution. Yes, even gang members all wear the same style and color of “hoodie” so that everyone knows who’s who out “in the ‘hood.”

You can see where this piece is going. People wear uniforms to identify themselves … sometimes by who they are … but most often by what they do. In the store where I work, Wal-Mart on the south side of Sheboygan, floor associates wear dark blue shirts and khaki pants. Associates in the back room also wear dark blue shirts, but they are allowed to wear jeans because their tasks require more strenuous work (moving boxes, pallets, carts, transporting merchandise to and fro, etc.). Salaried managers usually wear dress clothes, because they are presenting a professional image of Wal-Mart to the public. (You can always identify management by the nametags that they, and all associates, wear on the premises.)

For much the same reasons, pastors and other worship leaders wear clothes that are appropriate for their roles in the Divine Service. These garments are not costumes. Pastors are not “playing roles” in a divine “show.” They are dressed to identify themselves as servants of the Host. They are fulfilling their duty as servants by bringing God’s gifts to His gathered guests. The vestments worn by these individuals connect God’s people to the history of the Christian faith, and are also symbolic reminders of the truths of God’s revelation.

The English word vestment comes from the Latin word vestimentum, which means “clothing.” Vestments are the official clothing or “uniforms” for worship leaders and assistants. An important function that these vestments provide is that they remove the “humanity” of the one who is wearing that garment, and direct the people towards the ministerial office or liturgical function. In other words, you’re not gazing at Pastor’s $1000 Armani suit, nor are you wondering why he’s wearing a brown tweed jacket with bright blue pants; instead, you see a man, robed in traditional garments, reading Holy Scripture and giving you Christ’s body and blood. During the week, your Pastor might wear a business suit, or a cleric shirt with a sweater and dress pants; but, standing at the altar, the vestment tell you that this man is Christ’s representative. He holds an office that dates back to the time of Christ, and yes, thousands of years before. His attire demonstrates his role, his responsibility, and the connection that we all have with the saints before us.

Those who lead and those who assist in Lutheran worship service wear a wide variety of garments. From the simple black robe of the academic classroom, to the colorful regalia of a high Swedish Lutheran Mass, Lutherans retain quite a variety of garments, all which in some way or form are appropriate for the worship setting.

Next up … the history of vestments.

In His most humble service,

Signature-Kantor Boettcher

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In my current series of articles THE POSTURE OF WORSHIP, we have been learning about why we stand, sit, kneel, and pray when and the way we do. We also learned that the things that we do with our bodies are not merely abstract and arbitrary; as one writer puts it, what we do with our bodies we do with our souls. That’s what a proper Lutheran piety is all about.

This month, we’re going to talk about what can be a touchy subject, and how this can reveal what is going on within our souls. I give credit to Rev. Nathan Higgins, from Long Prairie, MN, who wrote this article for the Brothers of John the Steadfast website (


When you talk to some people, you might get the impression that they view their attendance at church services simply as an obligation. They go, because God expects them to go. Yet, when they go to church for God, they have no intention to exceed God’s expectations. As long as they put in the minimum time that God requires, they believe that they are good.

I can’t help but wonder: What is the minimum amount of time that God expects of our attendance at worship services? An hour? Forty-five minutes? Half an hour? If we could squeeze it all into fifteen minutes, would God say that we have got ourselves covered?

If I am going to church, simply to ‘punch a time clock for God’, then I might very well wonder: Have I put in enough time that God should look upon me favorably? What if I only put in forty-five minutes, but God really wanted an hour? What if I only put in an hour, but God really expected two … or three … or all twenty-four?

As I think about people who express such views about their attendance at church services, I think that they really miss the point. Church services are not simply an opportunity for me to meet my obligations to God. Church services are an opportunity – most especially for me – to receive the gifts that God so graciously gives to me.

I do not think about myself as a rich man who goes to church to sacrifice a little bit of his time to God. I go to church as a beggar. I go to church as a poor, miserable sinner. I go to church as someone who is sick and dying, and yet, there at God’s house, He is giving away the medicine that I need for free! There at God’s house, He is filling the hungry with good things. He is exalting the lowly and lifting up my head from the dust and ashes of death. There in the services of His house, God serves me and washes away all of my sins in the blood of His Son, Jesus.

When I think about my primary reason for attending church services, I like to think about the words that are printed below. (Even though they were written specifically about confession, they most certainly apply.)

“If all this were clearly explained, and meanwhile if the needs which ought to move and induce us to confession were clearly indicated, there would be no need of coercion and force. A man’s own conscience would impel him and make him so anxious that he would rejoice and act like a poor miserable beggar who hears that a rich gift, of money or clothes, is being given out at a certain place; he would need no bailiff to drive and beat him but would run there as fast as he could so as not to miss the gift” (From “A Brief Exhortation to Confession” in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. T. G. Tappert. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959: 459:23).

When I consider the length of a church service, I do not consider it a burden if the clock goes past the one hour mark. I consider it a blessing; God is going above and beyond my weak expectations. God is working overtime to bless me with His good gifts of grace, given to me for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Thank you, Rev. Higgins. As we have said before, we are not souls trapped in bodies. We are incarnate spirits. What I do with my body I do with my soul. And therein is the issue. The very value of external postures is when they mirror the internal posture of the heart (faith). When we come to church, confident in our holiness, and simply going through the motions until we finally get to the Benediction, we only receive what we allow ourselves to receive. If, on the other hand, we come as beggars, poor miserable sinners, we will receive far beyond our expectations — the healing salve of forgiveness, the life-giving food of Word and Sacrament, and the confidence of knowing that God our God, is with us unto our dying day. May we all be so blessed by our loving and gracious Lord!

In His most gracious service,

Kantor Boettcher

Kantor, Emmanuel/Adell

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Have you ever thought about what you do when you pray?

Probably not, because, if you’re a Christian, especially a life-long Christian, you’ve been praying for as long as you can remember. As a youngster, you probably watched your parents, your older siblings, or even people in church, and you mimicked what they did when it came time to pray.

And so, if someone would ask you, “Why do you do what you do?” … your answer would be, “I’ve always done it that way before!”

Sound familiar?

Probably … but there’s a bit of good with that. Those habits that we learned as a child can help us in our older years to strengthen our faith in God, especially as we learn deeper meanings behind the things we do in worship.

This month, we look at prayer, and what we do with our bodies (most notably, our hands) when we pray.

When I was growing up, this is how I learned to fold my hands when I prayed:

folding hands in prayer

… fingers interlacing each other, thumbs on top (I do right thumb over left thumb, but it really doesn’t matter).

When a person holds his hands that way, he is displaying resolution. He or she is physically demonstrating the truth prayed in the Third Petition of the Lord’s Prayer … “Thy Will Be Done.” He is resolving, or accepting, the fact that when we pray to our Lord, He grants us what we ask for, or gives us something better than what we ask for. Therefore, our prayers are prayed, “Dear Lord, grant us these things I pray for, nevertheless not my will, but Thy Will be done.”

As I was going through grade school (I went to a small parochial school in the WELS), when I went to church, I noticed that some people (including my dad) would fold their hands this way:

Man Praying

… instead of fingers interlacing each other, one hand simply clasps the other hand and shields it.

When a person holds his or her hands that way, he or she is displaying submission and trust. He is recognizing that God, the Maker and Preserver of all things, Who so lovingly blessed us with all that we need to sustain our bodies and lives, will graciously, for the sake of Jesus, grant us what we ask for (or something better than we ask for), and in the process comforts us with the knowledge that He is in control, and that all things work together to those that love God—to those that are called according to His purpose (Romans 8).

Then, especially when I went to the seminary at Fort Wayne, I noticed a lot of people praying like this:

Folded Hands in prayer

… palms pressed together, fingers pointing upward (and sometimes outward).

What does this teach us? Because the fingers are pointing upward, as we pray our thoughts are directed heavenward. The words of the Psalmist come to mind:

1 I lift my eyes toward the mountains. 
Where will my help come from? 
2 My help comes from the Lord, 
the Maker of heaven and earth. 
— Psalm 121

Praying with palms together puts our thoughts heavenward, teaching us to trust that our Lord is looking out for us, and that He knows our needs even before we utter them in prayer.

Finally … our pastor, Pastor Seifferlein, will do this at times during Divine Service?

Pastor leading people in prayer

No, that’s not Pastor Seifferlein, and he’s not going “Pentecostal”; he’s simply using the traditional “arms-up” posture of praying. Commonly used by service officiants, this posture graphically displays our prayers ascending towards heaven, as the Psalmist speaks of …

2 May my prayer be set before You as incense, 
the raising of my hands as the evening offering.  (Psalm 141: 2)

In summary, we can use different gestures during prayer to bring us to mind different truths of our God and His great providence towards us. Again, we are not compelled to use one gesture or the other; we are not compelled to use any gesture at all. We use these gestures, or “postures”, to help strengthen our faith in God, reminding us of His steadfast love and faithfulness toward us.

The most important part to remember about prayer is that God commands that we pray, and He promises that He will hear us. To God be the glory!

See you next time!

In His Service,

Kantor Boettcher

Kantor, Emmanuel/Adell

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Kneeling in the Pew
There are three primary “postures” that those who participate in Divine Service use. So far, we have looked at two of them – Sitting and Standing. We sit to show our respect and devotion to our Lord, sitting to hear, mark, learn and inwardly digest His Words. We stand to honor our Lord Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us to bring to us salvation.

The other main “posture” Christians utilize is the posture of kneeling.


To answer that question, it is again best to look at the times that Christians kneel during the Divine Service. Kneeling is done at three times during the service. Two of those times, we at Emmanuel do not kneel, because we don’t have kneelers in our pews as some Lutheran churches (and the vast majority of Catholic churches) do. (FYI, Trinity Lutheran, downtown Sheboygan, has kneelers in its pews.)

Those three times are:

  • During the Confession and Absolution at the service beginning.
  • During the Prayer of the Church.
  • When we receive Holy Communion.

Do you see a connection between these three elements of the Divine Service? It shouldn’t be that hard to see. Each of these places in the service is a time and place of humility.

  • When we confess our sins, we kneel and look down because of our shame – our shame for the many and various sins that we commit, each and every day of our lives. We kneel before God as the damned sinner that we are, not worthy to even look at the Lord whom we let down time and time again … and then we stand up and look at God as the redeemed saint that we are, ever joyful for receiving the forgiveness of sins that Christ won for us on the cross.
  • When we pray to our Father in heaven, we kneel and look down because of our unworthiness … our unworthiness to take our corporate and individual petitions before our Almighty God and Father of us all. We again recognize our sinfulness, and humbly plead before our Father to grant us what He so chooses as to be good, right, and salutary for each and every one of us.
  • When we step forward to the communion rail, we kneel before the altar and the very presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who brings to us His Body and Blood, under the bread and the wine, for us sinners to eat and to drink. Yes, we are sinners. We daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. This is why we kneel before our God, Who graciously forgives us all our sins, and strengthens our faith through the giving and the receiving of His Sacrament.

(Note … In bygone days, and even to this day in some places, the people in churches without kneelers still knelt – what they did was, when the proper time in the service came, they turned around in their pews and they knelt into their pews, facing the rear of the church.)

In summary, we kneel in the Divine Service as a way of symbolizing the humility that we have standing before our majestic God in confession, in prayer, and receiving Christ’s sacrament.

Now, you may be thinking, does it really matter? Standing, sitting, kneeling … what’s the difference? There has been a time or two in years past when I thought the same thing … but as I was getting this letter ready for publication, I came across this little gem from the pen of another Lutheran blogger, The Rev. Larry A. Peters of Clarksville, Tennessee:

So what does it matter? It matters not in the sense that a particular external posture determines whether or not we are heard by God when we pray. But ceremonies, ritual, and church usages are not merely external. C.S. Lewis makes the point in his Screwtape Letters (a book I heartily recommend) that we are not souls trapped in bodies. We are incarnate spirits. What I do with my body I do with my soul. And therein is the issue. The very value of external postures is when they mirror the internal posture of the heart (faith). No one would say we must (except those with canon law) but in our liberty we can and do use external postures to mirror what is (or at least is supposed to be) happening internally.

In this parish [Clarksville, TN] we offer the chance to kneel (that is, we have kneelers in the pews). We may kneel for the confession and for the prayers. Maybe we will offer more opportunities to kneel in the future. We do not require it but it is available. Much in the same way some cross themselves and some do not. Some bow and some do not. We do not despise those who do nor do we despise those who do not. But at least let us not misunderstand or slander those who do. In the end I think C. S. Lewis has got it right. Worship is not just a matter of the spirit and true spirituality does not despise or disdain the material. After all, our Lord has chosen common and ordinary earthly elements to serve as the means of His grace. Surely bodily postures and gestures are fair means of communicating the faithful response of His people to what He, in His grace, has bestowed.

Well said … the external does reflect and reinforce the internal … and we do these things not under the thumb of the Law, but in the freedom of the Gospel.

More to come …
In the Service of Christ,

Kantor Boettcher

Kantor, Emmanuel/Adell

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This past month we began our series on THE POSTURE OF WORSHIP, examining the various positions we use during Divine Service and examining why we do what we do during the service. Last month we studied sitting, and we discovered that we sit during Divine Service to show our respect and devotion to our Lord.

This month, we look at standing.


When we gather together as friends, for example, at our church’s Lenten Fellowship Meals on Wednesday evening, after we get our food we sit around, eating and talking with each other, catching up with each other’s lives and so on. Now, let’s say, for example, that the President of the United States came walking into the fellowship hall. (Yes, he gets hungry once in a while, too.) It doesn’t matter which “side of the aisle,” which end of the political spectrum you sit on … you immediately stand up. Why? To give the proper respect to the authority vested in the office that man has been duly elected to hold. In essence, the President of the United States represents your nation, the most powerful voice for democracy in the world.

Now let’s move our thoughts to the Fourth of July. You’re attending the annual Fourth of July concert at your city park’s bandshell. Right at the start, the drumroll starts, and the crowd rises to salute the flag that is flying high above the bandshell as the band plays “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why stand and salute this flag? Because of what that flag represents … power, authority, safety, democracy.

So what does this have to do with STANDING in church during the Divine Service?

Think for a moment when we STAND during the service:

  • As we sing the opening hymn, when we have a cross/crucifix enter in processional during the singing of that hymn.
  • As we confess our sins and receive absolution for those sins.
  • As we sing the Glorias and the Kyrie.
  • As we hear the Gospel read from the Pastor.
  • As we sing doxological stanzas in our hymns (hymns stanzas that give glory to the Trinity)
  • As we confess the Creed.
  • As we pray the Prayer of the Church.
  • As we participate in the Sacramental liturgy.
  • As we receive the Benediction.
  • As the cross/crucifix exits in procession during the singing of the final hymn.

Do you see any connection to these portions of the liturgy? There is one major connection … JESUS CHRIST.

  • Opening processional – The crucifix/cross represents Jesus, who paid the price of our salvation while suffering and dying on the cross.
  • Confession and Absolution – The Pastor pronounces the Absolution in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Kyrie & Glorias – In the Kyrie, we show our respect for our almighty Lord by crying out to him, “Lord, have mercy!” We understand that if it weren’t for His mercy, we would be nothing but lost souls with respect to the Trinity. In the Glorias, we give all praise and glory to the Triune God, for our creation, our preservation, our salvation, and our regeneration.
  • Gospel – we rise for the Gospel and give deep reverence because the Gospel readings are the very words and actions of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Doxological stanzas — are stanzas which also give reverence and devotion to Jesus Christ, as part of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Creed – We stand to confess the Creed and proclaim the Triune God who created, redeemed, and sanctified us, all because Jesus finished the work of salvation on Calvary and through the empty tomb.
  • The Prayer of the Church – we pray to Jesus and in His Name, because without Jesus and His work for us, we could never be able to have our prayers heard before a just God.
  • The Sacramental Liturgy – the obvious focus in the Sacramental Liturgy is our Lord Jesus Christ, who on the night that He was betrayed, took bread and wine, and declared to the world of all time, “This is My Body” … “This is My Blood” … “Given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.”
  • As we receive the Benediction – as we referred to before: No Jesus – No Blessings. With Jesus, however, we receive the greatest of blessings … a blessing of love from our Triune God.

To sum it up, we STAND out of honor and respect for Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 8b-11)

More “posturing” next time …

In His Service,

Kantor Boettcher

Kantor, Emmanuel/Adell

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