Last week I visited friends in and around Ames, IA, and Sunday morning, before heading home, I attended a service at Fjeldberg Lutheran Church in Huxley. It’s a traditional-style ELCA congregation, but they caught me off-guard by using a slightly altered liturgical setting that I hadn’t experienced before. Throughout the whole service, there were definitely elements of the familiar: the creeds and Borg-like recitations I’d grown up with. But there were also new things, musical responses where I wasn’t expecting a musical response, or even more scary: different music with a traditional text.
Okay, it wasn’t really scary. It was actually a nice change from normal. Previously I’d assumed all traditional Lutheran services are made more or less equal. Apparently I was wrong. This service was just different enough from both my parents’ church and the student congregation at St Olaf to make it unique in it’s own right, while still retaining enough elements of the traditional to remain familiar.
And so I determined that it’s more challenging to follow along in a service that uses only a slightly different liturgy, verses a service that’s completely non-liturgical, where you’re always on guard for what might be coming next. At Fjeldberg I was never sure when to let my guard down, when it was safe to sink back into rote memory, and when there was going to be a new melody thrown at me.
I got plenty of practice sight-reading last Sunday. And I loved the challenge.