The Agenda: Things that Need to Be Done
One aspect of the WELS Hymnal Project that has not received much public attention is the revision of that book which contains various rites for use in congregational life. That's natural, in a sense. To illustrate: I have a small air compressor at home that is an excellent tool for all kinds of home projects – nailing, sanding, texturing, painting. Truth be told, I don't use my air compressor every day, and it's easy to forget that I even own one. But when I do need it, it's there, and I'm thankful it is.
In the worship life of God's people, we don't use the rites of a church regularly. In fact, there are rites in our new book that some congregations will never use, such as “Dedication of a Church Bell.” Yet, if and when a congregation ever needs such a rite, it will be there, ready for use.
The new book of congregational rites will be called the Agenda. A small committee of pastors has been working over the past three years to review, revise, update, and add to those rites of the church that are currently found in Christian Worship: Occasional Services. At the onset of the task, the committee quickly realized that the current Occasional Services was a mixed bag of both rites and special liturgical services, such as the Good Friday Tenebrae service. The committee felt that it would be beneficial to separate such as liturgical elements from what is properly called "rites." This has a historical precedent since for many years Lutheran pastors turned to the Lutheran Agenda to find rites for such things as installation of a pastor, teacher, or vicar; dedication of an organ or church building; laying of a cornerstone; reception of new members; installation of synod or district officers, etc. etc. All in all, there will be over fifty rites found in the new Agenda.
Moreover, the current title Occasional Services is, in a sense, a bit misleading—but not deliberately so. While there indeed are complete "services" in this present book, a rite in and of itself is not a complete service; it is a small portion of a service or devotion. This reality also led the committee to return to the historical name Agenda. Special liturgical services that are complete in and of themselves (such as the Tenebrae mentioned above) will find a new home in the electronic resources available as part of the new hymnal resources.
"Agenda" is a Latin term that means, "things that need to be done." There are things in the public worship life of a congregation and synod that, simply put, need to be done. They need to be done in a "fitting and orderly way (1 Co 14:4)" that is respectful of God's Word and house. They need to be done in a clear and confessional way since many of the rites articulate doctrinal positions we hold. They need to be done in a public way before God and people as a clear testimony. And, above all, these things need to be done to the glory of God and for the edification of his holy people.