Service Hymnals
The service folder is a guide to the hymnal. It is not a substitute for the hymnal. It provides the information needed to follow the service: the pages numbers for the liturgy and the hymn numbers, along with instructions for sitting, standing and kneeling. Well-designed and diligently used service folders reduce excessive verbal instructions from the pastor that detracts from the flow and beauty of the liturgy.

The hymnal is the prayer book of the church. Lutheran Worship, published in 1982, is the approved hymnal of the churches that are in doctrinal and confessional fellowship with Lutheran Church--Canada. The older Lutheran Hymnal (1941) is still used by some of our congregations.

These books are considerably more than songbooks. They contain liturgies, prayers, psalms, and canticles, as well as hymns and spiritual songs drawn from Scripture and handed down through the history of the church. While no humanly authored book is without error, least of all a hymnal, the content of our hymnal has been tested against the doctrinal and confessional criteria of our churches and can be used with a high degree of confidence. For this reason, the use of the hymnal as the primary worship tool is to be encouraged.

Increasingly, many churches are reprinting entire liturgies, whether those of the hymnbook or their own "home-grown" varieties, in a disposable service folder. While this format has the advantage of being" user-friendly" to visitors and occasional churchgoers, it is labor intensive, wasteful of resources, and it discourages the kind of familiarity with a hymnal that is needed for a rich devotional life, both in the congregation and at home.

A far better solution for our visitors would be for an experienced member to sit alongside and help the visitor through the service. In this way the liturgy provides an opportunity for an act of hospitality to the stranger and a fine opening for conversation after the service. Liturgy need not discourage outreach to the unchurched. The unchurched need to be taught worship by example and by catechesis.

The inevitable "page-flipping" that occurs during worship is a source of frustration for some. If you think Lutheran worship is clumsy, consider Episcopalians who must juggle two books during a service, a liturgy book and a hymnbook. The early church, which had no printing capability, had it better. The liturgy and hymns simply were committed to memory.

The problem of page flipping can be diminished by the use of the three ribbons attached to the spine of the hymnal. Use one ribbon to mark your place in the liturgy; use the other two to mark hymns. With a bit of practice, this will become almost automatic.

At Holy Trinity we use a fixed convention to refer to page numbers and hymn numbers in our service folders. The front portion of the hymnal is referred to by page number. For example, Divine Service II, setting 1 is on p. 158. Hymns are referred to by a # symbol. For example, the Advent hymn "The King Shall Come" is Hymn # 26 or Lutheran Worship #26.

An important part of preparation for worship is to study carefully the service folder and to mark the hymns and pages in the hymnal prior to the service. A few minutes of preparation before the service will go a long way toward eliminating much confusion and frustration.