Eugene L. Brand: ecumenist, liturgist, servant.
Offspring of Luther, you know the freedom and grace of font, book, and table. Your writing, teaching, and administrative gifts were as midwife to the Lutheran Book of Worship and are a bright sign of this Academy's vocation.
An ecumenist in the service of liturgy, a liturgist in the service of ecumenism, you have set a paradigm before us. For your charisms so unstintingly given in the renewing of the church's prayer and proclamation, our gratitude.
In 1984, the North American Academy of Liturgy presented its Berakah Award to the Rev. Dr. Eugene L. Brand with these elegant words from Dr. Mark Searle. They now form the framework for my thoughts as we commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the Lutheran Book of Worship and Gene's contributions to the church.
Offspring of Luther indeed, Gene is a scholar who holds firmly to Lutheran confessional identity. It is from the strength of that identity that he has been a leading ecumenist on the world scene for much of his ministry.
As one who knows the freedom and grace of font, book, and table, he helped shape the Lutheran Book of Worship and its balance of historic ordo and remarkable freedom. While many North American Lutherans look toward the ongoing renewal of worship, it is clear that the vast resources of LBW will remain a treasure. In fact, the "Introduction" to Lutheran Book of Worship (pages 6-8), written by Eugene Brand, continues to be a call to freedom and grace within the assembly gathered around Word and Sacrament.
Gene's writing, teaching, and administrative gifts have themselves been gifts to the church. As professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, and an advocate for worship renewal in Lutheran church bodies, he was influential in the very first days of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship and, of course, as Project Director for Lutheran Book of Worship. His work has left an indelible mark on our Lutheran prayer and praise. Likewise, his association with the International Consultation on English Texts, the Consultation on Common Texts, and numerous other ecumenical partnerships has reached beyond the boundaries of Lutheranism and into the entire church catholic.
The sentence from Dr. Searle's tribute that best describes Eugene Brand's remarkable contributions to the church is this: An ecumenist in the service of liturgy, a liturgist in the service of ecumenism, you have set a paradigm before us. In his response to receiving the Berakah Award, Dr. Brand articulated this reality:
Our American liturgical convergence with the mutual recognition it fosters should teach us that a powerful uniting factor is common worship. When we finally reach the point that our earthly altars are laid for all Christians, as the heavenly altar already is, then eucharistic sharing will create both the atmosphere and the will to deal with remaining issues of doctrine and polity.
As liturgists ... we are involved with an aspect of the church's life which is fundamental to Christian unity. For it is we who are responsible for the research, the creative efforts, the pastoral aspects, the cultural fine-tuning which is required. That is not an elitist stance, at least not in any negative sense. The impulses must emerge from the actual life of the churches, and the product must be appropriate to an edifying for all the Christian people. But these impulses need to be given form and appropriate expression. The development must be evolutionary--out of our heritages--not some artificial construct....
It is true, as several of our churches hold, that the eucharist celebrates unity in Christ, and that such unity has unavoidable structural aspects. But I am not sure that such an affirmation precludes seeing in the eucharist and in common worship in general also a force creative of unity. I am even less sure that the unity we are speaking about has to do primarily with dogmatic agreement.
Theologically our age has been marked by a rediscovery of eschatology as more than just "last things." We have learned to see the church as a pilgrim people on the way to God's future--but a future which has already happened in the death and resurrection of Christ. In the eucharist the pain and brokenness of our world and the hope we have in Christ come together. Thus to meditate on the church's worship is to reflect on the nature of the church. From the eucharistic perspective there is little doubt about that unity which is the principal mark of the church.
Finally, with all of these reflections on the ministry of Eugene L. Brand, it is that little word service in the Berakah citation that stands out for me. The paradigm Gene has set before us is that of servant, to the Holy Trinity and to the one church that he so dearly loves. As we commemorate this anniversary of the publication of the Lutheran Book of Worship, we give thanks for the servant leadership of Eugene L. Brand.
Quotations are from Worship pages 305-15.
--Robert A. Rimbo was Executive Assistant to the Project Director during the final stages of preparation and publication of the Lutheran Book of Worship.