Hi I'm currently in limbo and need a little guidance. I was born and raised Catholic, married in ELCA, quickly went to LCMS and now I'm a WELS member. Although I love our pastor and his wife who have been a tremendous help and blessing to our family I'm am having a hard time with the lack of Lutheran Orthodoxy/traditional Lutheran or even Catholic type mass. My last years as a Catholic I only attended Latin Triditine Hi-Mass with all its traditions and vestments,chants, candles, incense etc. and although my time with LCMS wasn't too long I did feel comfortable enough or rather felt familiar enough to love that church, we only left because we moved out of state. I, being ignorant to Lutheranism, thought WELS would be more traditional to original Lutheran practices. I also read all I could from the Book of Concord as well as anything I could on Luther himself, I actually have an appreciation toward him as well as, my pastor and a few others have said, a resemblance to Luthers brashness and militancy! With that all said I did speakwith my pastor about these issues and he correctly said the reason for church is about God and not traditions...to which I replied any car can get me from A to B but one with heat and air conditioning would make it a more comfortable ride!!! Lol! What I am looking for is a way to find a traditional Lutheran church I can attend and be completely comfortable with! I live in central NJ so I know it may be hard to find but I figured I'd ask you anyway. Thank You and Gods blessings this Christmas.
I agree with you that the ceremonies are important. They teach us of the majesty of God (in the Catholic church, they also teach the majesty of the bishops and all that stuff, but you won't run into that in the Lutheran church). They also have music that to me is particularly important because it is the only style of music that uses actual quotes from the Bible as words. This is the liturgy. Hymns are very doctrinal, and explain something. Many hymns in many churches present some nice ideas, but they don't REALLY teach doctrine, and doctrine is important.
I would expect WELS to be more traditional as well, although LCMS has been traditional for the most part until recently. The new Lutheran hymnal is said to be quite good, and one of the people who worked on it was my former pastor, a fine musician and knowledgeable, with excellent musical taste. I am not fond of worship services with praise bands. In fact, I don't even think praise bands are all that good an idea. Many of them have heavy beats. These beats were originally intended to arouse people, and I don't think that translates into worshiping God. The words tend to be simple and repetitive. And in our family, we generally won't even attend a traditional service in a congregation that has a praise band, because we are concerned that won't be the ONLY thing wrong. Another thing that gets my goat is when they use piano during a worship service, or choose their music because of the influence of former Baptists. And I even like a chanted service, complete with the singing of Introit and Gradual to melodies that come out of Gregorian chant. Some of my pastors have chanted the communion service and I love it when they do. God created music, with the idea that we would use it to worship Him. I feel closer to God when I am playing the organ than at any other time, actually. And I am especially fond of JS Bach, who is said to be the musical evangelist (and has won hearts to Christ with his music.) He was a Lutheran, and it shows in the joy of his music.
Saying that we can corrupt our worship because traditional worship is traditions of men really misses the point as far as I am concerned. Praise bands ARE the traditions of men. Luther went over the liturgy very carefully, and eliminated all the unscriptural material. Those elements were the traditions of men. Much of what goes on in Rome is nothing but traditions of men, and they even admit it's tradition.
Just know that you are not the only person who finds the traditional liturgy and hymns to be important. Many of us do. Sometimes we don't get to make the decisions, but many churches still maintain traditional worship because there are many of us. Unfortunately, the young people who agree tend to be fewer in number, but I expect there will be a pendulum swing back, especially as LCMS begins to straighten out some of the other problems, as I am told they are doing. And I myself have seriously thought about going to a WELS church. We have two in my city.
I am not familiar with the congregations in New Jersey. The only thing I can suggest is that you attend the different churches in your area to see what they do. Hopefully, you will find a congregation. You can also ask around. A lot probably depends on the district president in LCMS as well. The district president can set the tone for a lot of things. I can often find out something about some of the district presidents through gossip (asking family members who are pastors, for example), but I don't know how much my family members know about the district president that presides over New Jersey.
Do a search on Concordia Conference churches. There are only a handful, so the odds of there being one near you is slim. But if there is one, expect tradition there, and good doctrine.
I hope this helps.
Merry Christmas. May God give you and yours the joy of the season, and keep your hearts and minds in Christ.