Pastoral Companions

I have mentioned previously that there are two books upon which I rely heavily. They are the Christian Worship: Pastor’s Companion and the Lutheran Service Book: Pastoral Care Companion. Their titles suggest their purpose. These books are meant to go with a pastor as he ministers to his flock, especially the work he does outside the church building. These books regularly go with me to sick and shut-in calls, to home visits with members, outdoor weddings (I’ve had one), and any number of other occasions. Both of the volumes contain prayers, rites, scripture texts, and hymns for all these occasions and more.

You might ask the question, then: why two books? Especially if they basically contain the same material, and have the same purpose? Actually, I usually only carry one of them with me at a time. But i have found that each of the volumes has certain advantages over the other one in different areas.

The CW volume is, in many ways, more valuable because it is a companion volume to our synod’s hymnal. The language is the same as that in our hymnal. It uses the NIV for the Scripture sections. Many of the rites are the same as that in our hymnal. For my regular shut-in visits, I use a mini-booklet that includes a printout of the mini-service that we use to adorn the celebration of the sacrament with someone who is homebound. I would say that in general, this book is my default choice. It has a good selection of rites that would be useful outside of church. It has a good number of prayers, scripture texts, and hymns.

The weakness of the CW volume is found in some of the real strengths of the LSB Companion, by comparison. Here are a few:

  • Pastor’s Prayers of Preparation: There are 11 pages of prayers specifically for the pastor as he prepares to function as Seelsorger in various situations. The CW version also has pastor’s prayers, but they are less specific.There is a Daily Prayer based on the Lord’s Prayer, a couple prayers by Aquinas, and several others, but all of them are much more general than I’m looking for. The LSB version has prayers for preparing for specific pastoral acts, which I find quite useful.
  • Resources for Pastoral Care: This is the largest section of the book, and the section I find the most valuable. It lists resources—psalms, prayers, readings—by the particular situation in which a pastor might find himself and those whom he wishes to serve. It pretty much has every situation you can think of. And some you wouldn’t have, but you would be glad for this book if it ever came up. The CW book has many of these same resources, but they’re spread out in different sections. There is a rite for ministry to the sick and homebound. There is a section for devotions, which are not terribly useful. There is a section for prayers by situation. Then there is the scripture reading section, and the hymn section. If I’m visiting someone who is sick, the CW Companion is not that useful to me. If I already know what I’m going to read with them, and have to dig around for it, I might as well just use my Bible (which I often have anyway). When visiting the sick, the layout of the LSB Companion is much more useful to make use of the resources that are there, and all of the resources for a particular situation are all in one place. This is especially useful when the situation isn’t exactly what you thought it was. Perhaps you call on someone who is sick, but you find that they are really struggling with depression or even despair. Most pastors can probably think on their feet well enough to adjust their conversation and guidance from the Word of God, but it may also be useful to have some help. The LSB Companion is, in my opinion, better designed for this kind of help.
  • Texts in German and Spanish: This strikes me as the kind of thing that is useful in a situation which you weren’t expecting. And while I can function pretty well in German, I would be unable to speak much more than a few memorized hymns and prayers. And my Spanish has a long ways to go at this point. But I can imagine  a few situations where having just a few texts at hand (Lord’s Prayer, Creed, Benediction, etc) in these languages could come in handy.

One of the downsides to the LSB volume is that, like other CPH publications, it uses the ESV. I’ll save an evaluation of the ESV for another time, but the fact is that I have grown so accustomed to the NIV that I struggle to make good use of the ESV sections. Many of the rites are usable, but not those which I use in conjunction with the hymnal. There are hymn stanzas in the companion, but the translation is different often enough to make it awkward.

So what do I do? Lately, I’ve been keeping both books close at hand. In general, I take my CW companion on all regular shut-in calls or any situations when I know what I’m dealing with. But for sick and hospital calls, I like the flexibility of the LSB resources. I feel like I’ll have better luck finding what I’m looking for if I need to quickly thumb through the book to find a good prayer for this or that.

Another way I have used it is to prepare for my calls. I’ll use the LSB book to look up the situation I think I’m dealing with and use that to form my devotions and prayers. In that case, I might not even bring it along. But I probably will, just in case. I’ll probably keep both volumes close at hand, and use each for its advantages.

What I would really love is to have one book which was the best of both worlds (or books). My best chance of that will probably have to at least wait until 2023, when the next WELS hymnal is scheduled to be published. Hopefully we won’t have to wait 11 years after the hymnal this time. (CW was published in 1993, the Pastor’s Companion in 2004.) But I am also hopeful that some of these content and organizational benefits and advantages of the LSB Pastoral Care Companion might somehow be incorporated into a new companion.

5 thoughts on “Pastoral Companions

  1. I agree about some of the hymns in the CW Companion. For example, in the rite for “Entrusting the Dying to the Lord,” the rite closes with stanzas from “Now the Light Has Gone Away.” That just doesn’t seem to fit that context at all. The LSB Companion, in that same rite, uses “Lord, let at last your angels come” from CW 434. I have also printed hymns onto 4×6 cards that I have stuck in my CW Companion. I usually just use them to sing to the person.

    As for communion, I use the longer form for “Ministry to the Sick and Homebound with Holy Communion” with my regular shut-ins. I think they appreciate a form that is similar to what they used to do when they could come to church. I have used the shorter form when they can’t read along or when they can’t stay focused.

    And the ESV, I agree that it’s not a step forward. It does resolve some of the issues with the NIV, but the trade-off is in readability. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t seem so difficult if I had ever used the KJV. Making the move from KJV (or perhaps the RSV or NKJV) wouldn’t seem backward. But I have used the NIV my whole life, and I’m not sure that it is enough of an improvement to make that shift.

    I purchased a copy of The Lutheran Study Bible, but haven’t had much time to dig into it. But now I’m thinking that it might be more useful to have those notes as a commentary in a digital format. I don’t plan on using the ESV extensively, so I’d be pretty much using it for its notes.

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