Rev. Hilla Lahtinen was appointed as the Director of Worship Ministries for the Eastern Synod. She will serve as a resource person and consultant to the congregations and Ministry Areas and serve as coordinator for synodically sponsored services of worship. She succeeds Debbie-Lou Ludolph who has served in this role, with great distinction, since 2008,
What are your thoughts on this appointment?
I feel both excited and humbled for having been considered for this position. Following Debbie-Lou Ludolph’s legacy as a Director of Worship Ministries will be no easy task, but I hope that my previous experience and education will help me to bring a fresh perspective to the position.
Having moved to Canada from Finland and being deeply embedded in the ethnic Lutheranism of Canada, I feel that I am uniquely placed to have insight into the many challenges our ethnic congregations within the ELCIC are facing – challenges that also affect the way worship is being done in these congregations. At the same time, I am currently doing ministry at a predominantly “Canadian” congregation, and this work is opening a window for me to the future of Lutheranism in Canada.
There are lots of opportunities for us that we have maybe not come to fully appreciate as of yet. Our Gospel-centered and grace-filled theology and openness to reforming our worship practices to reflect the people and time in which we live, give us great freedom and hope for envisioning a future for our church. I am curious to see how God will guide us through this process and how our worship will be transformed because of it.
Do you have a vision for this position?
I will be eager to learn more about the worship life of our various congregations in the Eastern Synod. I hope that by drawing on my experience as a pastor and music director and getting to know more of the people of our congregations, a vision will begin to come together piece by piece.
One of the most unhelpful things we can do as worship leaders is to change too many things at once – and some things need not be changed at all. However, I do think that it is important for us to be rather mindful about things such as the kind of language we use within worship – the liturgy we use, the hymns we sing, the prayers we enter into. Do they reflect the current theology of our church? Are they inclusive? Do they welcome the people in our pews who have no previous experience of church? What do they say about God and us as Christians?
Martin Luther saw the use of language as a key opportunity to reach out to the people outside of the church, so maybe this is something that we need to “reform” about ourselves too.
What are your hopes for this position?
My greatest hope for this position is to enter into a deeper discussion, as a church, about what it is that we hope to accomplish in our worship life. How does our worship reflect us as a church? What do we want to communicate to our society and the wider world through our worship? And, most importantly, are our models of worship feeding us as Christians and deepening our relationship with God?
This ministry is not something that can be done in a vacuum. It is a team project, and I hope that through this appointment, I will have more opportunity to have conversations with people about how they experience worship in their congregations, and of course, I hope to be a useful resource to the worship leaders of our congregations in helping them to envision a rich worship life for the people they journey with.