An Example of Announcement for Communion

loeheA little before I was born a practice that had been common in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod passed into oblivion.  It was called “announcement for communion.”  People used to go talk to the pastor before they went to the Lord’s Supper.  I’ve never really been too sure what went on in these talks.  From asking older people in the church I’ve gathered that over time it became little more than a ritual of going to church and signing your name in a book as intending to commune.  Later people began to phone in their announcements.

But it always struck me as interesting that there was this practice in the Lutheran Church that bore some resemblance to confession prior to communion and that it only recently died out.  Yet you never hear anyone talk about it or suggest resurrecting it.  I’ve written another post touching on the subject (here), but that was two years ago and I can’t remember what I said.

I’ve been flipping around in a fantastic book I bought recently–a translation of C. F. W. Walther’s early volumes of Der Lutheraner, the newspaper he started before the Missouri Synod was even founded.  (Thanks to Pr. Joel Baseley for his work in translating it; you can find the book here.)  I stumbled upon a sample dialogue between a pastor and would-be communicants at announcement for communion, authored by no less than Wilhelm Loehe.  I reprint part of it here for your edification and perhaps to entice you to buy a copy of the book.

A note: the confession referred to in what follows seems to have been a corporate service of confession and absolution rather than private confession and absolution.  Although in the first century and a half or so after the reformation it was normal for Lutherans to go to private confession before communion, by the time this was published (December 1846) private confession and absolution was seldom used.


Announcement for Confession

A sketch as to its nature.  by W. Loehe


First Discussion

Balthisar: Good day, Parson.

Parson: Good day, Balthisar, what do you want?

B.  I want to announce for Confession this Saturday and the Lord’s Supper Sunday.

Pn.  So why do you want the Lord’s Supper now?

B.  Why?  I think it is now the time to have the Lord’s Supper again.

Pn.  Why now?  Is it because you do that every year at Advent?

B.  Yes, in my family we’ve always thought we should observe that, so if it’s Pentecost or Christmas day or in Advent we go to the Lord’s Supper.  So I do that, too.

Pn.  So you are going because of that custom?

B.  Sure, why not?  I don’t agree with the tradition many hold, who go but once a year.

Pn.  You’re right there, B., but going merely because of custom isn’t good.  Tell me, what does one do in confession?

B.  Well, I think you acknowledge and confess your sins there.

Pn.  Now actually you must acknowledge your sins prior to that, so that you are also able to confess those sins in the confessional; that is, you must already know beforehand where your shoe pinches, so you can thereby tell and lament to God your troubles and your pain and seek his help for them.  To confess your sins is nothing but telling God your sins and admitting them.  So then, why must a person confess his sins there in the confessional?

B.  That they be forgiven.

Pn. Right!  As David says in the 32nd Psalm: “When I wanted to keep silent, my bones did grow old–

B.  “through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, so that my moisture was turned into the drought of summer.  Sela.”

Pn.  See that?  There he witnesses that he could find no peace or rest so long as he was silent about his sin, so long as he’d not confessed them to God.  But now he goes on: “Therefore I confessed my sins, and–”

B.  “and did not hide my iniquities.  I said: I will confess my transgression unto the Lord–”

Pn. and B: (together)– and you forgave me the iniquity of my sins.  Sela.”

Pn.  So whoever won’t confess his sins, they will not be forgiven him.  But then will all his sins be forgiven that are confessed in the confessional?

B.  So long as he’s serious about them.

Pn.  What do you mean by serious?

B.  I think it’s when his sins bring him sorrow, when he is contrite about them.

Pn.  Quite right.  But now tell me, B., do your sins only bring you sorrow every Pentecost and Christmas, but never any other time?  Or when you have come to the Lord’s Supper every Pentecost and Christmas, was it really only the load of your sins making you come?

B.  Parson, –I would be lying if I claimed that were true.

Pn.  And if you did claim that I would have told you directly: that’s not true, you are deceiving both yourself and me.  One who goes to the Lord’s Supper merely because of custom can’t possibly be going with a repentant and contrite heart.  But will anyone who confesses his sins without heartfelt regret truly have confessed his sins, and will he receive forgiveness?

B.  Of course not, since that violates the 32nd Psalm.

Pn.  And if someone violates that and does not receive forgiveness of sins, can he worthily receive the holy Lord’s Supper for his blessing?

B.  Obviously that could never be.

Pn.  Now consider, B., how often you have already received it unworthily!  So do you want to come again now in that way?

B.  No, Parson, I will repent of my sins.  Otherwise I am certainly not rightly considering what I’m doing.

Pn.  Only consider it rightly now.  But if you now regret your sins, will you receive forgiveness for your sins?

B.  I hope so.

Pn.  Upon what do you base your hope?

B.  Upon God.

Pn.  But don’t you know that God is just and regards every person according to his works and according to the fruit of his nature?  So when God regards you in that way, what prospect do you have of his forgiveness?

B.  But God is also merciful.

Pn.  But not at the expense of his justice.  So then, are you worthy of his forgiving you your sins?

B . No one can say they are!

Pn.  So then, how can you hope God will forgive you your sins?

B.  I’m not sure, Parson.

Pn.  Does no one come to mind through whom you can receive it?

B. (agitated) No, Parson, do tell me.

Pn.  Don’t you know the explanation of the Second Article? “I believe that Jesus Christ–

B.  “true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord–

Pn.  Pay attention, here it comes…

B.  “Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person–

Pn.  “purchased and won me from all sin, death, and the power of the devil.”  So who has redeemed you from all your sins?

B.  Jesus Christ.

Pn.  Why through him?

B.  Because he has redeemed me.

Pn.  With what has he redeemed you?

B.  “Not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.”–

Pn.  See, it has cost him so much to win the forgiveness of your sins, letting himself be martyred on the cross for you, and you are so ungrateful to him that it’s never even occurred to you at all, even once, how indispensable he is for you to employ as the one forgiving you your sins.

B.  Yes, Parson, but we just can’t know those things if no one has told us of this.

Pn.  Yet, even though you learned the Second Article you’ve never thought about it, and not yet ever rightly taken to heart what you’ve learned: That’s the problem.  Now look!  As often as you’ve gone to the Lord’s Supper it was without repentance, without faith on the Lord Christ, for it has never occurred to you that you also need him whose body and blood you still must receive in the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of your sins.  Thus you’ve always gone unworthily.  See to it that this time it is better.

B.  I will do that, Parson.  I wish someone had talked to me about this long ago.

Pn.  See, that’s why it’s good you have come to me and have come personally to announce.  Now keep this in mind and pray God that he kindle the true light and give you a rich blessing in his holy Lord’s Supper.

B.  I will do that, Pn.  I thank you for telling me these things.

Pn.  Bye, b., the best thanks is if you let my words bear fruit in your heart.

B.  May God grant it!


There follow two other dialogues but that’s enough for now.  If only we had this kind of care of souls among us today!


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