The Three Great Days: Remembering Christ's death and resurrection calls for more than worship on Easter (and all the 'little Easters')
How many extra services does your church plan during Holy Week? Traditionally, most Presbyterian and Reformed congregations have held a service on Good Friday. Some have also gathered for a sunrise service on Easter morning. But few have considered anything further.
In recent years, that pattern has begun to change. Worship planners have enthusiastically discovered the riches of a liturgical heritage that goes beyond traditional Holy Week offerings, and have added new services to their Holy Week schedules.
The worship committee has a fine idea. Several other churches in the area have used an Advent wreath for years, and the committee thinks it's about time that John Knox Church does so as well. They construct the wreath, purchase candles in appropriate liturgical colors, and invite a family to read the Scripture and light the candle on the first Sunday of Advent.
I am writing these words on the first anniversary of my father's death. Before he died, he suffered for nearly three months with bowel cancer. He had a tumor removed a year earlier, but the cancer reappeared. He was eighty-two, and he did not want further surgery; he was eager to go home to be with his Lord.
I'm in trouble when it comes to the seeker service. Not with anyone else, but with myself. I usually evaluate a new idea in light of some basic convictions I hold to, and then come to some conclusions. But when I evaluate the seeker service in light of such convictions, I come out both for it and against it.
How many members of your congregation are taking organ lessons? How many have pianos in their homes? Probably far fewer than a generation ago. Some congregations are getting desperate to find competent organists.
If the trend continues, we could consider going back to unaccompanied singing, typical of the early days of the Protestant Reformation. It's likely, though, that few congregations would have much success with acapel-la singing. Our culture is simply not a singing culture.
It happened in a Christian Reformed Church one Sunday night during the intermission of a Calvin Seminary Choir program. As director of the choir, I had asked two of the seminarians to say a few words about their background and plans for ministry. First came Bruce Gritter—a young Canadian student, full of enthusiam. Then Gabriella Farkas spoke.
Generalizations are dangerous, but I'll hazard one. I have visited enough churches in The Netherlands to generalize that usually not a soul or body in those congregations will so much as nod a greeting at a visitor. After the service there may be occasional "hellos" among friends, but few people linger. Five minutes after the benediction both the sanctuary and the bicycle parking lot are empty.
I'm at the age now where I'm getting invitations to weddings of the next generation: nieces, nephews, and children of friends. Weddings haven't changed that much from a generation ago. For that matter, weddings have stayed remarkably unchanged for centuries. They, along with funerals, are just about the only ceremonies left in our culture that are broadly celebrated in similar ways.