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God in three persons: service plans for a four-week series on the Trinity

My children still can’t believe that I am unable to discern the three-dimensional image in a magic-eye picture. “Dad, go like this,” they advise, looking at the picture cross-eyed, or touching their nose to the surface and backing up slowly. But no matter what I try, still no image. Only a vague sense of failure and frustration. “Don’t worry, Dad,” they say with a sympathetic pat on the shoulder, “you’ll get it one day.”

The Care and Keeping of Church Musicians: It takes money and a lot more, page 1 of 2

At the end of a typical week a church musician may have served in any number of complicated and varied roles: counselor, teacher, guide, disciplinarian, stage director, consultant, financial planner, worship leader, accompanist, program director, rock musician, classical musician, researcher, biblical interpreter, babysitter, set-up crew, cleanup crew, and more. Was it worth it? If the congregation was led to a more inspired worship of God, then yes, it was worth it. Can it be done again next week? Next month? Next year? That depends.

I'm Waiting: A thoughtful approach to using the Advent wreath in worship

Once again the Advent season approaches, and with it comes a challenge for many congregations: How do we light the Advent wreath with integrity, so that its lighting encourages and enables a faithful passing on of the Christian faith?

Faced with this challenge, our congregation developed certain standards or guidelines for the rite of lighting the candles of the Advent wreath. Specifically, we want this rite to

More Than Technique: All worship planners and leaders have a pastoral calling

This article is adapted from an address Witvliet gave at the inauguration of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Most of us probably read Reformed Worship for practical ideas. We want to find resources, songs, texts, scripts, and images that we can use in our congregations—preferably by next week.

From the Realms of Glory: An angel banner and bulletin notes for Advent

God used angels to announce the news of the coming of Christ. As I thought about the first coming of Christ and the promise of his second coming, the following Scripture verses came to me—and out of those verses came the concept and design for the angel banner. The Scripture verses were placed in the bulletin for each Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day. Along with the banner, those verses served as an invitation for the people to prepare their hearts for worship.

Should Seekers Be Invited to the Table? A pastor struggles with hard questions

The puzzled look in her eyes told me I would have to suspend judgment and get back to her after I had studied the matter.

Recognizing the Body: Discovering that the church is bigger than my own tradition

Shortly after I made public profession of faith in the Christian Reformed Church I grew up in, several members of our church (including our youth group and my parents) attended a Roman Catholic folk mass in our town. A group of priests had been attending a lecture series in our church, and they, in response to our hospitable welcome, invited us to worship with them. Towards the end of the service, everyone was invited to come forward to receive the Eucharist.

More Than Words: Grace-ful gestures at the table

A visitor to our seminary chapel once asked me to show him the "sign language" I used when presiding at the Lord's Supper. He thought that it made the service "dramatic," but was confused that I gestured throughout the course of the eucharistic prayer, since during prayer eyes were to be closed and heads bowed.

Too Spiritual for Our Own Good: Why we fail to see God acting in the sacraments

There is a telling soliloquy in Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins that neatly sums up my concern in this article. Dr. Thomas More, Percy's Catholic protagonist, is having some conflict with his Protestant wife, Ellen, on matters of religious practice.

Lift Up Your Hearts...and Voices: Involving the congregation in the Communion liturgy through song

On occasion I have attended churches where much of the liturgy was sung, allowing the congregation to become more active participants in their worship. I thought that we had been missing out on a rich worship experience by not having this kind of service at Plymouth Heights. After discussions with our preaching pastor and liturgy committee, I was encouraged to develop such a service.