This is the second in a series of articles about encouraging faith formation in your congregation’s worship.
You may be wondering why we chose to profile Mars Hill Bible Church, since usually we profile churches within the Reformed tradition. Mars Hill, led by Rob Bell, has a national reputation for being a growing, leading-edge church. While many churches are grappling with the seeming exodus of their young adults, Mars Hill and churches like it are attracting young adults in droves. That led me to wonder what it was about Mars Hill that appealed to young adults, and what we can learn from that church.
In RW 85, Corwin Smidt wrote an article on politics and worship from a United States perspective (“Pulpit Politics: Are They Oil and Water?” RW 85). This time we’ve invited a couple of Canadians to give their perspective on the same topic.
God sees the plight of refugees. He hates the injustice that leads to their displacement from home and country. The church, called to emulate God’s character, must also care about the hardships of refugees. One way to do so is to incorporate into a worship service a celebration of God’s just character and a call to care for refugees by performing this drama.
Q My cousin’s church now celebrates communion early in the service before the kids leave for children’s church. Is there anything wrong with that? Wouldn’t that be a good plan for those of us hoping to incorporate children more fully in the sacrament?
In his fine book The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen describes how and when he first saw Rembrandt’s painting by that title:
Solid. According to an online dictionary, solid means, among other things, “being of a substantial character; not superficial, trifling, or frivolous; real or genuine; sober-minded; fully reliable or sensible.” Solid—it’s a good word; a solid word.
It’s about halfway through the Sunday morning service, and Pastor Tim is standing at the communion table holding a loaf of bread in his hands. He is about to bless the bread, break it, and share it with God’s people. He is feeding the flock of God.
Earlier in the service he fed the congregation by reading and expounding on God’s Word. After that he invited them into prayer for the church and the world. Word, prayer, and meal—these are food for the flock, means of grace. And they are the place where pastoral care begins.
The handbell choir may be the ultimate expression of music-making as a community of believers. The ensemble cannot function without each individual; at the same time, the contribution of each individual is meaningless apart from the whole. This reality, however, makes supporting a handbell choir difficult for churches that simply cannot enlist enough qualified ringers to rehearse on a regular basis.
Lord’s Supper Responses from Readers
Previous issues of RW invited readers to share reflections of their participation in the Lord’s Supper as well as creative expressions of the teaching related to the Lord’s Supper. Included below are some reader responses. Please continue to send us your thoughts and creative ideas in anticipation of RW 88, a theme issue on the Lord’s Supper.
The service of Tenebrae, meaning “darkness” or “shadows,” has been practiced by the church since medieval times. Once a service for the monastic community, Tenebrae later became an important part of the worship of the common folk during Holy Week. We join Christians of many generations throughout the world in using the liturgy of Tenebrae.
Tenth Anniversary of CICW
The staff of Reformed Worship would like to congratulate our ministry partner the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. We are very grateful for the way God has used the CICW to promote a healthy dialogue and practice of worship, and we’re grateful for its ongoing support of Reformed Worship.
This service presents a dramatic reading of Matthew 26 and 27 with an introduction from Matthew 21. A narrator reads all the sections that tie the dialogue together. Songs are used at the end of each logical sequence to bridge to the next section.
Good Friday is a day of confrontation, a day when the forces of hatred and evil tried their best, or rather, their worst, to destroy Jesus. This is no “warm fuzzy” worship service. Instead it dramatically challenges participants to experience the reality of Christ’s crucifixion through all five senses, so the significance of Christ’s sacrifice is not only understood but felt. Here we acknowledge the ugliness of sin and our own participation, through our sins, in Christ’s death. We are there when they crucify our Lord.
Lent begins in dust and ash: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Many an Ash Wednesday I have left worship and gone into grocery stores or ridden public transportation with ashes on my forehead. When I next glance at myself in a restroom mirror, I quickly wipe off the smudge. The dust is met with water and washes clean away.
During Lent 2004, our church focused on its furnishings as a way of learning how God uses the ordinary things in our lives to make the common holy.
This column has addressed the “cross/screen” dilemma once before (“There’s an Elephant in Our Sanctuary,” RW 79). Here you’ll find another proposed solution to the problem.
An artist I worked with some time ago said he would never include a cross in his art in any form. It was simply too powerful a symbol for him. At the time, I didn’t know how to respond. His reverence humbled me and changed the way I think about this most-recognized symbol.
This liturgy has three movements: confession, assurance, and rededication. It’s as though the reconciliation part of worship that is common in many Reformed churches is magnified to encompass the entire service.
Because I refer to him in the meditation, I used Saint Augustine’s words about finding rest in God as the opening sentences. This theme is immediately picked up again in the gathering hymn, especially in stanza 4. Another
communion hymn that echoes this theme is “In the Quiet Consecration” (PsH 302).
This sunrise service began with contemplative instrumental music. Because the service was held indoors, a picture of a sunrise was projected on the screen before the service and during each of the prayer/reading segments. Parts for Reader 1 were adapted from an Easter prayer titled “Lord God, Early in the Morning,” from Stages on the Way by John L. Bell and Wild Goose Worship Group © 2000, GIA Publications, Inc. p. 184)
Call to Worship: “Come into His Presence” CH 420, SNC 3, SFL 4, WR 119
This is the second of a two-part series on the church year. Part 1 presented a general context for the use of the church year and a brief introduction to the Christmas cycle. This installment will discuss the Easter cycle—the most ancient of the church’s celebrations—as well as the twentieth-century developments that have pointed us back toward this useful tool for telling the good news.
The three songs presented here are taken from the soon-to-be-released collection Singing the New Testament—a wonderful new resource based on texts from Matthew to Revelation and jointly published by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and Faith Alive Christian Resources. In RW 85 we introduced three Advent and Christmas songs from this collection. Here are three more songs: two from the gospels and one from Romans 8.