I first saw Stuart Townend at a Worship Together conference in Waterloo, Ontario, two and a half years ago. He led the worship, and his voice, combined with a musical sensitivity to the needs of the songs and the Holy Spirit, culminated in a session that I will long remember. I came home that night inspired by a new song that is becoming a well-known, modern hymn for the church: “In Christ Alone” (see p. 33). My aim here is to introduce readers to a gifted songwriter who has written many new songs for the church.
How should a worship leader respond to the individual who wants to offer a gift of music or some other performing art in a worship service? What standard do we use to determine if a believer is gifted in the area of interest? How should a worship leader decide if, in fact, including particular individuals in certain roles is appropriate in corporate worship? Are there biblical principles that can help worship leaders make such decisions?
This festival of song based on Romans 8 was the concluding service of the Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts, January 2003. It would be especially appropriate for use anytime between Ascension and Pentecost, or as background material for any service based on a portion of Romans 8. The entire chapter of Romans 8 was proclaimed from memory by different people who had been coached by Dennis Dewey (see RW 65). For this service, we celebrated in song the gifts from the body of Christ from many times and places, united by the power of the Spirit.
For the past three years our church has planned a hymn festival service to mark the closing of the choir season before the summer break. We are a medium-sized congregation (400 members) blessed with several instrumentalists. In addition to organ and piano, this year we were able to add two flutes, four violins, and five brass players.
For all of its significance in the church year, creating a visual for Ascension Day is a tough assignment. Christs work on earth was done and he returned to heaven to take his rightful place. The tricky part in representing this idea is the mix of tangible and intangible. We can imagine what it might be like to be among the disciples, but what about the part about Christ being taken into heaven and, as Mark writes, sitting at the right hand of God? Both ideas are critical to our understanding of what Christ did for us.
Q. I find my own worship suffering because of my role as a worship leader. I’m too concerned for the details of the service to really enter into worship. Any advice?
A. This question comes up regularly in classes I’ve taught. Here are some insightful comments from my students, many of them veteran leaders:
In RW 69, we announced a new column on technology issues in worship, to alternate occasionally with the column “What’s on the Web.” This first article concentrates on the worship questions that precede the technical questions in using visual images.
I remember unsettling conversations in the fellowship hall after worship. A middle-aged woman once said to me, “We returned home from Bethel Christian camp last night and the worship there was so inspiring! My husband and I were deeply blessed. I must confess it was difficult to worship here again this morning.” Another time a teen had this to say: “We got back late last night from a week-long SERVE project. It was a blast! We all felt so close to each other and I grew so much in my walk with God.
Marva Dawn. Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale, 2003. 191 pp. $8.79.
The Worship Sourcebook stands in a long tradition of worship books in the Christian church. The biblical Psalms may well have functioned as a prayer book for the people of Israel. Some of the earliest Christians compiled their advice about forms and patterns of worship into church order documents, the first of which, the Didache, dates back perhaps into the first century a.d. Over time, especially in the early medieval period, these documents grew very complex, with detailed instructions about every aspect of worship.
Michael Bausch. Alban Institute, 2002. ISBN 1-56699-271-0. 137 pp. (paperback). $14.50.
In this book, intended for leaders and those on the front lines of worship planning, Bausch explores underlying issues, examples of multimedia, processes of building acceptance, and some practical considerations concerning uses and resources.
The church confesses that God is the maker of heaven and earth and of all things within them. This conviction about origins has great implications for the way we view the world around us. We care for this world, we see beauty in it, we recognize God’s glory expressed in it, we aim to protect it, and we grieve when it is abused and damaged. The church also confesses that God has created all human beings in his own image.
Gail Ramshaw. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2002. 408 pp. $24.50.
Reformed churches are rediscovering the joy of evangelism in their congregations. The Heidelberg Catechism says that our faith in Christ comes from the Holy Spirit, who produces it in our hearts “by the preaching of the holy gospel” (Q&A 65). And believers must use their gifts that “others may be gained to Christ” (Q&A 86). At Corinth Reformed United Church, we are discovering new ways to share the good news.
Literary Companion to the Lectionary: Readings Throughout the Year by Mark Pryce. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002. xiii+143 pp. (paperback).
Literary Companion to the Festivals by Mark Pryce. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003. xvii+189 pp. (paperback). $11.90.
The Urge to Grow
Thanks for your encouraging words in “All Churches Great and Small” (RW 69). We at Home Acres Reformed are one of the “small” churches. We are growing—slowly—but this is our challenge. As an urban congregation in a unique community, how do we structure/present worship to attract our neighbors?
We have fantastic opportunities and we need to embrace them in a most effective way, as we present the wonderful love of God.
When Andy and Sarah Kim bought a row house on Wingohocking Street in the Hunting Park section of North Philadelphia a few years ago, they did so because they wanted to be a part of the community and ministry of Spirit and Truth Fellowship. They are raising their three children among neighbors who are mostly Puerto Rican and African American. Andy, a graduate of nearby Westminster Seminary, is a social worker in the city, serves as an elder at the church, and leads one of the Wednesday night “growth cells” at his home.
Conference on Liturgy and Music (COLAM) 2004
The Church Together: Exploring Intergenerational Worship
Denver, Colorado, July 7-10
Ever wonder how best to minister to the multiple generations in your congregation? Or been frustrated when the needs of one group seem to conflict with another group within your church? How do you go about leading and planning worship for a diverse congregation? Is it possible?
Ever been scheduled to both take the offering and play the offertory during the same service? Found yourself the sole soprano while singing hymns? Been locked out of your worship space because the only two keyholders were both out of town? If so, you probably belong to a smaller congregation.
Three years ago, a major construction project at First Presbyterian Church was coming to an end. As the architect put it, we were more than doubling “our footprint” on the property. Membership growth through the 1990s had made the building expansion necessary, and our members—bless ’em—had stepped up generously to support the cost, which was substantial—more, in fact, than I ever dreamed we could raise.