It was an ordinary Sunday morning for the church in Obala, a village 40 kilometers from Cameroon’s capital city of Yaoundé. But for me it was anything but ordinary as I witnessed the evangelical power of singing that called people to worship the triune God.
In August 2006, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship sponsored an amazing trip to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. Nine Institute staff members, myself included, spent a month meeting with worshiping communities there.
In part one of this two-part article, Calvin Van Reken argues that the church ought to reclaim the practice of calling God’s people to obedient living. I encourage you to take time to read this article, to think it through, and to discuss it with your worship planning group or others in your church community.
The hundred-year-old church building where Grace Central Presbyterian (PCA) Church worships sits in the heart of the Short North arts district of Columbus, Ohio. It’s a neighborhood known for its unabashed creativity and eclectic character. Located between downtown Columbus and Ohio State University, the name comes from the shorthand term police used for the area in the 1970s and early ’80s when it suffered from a high crime rate. Since its revitalization, the Short North’s brick streets and historic buildings have become home to small galleries, shops, and restaurants.
Images often say more than words ever could. A gripping example of this is a sketch titled Christ Helps Hungry Children created in London in 1945 by Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980). At first glance the sketch looks like a typical depiction of the crucifixion. But this specific rendering has several layers of meaning, all centering on the concept of solidarity.
Have you ever stumbled across a phrase in your reading that was so packed with truth you were compelled to stop and reflect? Like a delectable dessert that needs to be lingered over, or a favorite book or movie you return to again and again, you roll the phrase over and over in your mind.
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake . . . all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer . . . thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself. We are all here!’”
If we’re honest with ourselves, we know we’re not always in the “right” frame of mind to plan or lead worship. Much as we might hate to admit it, outside factors do affect our view of worship at a Tuesday night planning meeting or a Sunday morning service. We may be struggling with financial issues, grieving the loss of a friend, or dealing with a family member’s difficult illness. Or we may just be tired and crabby after a long day or a traffic jam.
When Steve Caton gets that glint in his eye and I see that hint of a smile working around the edges of his mouth, I know he has something unusual in mind.
Steve, the Director of Worship and Arts at Covenant Life Church, had just stuck his head in my door and said, “How about if we have the congregation go out into the community for some kind of service activity on that Sunday?” I knew exactly which day he was talking about: an upcoming Sunday when he and many key members of our worship leadership team would be out of town.
Sing! A New Creation includes a delightful little sung meditation by John Bell of the Iona Community that has as its opening line, “Take, O take me as I am; summon out what I shall be” (SNC 215).
Q: Why should we observe Trinity Sunday when it isn’t a clear event in Scripture? What is gained from dedicating one Sunday a year to this theme?
A: It is true that Trinity Sunday is unlike Pentecost and Christmas in that it doesn’t focus on a particular historical narrative.
Union with Christ is the basis for our relationship with the triune God. By it we may join Jesus in joyful communion with the Father in the loving bond of the Holy Spirit so the deepest longings of our souls are satisfied. The meaning of our lives unfolds in loving and serving the God with whom we are united. This, in turn, leads to communion in love with others and meaningful service to the world.
If I say that good worship requires good chemistry, I imagine you’ll think I mean the kind of chemistry that exists between preachers and musicians, or between hymn text and melody. But at The King’s University College we recently discovered that good worship can also include good chemistry of the traditional bubbling test tube, don’t-spill-the-acid variety—and we learned that the converse is also true: good chemistry requires good worship.
In a phone conversation with my sister, I mentioned that I had led a session at a conference called “With a Shout! What Difference Does the Ascension Make for Everyday Life?” There was a long pause on the other end of the line, followed by a bewildered “Why would you spend a whole day talking about the ascension?”
Experiential Worship by Bob Rognlien. Navpress, 2005.
This volume is a treasure for all who are eager to move beyond balance, blend, or convergence in worship to a holistic, communal encounter with God.
Our God goes up with shouts of joy!
Our Lord ascends to the sound of trumpets!
All: Sing praises to our God, sing praises!
Sing praises, sing praises to our King!
The Almighty rides in triumph.
The Almighty leads captivity captive.
Who shouts for joy?
Our church purchased an LCD (liquid crystal display) projector two years ago. As we incorporated this new technology it was important to us that it would not distract from worship’s narrative but support it as we made the ancient come alive in the present.
Audio Links for Psalter Hymnal and Sing! A New Creation
Since we’ve updated our website, we’ve heard from many of you who want to know where to find the audio links for the songs included in these two songbooks.
Here’s how to find them: visit www.FaithAliveResources.org and type in “Psalter audio” or “Sing audio” in the search box.
The Day of Pentecost is a festival that could easily develop an inferiority complex if its liturgical value were measured by Protestant celebration.
Pentecost, like its first cousins Epiphany and Ascension, passes unnoticed in many congregations. It doesn’t possess the intrinsic “awe” factor of Christmas or the “wow” of Easter. But Pentecost is an amazing holy day. It marks the end of a whole season of resurrection celebration and the beginning (or re-energizing) of Spirit-led, day-to-day, rubber-meets-the-road ministry.
Our liturgical arts committee aims to include color, music, motion, and symbolism in worship. For Pentecost, we wanted to symbolize how the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with wind and flame.
There are many ways to depict a flame, but depicting wind is more difficult. To capture the motion of both and remind us of the motion of the Holy Spirit, we used wind to blow the flames of an 8-foot-tall fabric fire.
Lots of people walk or drive by your church building each week. What does it say about you?
You keep the place fixed up. It’s accessible to people with disabilities. You make sure the landscaping is kept up. What else can you do to get your neighbors to visit your church? To pique their curiosity?
Our church follows the seasons of the Christian year and the lectionary Scripture passages, changing banners and colors accordingly. When we planned a service called “Singing Through the Christian Year,” it provided us with the opportunity to “walk through” the Christian year in one evening and to reprise many of the choir anthems we had learned and used in services over the past year.