Today we have immense control over our music. With the advent of MP3 players we can skip, shuffle, delete, and mix genres. We can listen alone or with others, listen on or off the phone, listen in the car or on a walk outside. While we listen we can view photographs, videos, play computer games, or check the location of the nearest Starbucks. Music is available to us where we want it, when we want it, and how we want it.
Disturbing.” “Odd.” “What does it have to do with worship?” These are just a few responses I’ve heard to the cover image of this issue. What does The Eyes of Gutete Emerita by Alfredo Jaar have to do with worship?
When we look into Gutete’s eyes, what do we see? Anguish? Despair? Christ? Do we see a child of God? Our sister? She has a name; she has no voice. Will we speak and pray on her behalf? Will we sing the songs she needs to hear?
Rochester Christian Reformed Church, New York, crafts its own Lord’s Supper litanies to help connect the theme of the service or the season of the Christian year with the sacrament. This is the first of several litanies they will be sharing with RW readers. It is based on the sacramental sections of the Belgic Confession, one of the confessions held by many Reformed denominations.
Planning a service that incorporates staff, volunteers, and a congregation can feel like a particularly daunting task. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel—while each church is unique, there are general planning techniques that can be helpful to almost any worship planner. Our church finds the following outline helpful. It is not a detailed map, but it does provide the fundamentals. The trick is for each church to find what works best for its own staff, volunteers, and congregation.
The atmosphere was electric. Worshipers came in, greeted each other with friendly chatter, and found seats as close to the front as they could. It was obvious even before the service began that this worship time would be much more energetic and celebratory than what our English-speaking Christian Reformed congregation was used to!
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
It’s not often that the closing session of an adult Sunday school class is the beginning of something new, but that’s what happened at our church.
- Our church has a part-time worship coordinator and rotating worship teams, but everyone is feeling burned out. What advice do you have for restructuring our work?
- Our music director is retiring, and we want to revise the job description. We want to involve more people in worship.
Christ’s ascension is a pretty big deal. Saint Luke includes detailed accounts of Jesus’ instruction, blessing, and supernatural departure in both the ending of his “first book” (Luke 24:44-53) and the beginning of his “second book” (Acts 1:1-11). And those in the Reformed tradition stress the importance of Christ’s ascension as a witness and guarantee of our own resurrection as well as a call to evangelism, justice, and compassion (see, for example, Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 46-52).
The Association of American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island has seventy-seven member congregations, including the historic First Baptist Church in America founded by Roger Williams in 1638. The mission of the association is to “resource our people and engage in Christ-centered ministries by promoting and building healthy pastors and healthy churches to bring the whole gospel to the whole world.”
Note: This litany has been adapted from Psalm 20:6, Revelation 5:12, and Romans 8:34.
Loving God, merciful Father, we wonder at your surpassing goodness, but we are discouraged by the evil we see in this world and in ourselves. We long to be your humble and faithful servants, but we always fall short. Even when we think we are doing your will, we are often deceived. How long before you bring an end to the world’s suffering?
How long, O Lord?
This readers’ theater was originally written and performed for a women’s Bible study event several years ago. It was also used in a worship service with members of our church’s Friendship program, a ministry for people with cognitive impairments
Scripture passages used include Revelation 19:9; Luke 14:16-23; Luke 15:22-23; John 4:1-26; Luke 19:1-10; Luke 23:42-43.
Note: This litany has been adapted from Acts 1:8 and Acts 2:1-4, 17-21.
When the day of Pentecost came, the twelve disciples, now with Matthias, were together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house. And they saw what looked like tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
On this day of Pentecost, we remember Christ’s great promise to us. Before he ascended from the earth, he said to the disciples:
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This prayer was used in a Pentecost service. Though the Spirit is not explicitly mentioned throughout, the Spirit is part of all that the Godhead does. This prayer, though appropriate for Pentecost, can easily be used and adapted for any worship service, particularly one with the theme of hope.
A little over a week ago, my seventy-seven-year-old father died unexpectedly. Although I can’t describe exactly how I am feeling, I’ve had the strongest desire to draw or paint or create something. Anything. I wonder why that is.
I also wonder what we’re going to do with the stack of beautiful cards sent to us, each filled with messages of hope and calls for God’s peace.
RW on Facebook
You may have noticed the Facebook link on our website and the symbol popping up in this very issue. While we have had a Facebook presence for about six months, we have not used it in relation to the print issue. Beginning with this issue, though, we will be choosing articles we think could use additional reflection as discussion starters on Facebook. We are eager to create a great online environment for us to be able to learn from each other.
Dear Church Musicians:
Is it not time, perhaps, to sing reformer Martin Luther’s great songs with the sprightly rhythm in which they were originally composed? The new translation included here could give fresh vigor to the canonic status of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
These days we’re connected to people all over the globe. The Internet and other electronic media allow us to be as “plugged in” as we want to be: websites and e-news blasts provide us with up-to-date information on what’s happening in the world (see sidebar).
As Christians, this awareness informs our personal devotions and our corporate worship whenever we intercede on behalf of those suffering from injustice in our own communities and around the world. It’s a natural step to put those prayers to music so that they may be sung by God’s people.
A few months ago a package arrived in the mail from a friend of RW. Inside was a full set of Liturgy and Music in Reformed Worship newsletters. This RW precursor set the trajectory for providing worship leaders and committees with practical assistance in planning, structuring, and conducting congregational worship in the Reformed tradition. Unlike back issues of Reformed Worship, the jewels in these newsletters are not available online, so we decided to share a few of them with you.
Download bulletin cover here.
Food is one of the cornerstones of God’s good creation. It nourishes and sustains God’s creatures. Its richness and diversity brings joy to many who delight in the bounty of gardens and grocery stores. But whenever food is hoarded, over-consumed, scarce, or withheld, it can also be emblematic of the brokenness of humanity. When access to nourishing food is lacking, justice is also lacking.
Note: All names in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.
My church has the smallest sanctuary I’ve ever seen. The front wall of the sanctuary used to be painted with a kind of 3-D archway or portal that was black inside. The painting was old, chipped, and mildewed along the bottom. I always wondered what it meant and who had put it there. When I started asking around, many parishioners admitted to being “creeped out” by the painting. Finally someone told me that the painting symbolized the tomb. Eventually we painted it over in order to brighten up the worship space.
Everybody loves stories. And, like children at bedtime, we never want our stories to end—we want them to go on and on. You could say we want an eternal story.