Every year more North American congregations are discovering the beauty of a traditional English service called, very simply, "Nine Lessons and Carols." The structure of the service is as simple as the title: nine passages of Scripture are followed by nine carols. But the content of those readings and the traditional way of conducting the service have become very meaningful to many congregations.
"It's Tuesday and I still don't know what hymns we're going to sing on Sunday! I don't even have the text or sermon topic. How am I supposed to choose organ music that will integrate with the service"?"
Just then the phone rings. It's the pastor, and he's chosen his text. He's selected some hymns too, although he's still not sure which stanzas to sing.
"Oh well, at least I can choose the prelude, postlude, and offertory. I'll work on the hymns later—after he decides about the stanzas."
Symbols are an important part of Reformed worship. We use light and darkness, crosses, doves, shepherds and sheep to help us see God, who in Christ and through the Spirit is redeeming us. We do this because as Reformed Christians we believe that life and worship are one. A variety of media is appropriate in the Reformed worship service. Increasingly, wood and glass, architecture, inspiring banners, paintings, musical compositions, and liturgical dance are being used to touch our hearts and to help us sing God's praise.
If the most important role of a choir is to lead congregational singing, then the hymn concertatos must rank very high on the list of choral music for worship. Folkert describes how concertatos have added to his own congregation's celebration in worship and recommends several within the range of the average church choir.
Reformation and Thanksgiving
A Mighty Fortress (ein feste burg— Martin Luther) arr. Hal H. Hopson; cong., satb, organ, optional brass and timpani, choir sings one st. in original rhythm (Augsburg 11–2219 $.80); sep. brass parts 11–2220)
Hope of the World (donne se–cours—Genevan Psalter) arr. Carl Schalk; cong., satb, organ, brass quartet, timpani, choir sings a setting by Goudimel (1564) (Agape HSA 101 $.80)
The Hymn of the Month features old as well as new hymns for worship. Some hymns are presented simply, others in festive arrangements for choirs, congregations, and instruments.
If a hymn is new to your congregation, you may want to sing it once every Sunday during the month so that the people become familiar with it. On the other hand, hymns that are already familiar to the congregation may be sung only once during the month or saved for another occasion.
Presenting a new magazine—"Here I am, read me!"–seems presumptuous. We, who have produced the magazine, presume that you, who now hold it in your hand, are interested enough to read it. We presume you won’t flip it into the wastebasket as junk mail. And we hope you will subscribe and read future issues.
Much of what we’ve presumed is expressed in our statement of purpose:
By Hughes Oliphant Old. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984, 202 pp., $9.60.
If I could, I would assign the reading and careful discussion of Old's book to every Presbyterian and Reformed pastor, seminary student, and person who in any way plans or shapes worship services. It is that good, that thorough, that basic, that important!
Most Christians would be horrified if a ban were placed on the celebration of Christmas—as some claim happened in Boston many years ago. Yet many are reluctant to celebrate other holy days from the Christian church year. Seasons like Advent, Epiphany, and Lent seem to have a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian aura about them.
By William H. Willimon. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984, 116 pp., $7.95
Those who prefer to keep worship frozen in always-the-same forms like to quote C. S. Lewis's essay "Liturgy." Lewis felt that a service "works best ... when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. ... My whole liturgical position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity."
Christians began to celebrate the second exodus of Calvary/empty tomb, just as the Israelites had celebrated the first exodus from Egypt/Red Sea.
Edited by Erik Routley Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985, 624 songs, $12.95.
A few years ago Rev. Calvin Bolt underwent what he smilingly calls a "liturgical conversion." Since then, Bolt has taken a new approach to the planning and practice of the worship service, an approach he finds stimulating and beneficial for himself and his congregation.
Philip E. Johnson. New York: Pilgrim Press, 1985, 120 pp., $7.95.
The popularity of children’s messages has fostered a whole genre of books written for pastors and others asked to demonstrate during worship that children are not second–class Christians.
Imagine how it must have appeared from heaven. Members of the congregation seemed to be competing with one another when one had a hymn to sing, another a word of instruction, another a revelation, another a tongue or an interpretation. In his first letter to these Corinthian Christians Paul rebuked them: "God is not a God of disorder but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33). Spontaneity had apparently brought chaos to these worship services in Corinth.
I REJOICE IN THE LORD SELLING WELL
Rejoice in the Lord, the first hymnal produced solely by the Reformed Church in America (RCA), has sold nearly 40,000 copies since it was first released in June of 1985 (see review on page 46).
Few churches place as much emphasis on preaching as we in the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition do. A worship service without a well-developed sermon leaves many, perhaps even most, of our seasoned members feeling empty. And in many of our churches one carefully prepared sermon a Sunday is but half of what members expect. When Sunday comes, congregations look forward to hearing two carefully thought-out expositions of God's Word.
Most of us are not eager to add another special service to the calendar, and if observing Reformation Day just leads to another hour of Rome-bashing, we may as well skip it. But gratitude for our heritage and reflection on what it means to be Reformed today are not soon out of season; combining these elements in one service can add color and depth to our worship.
A LITANY OF THANKSGIVING (I)
Let us give thanks to the Lord, our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. Let us remember his mercy, for he is gracious and compassionate.
We thank you for calling us to faith in Christ,
for putting your Spirit within us,
for giving us the mind of Christ,
for gathering us into your church.
The practice of preaching according to a lectionary is an old one, although Reformed and Presbyterian churches have not always used this method. The lectionary encourages both pastor and congregation to focus on the great salvation events recorded in Scripture. (See the article on page 14 for further background.)
The Advent wreath, at first glance, is just a pleasing seasonal decoration, much like strings of lights or mistletoe. A ring of evergreens, five bright candles—what could be more appropriate for the Christmas season? Not until worshipers understand how the wreath symbolizes the meaning of the Advent season do they begin seeing in the evergreen and candles a visual reminder of the coming of Christ.