Every musician knows the importance of rehearsals: great performances don't just happen. Likewise, every minister knows the importance of preparation; great sermons don't just happen either. Careful preparation and practice are essential before these and other ingredients are ready to be presented in worship.
The importance of this care is obvious. In worship, God is our true audience—and he certainly has a right to our very best. As a searcher of hearts, he knows when our performance and motivation are second-rate.
Robin MacKenzie has been making banners for seventeen years—at first as gifts for friends and family and later as expressions of faith that she could share with her larger family, the church. MacKenzie describes dark times in her life—times when she felt frightened, refected, and inadequate. Then she smiles, recalling how God led her through those dark hours to find new purpose in creating banners that reflect the faith and worship of God's people. She explains that often as she works on a banner, she finds the word or the theme is fust what she needs to refresh her spirit.
This year, 1988, marks the 250th anniversary of the conversions of John and Charles Wesley and the 200th anniversary of Charles Wesley's death. In light of the tremendous contributions these men made to Christian hymnody, RW asked Merwin Van Doornik to tell the Wesleys' story and to remind readers of some of the beautiful hymns Charles Wesley left as a legacy to Christians everywhere.
Exactly how does a worship leader prepare to lead the congregation each Sunday in worship? If my experience is typical, many leaders spend most of their time preparing the various elements of worship—such as the sermon or congregational prayer—and give little attention to preparing themselves for that majestic privilege of ushering people into the presence of God.
What strange creatures we are! We meticulously groom ourselves to meet some human dignitary but will waltz unthinkingly into the presence of the Almighty.
When I was a child, my father served on the sacraments committee of our church. That sounded like an important job to me: the sacraments were the most awe-inspiring actions I had yet experienced. No wonder I was surprised and disappointed to discover that "sacraments committee" was just a fancy name for the people who cut bread, washed dishes, and filled the font before baptism. I expected more, I guess.
In Into His Presence James De Jong describes worship as a dialogue in which God's people receive God's greeting, pardon, instruction, and blessing, as well as respond in confession, thanksgiving, and praise. Many times the music in our services has blurred this view of Reformed worship. Howard Hageman tells of a worship service he attended in which the congregation had as much music to listen to as it did to sing, and the music had little or no relationship to actions of receiving and responding.
Cory Atwood. Wilton, Conn.: More-house-Barlow, 1986, 82pp., $9.95.
Inspired by the growing use of banners in worship, many people have considered becoming banner makers. Some have succeeded. Others have hesitated, unsure of where to begin or what's involved in making a banner. Banners for Beginners offers clear guidelines that will help potential banner makers translate their ideas into banners that enhance worship.
I am no liturgical expert. But I do care about liturgy and often feel its power to lift or depress, to focus or scatter attention. Especially, I feel its power to attach us to Jesus Christ.
Given the nature of my ministerial work, I am able to get out for a fair amount of guest preaching. Usually a consistory wants the newcomer to lead worship as well as preach, but sometimes others lead. In either case, a guest preacher both participates in and observes an already established pattern. Such experiences prompt the following observations.
As the new choir season gets under way each fall, many choral groups begin rehearsing anthems for two festive services: Reformation Sunday and Thanksgiving Day. Fortunately, a wealth of material is available for these two events. Many published anthems are based on familiar hymns associated with the Reformation and on traditional hymns of thanksgiving. You'll find some of those anthems listed on this page.
During a recent coffee break, the conversation wandered into worship. One colleague commented that services at her church weren't much fun.
This Service of Thanksgiving was submitted by Rev. Donald Jansma, pastor of the Reformed Church of Palos Heights, Illinois. Parts of it were borrowed from the Hunger Packet distributed by the R. C.A. in 1985.
*Everyone who is able, please stand.
The Approach to God
Organ Prelude: "Now Thank We All Our God"
E. Hovland and G. Kauffman
Introit: "Father, We Thank Thee"
Call to Worship
Thanks for beginning my RW subscription. And kudos on your work! I deeply appreciated RW 6—especially the Perspectives. I particularly valued the articles on fasting and the Pascal Vigil and the gem on the Ash Wednesday service.
Herman E. Luben
New York, New York
In reference to your article "Fasting" in RW 6,I would like to point out that the Westminster Standards do give instructions concerning public fasting.
Prelude: Our Father, Who Art in Heaven J.S.Bach
* Processional Hymn: Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven Rejoice in the Lord 144
st. 1-3 all
st. 4 choirs
st. 5 all
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-4
New Psalter Hymnal Arrives
The week of April 11 was intense, to say the least. We had scheduled our first Psalter Hymnal conference in Kalamazoo, MI, on Saturday, April 16—before we discovered that the printer couldn't deliver the books until the end of April. Fortunately the printer provided a solution: he promised a small advance shipment (with hand- rather than machine-sewn bindings) just to cover that conference and one the following week in Edmonton, AB.
Psalm 34: Lord, I Bring My Songs to You
Psalm 34 is one of those psalms that the Bible explains in a fascinating heading: "When he [David] pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left." The psalm, constructed as an acrostic in Hebrew, is a prayer of thanksgiving for deliverance, followed by an invitation to others to join in the praise (st. 1-2). From praise, the psalm moves to instruction in godly living (st. 3—6).
In issue 7 of RW our Service Planning encompassed the beginning of the Season after Pentecost, and the Scripture commentary dealt with the three Common Lectionary passages for each Sunday. For this issue we have chosen the close of the Season after Pentecost (October 9-November 13), and rather than providing comment on all three passages, we have focused on the gospel reading. This focus will encourage preaching a brief series on one book—an aim of the lectionary for this season.
By special request, Tyrone Mitchell, seven years old and a member of the Brookside Assembly of God in town, visited First Church last Sunday to bring them a ministry in music. Just like the pros, he took along his own hand-held microphone—one of those big ones with the round, red ball on the end. He took along his own cassette player too—a tiny unit that miraculously held a six-piece country-western band. And when he stood up in front, he put on a Norman Rockwell smile beneath his bush of dark black hair and bright happy eyes.
I was on a pilgrimage, it seemed, not fully sure of my destination. An interest in Vincent Van Gogh took my wife and me to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. On our way to Aries, in southern France, we drove to the ecumenical community of Taize to spend the weekend.
In recent years, many pastors have changed their approach to preaching. The lectio continua method, long a cherished Reformed tradition, has been replaced by series shaped by themes or outlined by the Common Lectionary or based on the preacher's pet topics. In this article Hughes Oliphant Old argues that the lectio continua approach is as effective in today's pulpits as it was in the pulpits of the early Reformation.
As congregations in the Reformed and Presbyterian traditions awaken to the possibilities of enhancing the visual dimension of worship, paraments arc becoming more common in our churches. Paraments are cloth hangings that adorn I lie pulpit mid the communion table. They usually bear the colors of the liturgicaly ear and symbols, such as a crown of thorns or a flame. Some paraments symbolize special events in the life of the church, such as a baptism or a missions festival.