Worship and Justice
The following checklist was prepared as a handout at a session on worship and justice at the January 2003 Symposium on Worship and the Arts. It is also posted on the website of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (www.calvin.edu/worship).
Who are the “least” in our church? In our community? In our world? How can our worship reflect God’s special love and passionate concern for the “least” among us?
Can Songs Bring Reconciliation? A Conversation I-to Loh, Patrick Matsikenyiri, Mary Oyer, and Pablo Sosa, with C. Michael Hawn, Moderator
The following conversation was recorded at Symposium 2003, the conference on worship and the arts held at Calvin College each January. Participating in the conversation were several giants in the field of global song for Christian worship who have much to offer Western Christians from their years of ministry throughout the world:
There is a good-sized body of congregational song from which to choose that deals with justice: from the powerful simplicity of an African-American spiritual with its repeated plea “let my people go” to the texts that came out of the nineteenth-century Social Gospel movement to the bold, rich texts of our own time that deal with the complexities of feminist and liberation theologies. Through all of these runs a deep concern for the human condition that comes from an understanding of the implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the world.
These resources were submitted by Wendy deJong and the Worship Committee of Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, Saint Catharines, Ontario. For more complete service plans, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a typical Sunday at Fellowship Church. As the 10:30 a.m. starting time passes, worship leader Anne Berkenbosch calls vainly for attention amid a hubbub of conversation and entering latecomers. This morning, the task is particularly tough as the congregation’s newest members make their first appearance—twins whose perch at the back of this tiered atrium pulls members out of their seats for hugs and congratulations.
Q. Our newspapers are full of stories about crime, homelessness, the environment, and other societal problems. Why don’t we hear more about this in worship?
A. My hunch is that these themes are quite prominent in communities that face injustice but less so in more affluent places. It is always a temptation to prefer worship that comforts us without challenging us. But the gospel clearly involves both.
Part of what makes the World Wide Web so interesting is the way it links together things you wouldn’t ordinarily find in the same mental zip code. Two stray clicks and you’ve discovered a connection between the Great Barrier Reef and wine-soaked raisins; robotic sergers and distant quasars; justice and worship. To the church’s great shame, these last two items—working for justice and worshiping a just God—are too infrequently considered together.
Ouch. Kim used a translation of Scripture tonight—not sure which one—that was remarkable primarily for its gender exclusivity. This isn’t a God-talk issue (that’s a whole different conversation). But can we at least not go on and on in worship about the evil man and the good man and the blessed man and the foolish man and how God came to save men. . . .
What, women don’t need saving?
Most parishioners with hearing loss choose not to suffer the hassle and embarrassment of special receivers and headsets. Happily, there’s a better alternative—the broadcast of personalized sound directly through hearing aids.
C. Michael Hawn. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. 328 pp. $28.00. www.eerdmans.com.
Michael Hawn has given a great gift to North American worship leaders and congregations by providing a firsthand introduction to the most significant international leaders in congregational song today. The conversation on p. 26 offers a glimpse into the relationship between worship and justice in places beyond North America. Hawn has devoted chapters to each of those people and to others:
Justice + worship = passion. That succinct one-liner was offered by Elise, a college student, in response to two days of exploring the relationship between justice and worship at a recent conference (cosponsors included Reformed Worship and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship) at The King’s University College. Clearly she sensed that seeking and doing justice and offering worship are essential companions in the Christian life.
Lukas Vischer, editor. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. 432 pp. $40.00. www.eerdmans.com.
In the September 2001 issue of Reformed Worship (RW 61, p. 2), I reported on a trip to Geneva to attend an International Consultation on Reformed Worship. More than thirty people from almost as many countries gathered for a week at the John Knox Center (associated with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches). This book is the result of that consultation.
I would guess that some readers of RW will find the theme of this issue, namely, worship and justice, a bit exotic; rather like yoking together a horse and an ox! Perhaps the editors were at their wits’ end to find a topic that had not already been treated. Some may even find the topic worrisome: if we aren’t careful, the social activists will take over!
How much justice in worship is enough justice? Churches often develop a service once a year around one specific justice issue like hunger, but rarely does justice penetrate every week of our worship, or even better, every component of that weekly worship. How can the whole of our worship service reflect God’s special love and passionate concern for those who are poor and excluded? These resources will help worship planners integrate God’s call to justice in worship throughout the church year.
J. Frank Henderson, Stephen Larson, Kathleen Quinn. Worldwide Web Edition, 1999. www.compusmart.ab.ca/ fhenders/LJRG.pdf.
This book was first published in 1989 by Paulist Press; when the book went out of print, the authors negotiated the rights to present it in its entirety (with a new preface) on the Web, so now it is accessible to everyone.
The Lord’s Prayer bristles with a hopeful, contrary agitation. A finely embroidered version of it may hang in the family kitchen under a picture of the praying hands, exuding an air of simple piety, but this prayer is hardly an invitation to tranquillity. On the contrary, the Lord’s Prayer urges us to examine our loves and loyalties and engages us in personal and social transformation. Who will you serve? Who will you trust? What do you hope for? What loyalties set your agenda?
More Streams of Living Water
Thank you for the Advent/Christmas series “Streams of Living Water.” We quite enjoyed it and found it very easy to use. We sent a note to Peter Hoytema telling him the same. We have used several of the series you place in the magazine in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Keep up the good work!
Janet Drent, for the Worship Committee
Second Christian Reformed Church, Brampton, Ontario
About three blocks from our church is a little coffee shop called Bernice’s. It occupies the east half of the Knowles Building, which was designed by the prominent Missoula architect AJ Gibson in 1914. Gibson also designed the County Courthouse, Central High School, the Main Hall of the university, and First Presbyterian Church. Walking to Bernice’s from the church, you’ll pass apartment buildings, single family houses, a number of commercial establishments, and three other churches.
The family of God is not complete unless all are present—people of all ages and races and physical abilities.What do disabilities have to do with worship and justice? People with disabilities were the last group in the United States to receive legal rights. Those with mental retardation were not allowed to go to school until 1974; they were not allowed to live in communities (in group homes) until the 1980s.
Week Five: The fifth petition
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
On this day, we step boldly, humbly into the presence of our God, praying with our suffering Savior the prayer he taught us to pray: