James A. De Jong. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Board of Publications of the Christian Reformed Church, 1985,128 pp., $7.25.
As a book intended "to help Reformed people think through their worship," Into His Presence succeeds admirably. Author James A. De Jong, president of Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, incorporates insights from Scripture, church history, creeds, architecture, music, and church polity to stimulate discussion of worship. The importance of Scripture is especially evident in the book.
Prepared for use in an adult church school curriculum, the book asks questions and raises issues.
De Jong, in offering his own ideas, remains open to other points of view and sensitive to the many differences within his own Presbyterian Reformed tradition. He respects traditional ways of worship, yet he is open to innovations if they will make worship more meaningful.
Four chapters take up general concerns of worship; five discuss litanies, offering, benediction, the sermon, and other aspects of a worship service. The final chapter shows how liturgy is a guide for life. Study exercises at the end of each chapter and a leader's guide, both prepared by the Education Department of the CRC, contribute to the clarity and effectiveness of the book.
Among particular issues discussed (but not always resolved) are the following: Should unor-dained men, women, or young people read Scripture to the congregation? What should the consistory do about a request for a young people's service some Sunday evening? Should an organist whose tastes in music now differ from those in the congregation be retired? Should a liturgical dance be part of an evening service? How can we make worship more meaningful to children? Should children have a separate worship service? Should baptized children be admitted to the Lord's Supper? Should a hymn that expresses the experience of one sector of the congregation (for example, white immigrants) be included in a hymnal that seeks to serve minorities as well?
I have a few minor criticisms of the book. In its pages I discovered a number of spelling errors and one line where an important "not" seems to have been omitted. Also, the author left an unresolved tension in the meaning of "dialogue" as it applies to worship. On the one hand De Jong suggests that dialogue is "the best and basic description of what occurs in worship" (p. 120); on the other hand, it "has certain deficiencies. . . . Dialogue may ramble. Worship does not" (p. 14ff).
In spite of these minor difficulties, however, both the text and the leader's guide are well-conceived and well-written. They should be widely circulated both within the Reformed community and beyond.