The Issue You Thought You'd Never See.

Like many of you, the things that I value in worship are deeply colored by my past. I grew up in a rather conservative, traditional church without much liturgical awareness. There was good fellowship and vibrant singing (our organist played at the local roller rink during the week, giving a certain energy and beat to the music when we sang). Fanny Crosby was a staple in our musical diet during worship, and we enjoyed having the minister accompany the congregational singing on his trombone.

In the early 60s I went off to college and discovered new dimensions to worship. The chapel services at Hope College exposed me to the rich musical and liturgical heritage of the church. The idea of litanies and prayers read in unison, celebrating a church year that included more than Christmas and Easter, and the music of Bach were all new to me. It was in this setting that I fell in love with the experience of worship because the entire service was now filled with meaning for me.

My reaction to the traditionalism of my childhood and my appreciation for the broader tradition to which I was exposed in college continue to shape my attitudes toward worship. But now that part of my world is in turmoil. After twenty-two years in the same congregation, my wife and I are struggling over the nature of our worship services and searching for a new church home. For the first time since I attended seminary, I'm being forced to rethink what worship ought to be like for me and my family.

And I know we're not alone in the struggle. My mother-in-law's church has replaced its long-time organist and choir director in an attempt to become less traditional and to incorporate more popular elements of praise, making the service more appealing to outsiders. That appears to be a change many Christians are seeking. A tide of people—former members of our denominations—are heading for the larger, more charismatic churches in this area; churches that offer a more vibrant worship experience. The Bible teacher at the local Christian high school indicates that over half of his students find the worship services at these megachurches more meaningful than any in their own denomination.

There is probably no issue within Reformed churches at this point that is charged with more emotion than the debate over which direction the style of worship and music ought to go. Throughout its five-year history, Reformed Worship has provided resources for churches wanting to experience something of the liturgical renewal that has been surfacing within the church. But we have been criticized as coming down too much on the "high church" side of liturgical renewal. Perhaps that is the direction with which we as a staff are most familiar and comfortable. But at the same time, we've had gnawing questions about how to deal with this growing debate within the church we love.

As a staff, we certainly have been exposed to elements of the more expressive forms of worship. Our work on the Psalter Hymnal has led us to the Bible songs and to other contemporary music that is enriching so many worship experiences; our growing cross-cultural ministry has put us

in touch with people who are better at expressing their faith than we are; and the church demographics certainly indicate that it is the more emotional forms of worship that characterize growing churches.

Because many of our readers are experiencing the same struggles as we are, we knew we wanted to do something with the movement that has become known as "Praise and Worship" (or P&W). To help us accomplish this, we called in people who have been trying these things for themselves so that you might see firsthand what this movement is all about.

Thus for us this is a very different issue. You may not have expected to see "Praise and Worship" as the theme of an issue of Reformed Worship, but this style of worship is certainly something we must all come to understand and evaluate— whether or not we plan to implement it in our own congregations. We hope this issue is helpful to you.

—Dave Vanderwel

David Vanderwel is executive director of Camp geneva, Holland, Michigan.


Reformed Worship 20 © June 1991, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.