Thank you for the excellent article "Take Time to Celebrate" by Cynthia de Jong in the December, 1992 issue (FW 26). Personally I would have appreciated it even more a year earlier since we also celebrated our 40th anniversary in December, 1992. Out of our experience with that celebration I would like to add the following thoughts to her many wonderful suggestions.
1. We held an open house at the manse (parsonage) on Saturday evening for members, former members and pastors, and visitors. This was an excellent time for informal fellowship and reunions; it was especially meaningful for former pastors and their spouses to return to the house where they had lived.
2. We did not have anyone in our congregation who was able to write an anthem for the occasion but we did have one commissioned. "Building on the Vision" was written by Mark Wilson and Jane Knox and will be published by Hinshaw Music. It is based on the tune KREMSER and is written for an adult choir with optional congregational singing and handbells on the last stanza.
3. We also used as one of our hymns the anthem "Litany for a Festive Day" by Michael Jothem (The New Music Company, 1988), for choir, congregation, organ, and optional brass. It incorporates stanzas from "Now Thank We All Our God," "The Church's One Foundation," and "Lead On, O King Eternal." There is also a spoken narrative. This proved to be a very meaningful part of our anniversary service.
4. We were also concerned with what to do with children. We eventually decided on a Children's Memory Box. Children up to age 12 were invited to submit a picture and some brief information about themselves. These were locked in the Memory Box to be opened as part of the church's 50th anniversary in 2002.
I hope these comments, along with de Jong's, will be of some assistance to others as they plan church anniversaries. I am grateful for the fine articles you are including in EW and find them most helpful in my ministry.
Little Chapel on the Boardwalk
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
I disagree with Stephen Mathonnet-VanderWeU's article in i?W 26. Vander-Well himself leans towards the practice of "liturgical correctness" but claims being LC is a source of intolerant pride. He claims that LC worship itself is the worship of the powers-that-be, and as such is incompatible with worship from a multicultural and underclass perspective.
I agree that worship that inflexibly rejects the non-LC is a barrier to the gospel. But since VanderWell acknowledges that liturgy is a reflection of one's sociology he should also admit that roughly a quarter of the U.S. population has its expectations for worship formed by church of Canterbury and (mostly) Rome. Despite what VanderWell claims, a form of worship adhered to by so many including the poor and oppressed, is not simply exclusive and elitist. Also, I was raised in the Catholic church, so inclinations toward ritual liturgy are second nature to me. Genuine multicultural openness in Protestant churches should account for worshipers like myself, whose culture has fostered such instincts.
Notre Dame, IN
View of Praise Songs Unbalanced
I would like to compliment you on an overall good March issue. I particularly enjoyed Craig Van Gelder's article and the letters by Edith Bajema and Dave Beelen. When I came to Mark Lemmenes's article "Faithful or Faddish," though, I got kind of perturbed, feeling that it was NOT a balanced presentation of the goods and bads of praise choruses but rather a lopsided one.
I think the question Lemmenes raised in his introductory remarks hit the nail on the head: "Do praise choruses contribute substantively to the expression of our worship of God?" What began as a good question quickly turned into an obvious picking apart of the lyrics of several songs that the author did not care for. Furthermore it sounded like he was passing judgment on a whole musical style because of a few songs that he found lacking. The many derogatory adjectives and nouns (weak, pathetic, trite, predictable, wanting, ditties, mundane, strange, simplistic, meager, etc.) used to describe the weaknesses of certain praise choruses reminded me of a recent article in our local pro-abortion newspaper describing pro-lifers. Obviously the writers never took the time to get acquainted with the "other side." I could go on to write a whole letter picking apart many questionable hymn lyrics and hymn tunes that I know, but I feel that would be totally useless.
Some people can feel God's manifest presence through singing praise choruses in ways they never could through singing traditional hymns. This does not hold true for everyone, of course, because we are all at different places in our relationship to God. Each of us is influenced by the varying experiences weVe gone through in our lives. It's dangerous to expect all people to fit into one mold when it comes to musical preference. Just because I was brought up Christian Reformed does not mean I enjoy a constant diet of hymns accompanied by the (droning) organ.
I have found that the freshness and excitement of many new songs written in just the past few years give me a new relationship to God that I never received as a result of thirty-four years of singing hymns. God is no longer a small, distant being that I knew all the stories and sang all the songs about. He IS a great, mighty, majestic, faithful, loving, intimate God who hides me under his wing. I have seen the power that some of these songs command over Satanic strongholds in people's lives—something I also never saw in all my years of singing hymns.
There should be no apology for the "violent themes" in some of these songs. We see numerous New Testament references to the battle that we should be waging against the powers of darkness. To participate in that struggle is only to follow Jesus' lead. Many praise choruses can open the eyes of the church to a struggle they have never seen before.
Let's not continue getting hung up on our own musical preferences but recognize that there are viable and different languages of worship available to God's diverse children. "Do praise choruses contribute substantively to the expression of worship of God?" Without reservation ... YES!
A Word Back from Scotland
Thank you very much for the recent copy of Reformed Worship (RW 27). I had almost forgotten the interview, so I was intrigued to find out what I had said. Might I congratulate you on transcribing my words as sensitively as you have. Might I also congratulate you on your publication. I dearly wish that in the Church of Scotland we had something of its nature. I hope that I can use it as a model to encourage my colleagues to think seriously about developing our liturgical outreach.
John L. Bell
The Iona Community, Scotland