Our first wedding theme issue, ten years ago (RW 16; June 1990), has remained one of our most popular, even though we ran out of back issues long ago. We still get requests to reprint it from pastors who continue to use their worn copy for wedding planning sessions with couples. And we’ve also heard many requests to do a new wedding theme issue. So we decided to do . . . both! (See p. 47 for information on getting RW 16 on the Web.)
Theme One: Weddings—Celebrating the Covenant of Marriage
The first 29 pages of this issue focus on resources for the wedding service, that covenant-making celebration of the bride and groom in the presence of God and friends and families. You’ll find prayers, pastoral advice for planning the service, and lots of music suggestions and resource lists. The review section on page 45 also includes brief reviews of several wedding resources.
Marilyn Vanden Heuvel, a professional artist from Cutlerville, Michigan, has created many wedding banners. Several of her pieces are pictured on different pages in this issue; the wedding stole featured on the cover is particularly interesting (see p. 1 for more information). Because a lot of work can go into a piece of art that may be hung only once, some churches ask artists to create a wedding banner that belongs to the church, is created for that space, and may be used by anyone who plans a wedding in that church.
You’ll notice one topic that we did not deal with in our previous wedding theme issue: pastoral guidance dealing with the issues a couple face when one or both of them are marrying for a second time, and where children from a first marriage may be present (see p. 12). Ten years ago such wedding services were certainly not unusual, but they are even more common today.
We hope that the wedding resources in this issue encourage pastors, musicians, artists, and couples to enjoy planning a service that celebrates with joy and gratitude the covenant-making of their wedding.
Theme Two: An Invitation to a Congregational Worship Retreat
Every issue of Reformed Worship features a service planning series built around a theme.
Our goal in this issue’s expanded service planning series is ambitious, so much so that we consider it a second theme for this issue.
In response to the many requests we have received to deal with what it means to be Reformed in our worship practices, we asked John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, to write a series on the meaning of the worship event itself. What happens every time we gather together to worship God? Is there a way we can not only gather for worship but at the same time step back and actually focus on just what we are doing? Can we worship while we are learning about worship? Can a sermon become not only an exposition of God’s Word but also a teach ing tool that helps us understand what we are doing when we are listening and responding to God in a worship service?
This series includes three components:
- Sermon-building notes and service plans for a four-week series. Given the great variety of approaches to planning and leading worship services among Christian and Reformed churches today, the challenge was to find an approach that would not focus on the issue of style or even so much of structure. In his notes, Witvliet digs deeper, exploring the issues of covenant renewal that come into focus every time we meet with God. David Vroege, intern at Unity Christian Reformed Church in Prospect Park, New Jersey, contributed the liturgical and musical suggestions.
- Four weeks of HomeLink devotions exploring what it means to worship God not only together, but also in our daily lives. Harry Boonstra, former associate editor of Reformed Worship complements the Sunday service plans by offering members of the congregation ways to reflect during the week on what it means to worship (for a sample see p. 39; for order information see inside back cover).
- Four study guides for small group sermon discussion following each of the four Sunday services in the series. David Vroege offers ideas for leading a discussion to help members of the congregation continue their exploration of what it means to worship God. Pastors may wish to lead or sit in on these discussions.
May God use both parts of this double theme issue to give us more joy in celebrating the gifts of these two relationships—our marriages and our relationship with Christ, which we rehearse every Sunday. As we come together each week in our congregations, may we prepare ourselves as the bride of Christ to meet him one day at the great marriage feast of the Lamb.