Keep Within Reach
I have received the initial copies of your magazine. So far, so good. If you can keep the quality up of both contents and presentation, this is going to be a very worthwhile contribution to Reformed worship.
The music examples/contributions are interesting and challenging, but let us not forget that the vast majority of our congregations do not have the instrumental resources to even attempt some of the settings.
What we need is musical contributions that are within the reach of the average church organist/pianist but are yet stimulating—i.e., he or she must be able to master the music without too much practice time.
The RW magazine continues to amaze me—a tremendous addition to the field!
John W. Ourensma
Battle Creek, Michigan
RW has encouraged borrowing customs and elements of worship from a wide variety of sources. In an age of increasing ecumenical convergence in worship and growing awareness of what we hold in common with all Christendom, it is indeed good to look beyond the confines of our particular traditions.
However, those of us who only recently have begun to appropriate the riches of wider Christian tradition should respect the integrity of practices developed by Christians over centuries. It is insensitive to distort others' customs—as several RW articles have done—by adopting bits and pieces with little regard for how and why these things are done in the wider church. We enrich our own worship by adopting other practices in ways that respect both who we are and what these actions and symbols mean to those who have developed and conserved them.
To take but one example from the most recent issue, the use of ashes in the Christian church has a long and rich history. By the eleventh century the entire church was receiving ashes and undergoing penitence during Lent. Ashes are a very rich symbol in Judeo-Christian tradition, suggesting God's judgment of sin, our frailty and mortality, our total dependence upon God for life, our humiliation, repentance, cleansing, and renewal. In Christian tradition ashes are imposed on Ash Wednesday by marking the sign of the cross with the thumb upon the forehead with the words, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." To move the outward sign of this observance (as suggested in "Symbols of Lent," RW 6) to the first Sunday of Lent, apply the sign of the cross to the right hands of the children, and end singing triumphantly "Onward Christian Soldiers" distorts and trivializes this ancient Christian practice.
The cause of the church universal is not furthered when we distort bits and pieces of Christian practice. Let's enrich our worship, yes, but in ways that respect the integrity of the customs we wish to embrace.
Carol P. Myers
I loved the article about Ash Wednesday. Your responses to the service at Grace church are so similar to my own first exposure to Episcopal worship. Now it has become second nature-—the vocal responses, the progression from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Table, the easy movement from knees to pew to standing, the genuflection and crossing oneself. I hope it never becomes stale!
Because I am a licensed Lay Reader I have become much more conscious of the structure of liturgy but have never lost my joy at the show and tell aspects of it. At first I rebelled at incense. Now it triggers my sense of smell which instantly speaks to my spirit—"Prayer rising to God."
Yes. I too like the short homilies, the tying in of Scripture from Old and New Testaments, the Psalm and the Gospel.
For about two years I had been approaching various members of our church to make banners for our sanctuary. Although occasional banners were made, I never found anyone who felt gifted in this area and was willing to really take initiative on a "full sanctuary design." Thus, my "dream" kept passing by, with no concrete action. When RW 2 came out, the full-color spread of Grace CRC and the accompanying "testimonial" article by Chris Overvoorde provided the needed inspiration.
A month after the article appeared, I met a local artist, Chris Reinhard, who had written her Masters' thesis on "liturgical art," and who is now an art teacher at the local Catholic school. To make the story short, she graciously agreed to design, then produce our banners.
Chris worked with our consistory and with the women in our church in an enjoyable "ecumenical" project. The banners are "airbrushed" on heavy cotton, and our members did the hemming and hanging under her supervision. The set was unveiled on September 13, when we celebrated our church's tenth anniversary of ministry in this community. They will hang for about half the year and be replaced by other banners during other seasons.
Never doubt that your efforts have an impact on the local level. I truly appreciate the promptings to creativity, and I look for continuing inspiration both from RW and from the new Psalter Hymnal. Thank you once again for your hard work!
David R. Koll