CREATIVE USES OF ADVENT/CHRISTMAS RESOURCES
Once again, thank you for the fine job with Reformed Worship. The”Coming Home” theme for Christmas was superb (RW 49). We used every bit of it, including making a banner of one of the bulletin covers. For the Candlelight Service, we found a drama of a modern-day prodigal son and incorporated it into the theme. The main actor sang the old song “Coming Home” to a modern melody he composed himself. The entire congregation was moved. We had sent out copies of the letter as recommended in RW, and several of those who received letters came to that service. They had not darkened the doors of the church for several years. The Lord is using you in very special ways, and we wanted to let you know that.
Trinity Christian Reformed Church
We scaled down your “Roll Call of Light Bearers” (RW 49) for our combined Christmas Eve in two very small churches. My husband (who is copastor with me) and I read the names of the geneology list and helped with Scripture reading. We ended the service with everyone standing for the Hallelujah Chorus. Thank you for the wonderful idea to help us out with a service. Wish it could have been done as you designed it, but it was fine the way we did it.
Pamela Gale Smith
First Congregational United Church of Christ
We made use of the “Roll Call of Light Bearers” but with some substantial differences. For example, the costumes were too much for us, so we had the forty-six characters approach the front of the sanctuary with a candle; when each person’s name was called, he or she lit the candle from that of the preceding character. Candle holders (46 of them, the little glass kind) were in a line along the communion table. At the end of the line was the Christ candle. We watched the progression of light through a sort of time line until it reached the Christ.
John Schuurman, pastor
Wheaton (Illinois) Christian Reformed Church
Thanks for the candlelight service in RW 49, “Roll Call of Light Bearers.” We involved fifty people. For a church that has about two hundred fifty people for Sunday service, this took a large chunk of volunteers—mostly kids! We made a few changes to your original presentation. For example, all processed in bearing their lights as names were called, but then they all blew out their candles and sat down in the “choir area.” Candles were relit as the characters stepped forward for Scripture and song.
We chose not to have the congregation use candles, since there was still to be a Christmas Eve candlelight service and we did not want to detract from that service. We may turn this into an annual affair.
Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church
San Antonio, Texas
MORE ON PRAYER
On page 7 of the June 1999 issue of Reformed Worship, the caption “Oakdale Park congregation at prayer” is incorrect. The photo shows the Roosevelt Park Community CRC at prayer. I recognized the whole Kok family in that photo. I read RW often and appreciate the articles. Keep up the work!
Reggie Smith, pastor
Roosevelt Park Church
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Your recent editorial on prayer (“Family Style” by Robert De Moor) in Reformed Worship 52 struck a chord with me. I finally found someone who shares my thoughts and understanding about prayer in worship. Among my “pet peeves” are those prayers in which we tell God what he already knows. Prayers in the 1993 Presbyterian Book of Common Worship are filled with such phrases as “You created light to shine out of darkness . . . ” “God . . . when you fashioned the world the morning stars sang together . . . ” “You are holy, God of majesty, and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, whom you sent to deliver us from the bondage of death and slavery to sin. . . . ” Such statements make me question to whom we are praying. Does God need reminding of who he is and what he has done?
San Antonio, Texas
Frank and I agree that we should not “pad” our prayers with meaningless information intended for others rather than for the One we’re talking to. However, I didn’t intend to imply that we should tell God only what God does not already know. That would make our prayers really short.
There are times when I really like being told what I already know—when I’m complimented for doing something right, for example, or when someone expresses appreciation for my existence with a simple “Love ya, Dad.” In the same way it’s clear from prayers we find in Scripture that God very much appreciates hearing us express how God’s being and actions impress us (see the psalms, for example). Praise is an important and much-neglected element of true prayer. Let’s work hard at glorifying God in an open, sincere way. I’m with Frank in feeling that many of the ways we do so lack freshness because we rely on pious platitudes.
Robert De Moor, theological editor
ON DIFFERENT STROKES
I know it is a little backward to think this way, but I couldn’t help concluding that Charles Arn’s piece on adding a new style of worship service (“Different Strokes,” RW 51, March 1999) was a caricature of the church growth movement. After all, Arn made no reference to God, the Bible, or what duty churches might have in Christian worship. Instead, all of his reasoning expressed precisely what worship conservatives find so alarming about church growth experts—all pragmatism and no theology.
But even if I were to grant his pragmatic aims, I couldn’t stop thinking about news from another Christian Reformed Church (CRC) publication that came earlier in the week. The March 1 issue of The Banner reported that CRC membership is now lower than 1968 levels, down from a high in 1991. So at the same time that the CRC has been losing members at a rather rapid rate, the denomination has also been experimenting with new kinds of services, if Reformed Worship and the CRC’s recent report on worship are any indication (or, for that matter, my experience in one midwest CRC congregation). And yet, Mr. Arn promises that adding other styles of worship will help congregations reach new people and grow in numbers. (Of course, he doesn’t offer any statistics for these claims besides some scientific-looking charts.) Well, it hasn’t worked for the CRC. To be sure, the denomination has witnessed controversies that have caused congregations to leave and membership to decline. But surely if the elixir Mr. Arn lauds is so successful—if its downside is nonexistent—the CRC’s experimentation in worship should have made up for these losses.
Perhaps the next time Mr. Arn writes for RW, he will want to consider what his ideas mean from the perspective of a real denomination as opposed to the vision of a parachurch corporation.
D. G. Hart