Contemporary...with a Sense of History: Introducing our new associate editor

At the beginning of our fifteenth year of publishing Reformed Worship, we’re introducing a few changes. You may have already noticed some new design features; more significantly, we welcome Ron Rienstra as new associate editor. Ron is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America; he’ll be working with us while also continuing his association with Calvin College, where he directs student-planned and -led worship services every Sunday night during the school year. We’re delighted with what he brings to our staff: a strong theological background and lots of worship leadership experience, especially with young people (he often preaches, and sometimes leads worship with his guitar). He’s also the youngest and most “techie” member of our editorial team.

Columns, Columns ...

We’ll continue our regular columns, including Series for the Season (p. 3). This year we welcome back Scott Hoezee, who wrote the Advent plans and our first HomeLink devotionals three years ago. You won’t be disappointed. Songs for the Season (p. 30) includes a wide variety of old and new worship songs with many ideas to make them come alive in worship. In View from the Pew (p. 42), writer Jim Schaap offers another of the stories—sometimes humorous, always thought- provoking—that have graced our pages from the beginning. Three more recent columns will also continue: How To . . . , this time by Kathy Sneller; Q&A, by John D. Witvliet; and Come and See, our back cover banner designs by Dean Heetderks.

You’ll get to know Ron Rienstra through two new columns. The first, What’s On the Web? (p. 36), will introduce websites of interest to worship planners. He’ll help you sort through what is valuable, worthy, and helpful.

Notes from the LOFT (Living Our Faith Together, an acronym for the Calvin student–led worship services; p. 28) literally takes notes from weekly student planning sessions, conversations, and “to do” lists. Looking over their shoulders may stimulate your own planning process while it helps you understand more of how young people give vibrant expression to their faith.

Contemporary . . . with a Sense of History

The LOFT is billed as “a contemporary worship service with a sense of history.” The services are so popular (more than 800 students crowd into the college chapel each Sunday night) that there’s actually a wait ing list for students to audition to serve on the planning and leadership teams. Auditions include written applications and personal interviews to determine gifts (sound, light, instrumental, vocal, prayer, set-up) as well as character and spiritual maturity.

What makes that service tick? One obvious answer is the music. Young people today relate most powerfully to music. It would even be fair to say the worship is music-driven. By necessity, Ron has learned a great deal about contemporary worship songs and what instruments to use in what way.

But the music choices are very much Word-   driven. Ron begins by leading the students in a study of the Scripture text (requested in advance from whoever is preaching); that is the starting point for all the other planning.

The second step is choosing music and determining the order and placement. The service follows a time-honored pattern: The content and placement of songs fits into the basic movements of greeting and praise; confession and assurance; and prayer for God’s blessing on the Word preached. The sermon is followed by ample opportunity for sung and spoken response, including offerings and testimony. Students have many opportunities to participate, but the service can also include times of powerful silence.

Every service includes from ten to twelve songs, many linked together and interspersed with spoken prayers and readings. Planners work hard to present a balanced diet, including

  • at least one sung psalm
  • at least one global song
  • at least one folk-liturgical song
  • between one and three traditional hymns
  • (presented in a contemporary format)

Then the rehearsals begin, so that all leaders are ready to worship as well as to lead with excellence, not drawing attention to themselves, but to the God they are worshiping.

Ron is convinced that worship forms people spiritually. That is why Reformed Worship exists. Our basic conviction, which we hope you all share, is that all worship planning must begin with the Word and be shaped by the historic pattern of Christian worship. That holds true for everyone—whether in colleges or in congregations large and small—who is part of the body of Christ.

Emily R. Brink (embrink@calvin.edu) is Senior Research Fellow for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and former editor of Reformed Worship.