At a Church Near You . . .
Lisa, overflowing with energy and excitement greets a visiting couple. “It’s so good to have you here today. I’m on the worship planning committee and we have so many special portions to our service this morning. While this will be a surprise to the congregation, we asked the brass ensemble to join the opening song, but they are in the balcony so it will be an unexpected delight for all. We also get to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. This is a great day for you to be part of our community.”
Last week I was asked to lead worship at a small church plant. It was a young church where I, a 31-year-old, would be one of the older attendees. So I looked through my song list and choose three songs that would be fitting for the night before Easter. I wasn’t looking for any particular kind of song; just songs that conveyed the message of the cross and that might be familiar and singable with this group. It wasn’t until after I picked out the songs that I realized all three were hymns.
I’m sure I’m not the only worship leader to wonder what to do for the annual Thanksgiving Day service. Sometimes it feels like I have to manufacture a spirit of thankfulness for this one day before returning to business as usual the next morning. What if I’m not in a particularly thankful mood? What if my congregation is facing or enduring a tough situation? Manufacturing thankfulness for an hour of worship sounds trite and inappropriate.
Our church feels called to address some major societal issues as a congregation, including racism, the history of genocide of indigenous peoples, and human trafficking. The question is how we will do this in worship. Some have suggested we have a special service that focuses on each key issue. But that doesn’t feel right. I fear we will just have a succession of single-issue services and then drop our concern.
As Reformed Worship enters its 30th year, it is natural to look back and wonder what has changed since this publication began. My colleague John Witvliet can testify to the explosion of work in the area of liturgics and worship. The serious study of worship has gone from a relatively rare enterprise a few decades ago to a growing academic phenomenon. In addition to Reformed Worship, worship planners and pastors now have access to a mind-boggling wealth of resources.
To the artist John August Swanson, art is a journey into the wonder of life. His art explores the ongoing narrative of God and God’s people through visual stories filled with hope, faith, and love. Swanson’s art guides us to see the sacredness of our ordinary lives and reflects the unique beauty of our everyday experiences. They become visual parables of the daily lives we share.
At the August 2014 meeting of the worship, music, and arts committee of Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the youth on the committee suggested an art installation project for our Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany seasons. Her name is Avery West, and her suggestion was that we create a large origami star mobile to hang from the ceiling of our sanctuary.
This service is the first in a series titled “Sing 10,” which highlights services in which 10 or more songs are sung. Sometimes it will be in the form of the traditional hymn festival, but in this case it is a worship service with many options for congregational song in a more modern genre. What will set these articles apart from other services is that we will include lead sheets or full scores to a few of the songs as well as background or performance suggestions where applicable.
Last year our congregation chose to take a look at the Christmas story through the lens of our five senses.
On the first Sunday of the Advent season we looked at the tastes of Christmas. We began by looking at the reason why Jesus came, and we tasted the bread and the juice of communion as a reminder of the body and blood of the Lord.
Have you heard the news? Reformed Worship is celebrating its 30th anniversary! This is a rather amazing feat, given the current status of print publications. And while we would like to think this is the result of a stellar staff and even better subscribers, we are quick to realize how the services and articles that were sent in for publication were shaped through prayer and the working of the Holy Spirit. The RW staff are always surprised by how the Spirit brings the right submissions together at the right time to formulate each issue of this journal.
Churches introduce the Lord’s Supper in their liturgies in various ways. Some use a recommended form, while others write their own. The latter might explore a topic such as the presence of Jesus at communion, or communion and children. Here, I’d like to consider another aspect of the Lord’s Supper: how it addresses the burdens we carry when we come to the table.
¿Qué pasó con la segunda venida?
도대체 재림에 무슨 일이 생겼는가?
It has been years since I've heard a sermon or sung a song about Jesus' second coming. Why? How do we recover that?
Keaton Lee Scott is a native of Langdale (now Valley), Alabama, where he was born on April 19, 1950. He received his bachelor of music and master of music degrees from the University of Alabama in 1973 and 1976, respectively. Since that time he has served as an adjunct faculty member for the Schools of Music at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Samford University, and as organist/choir director at several churches. But his main occupation has been the writing of music.
At key moments in their history, God’s Old Testament people renewed their covenant relationship with God. The following service is based on one of those moments as chronicled in Joshua 24. It invites the congregation not only to remember but also to rehearse and reenact the story as their own. Some congregations find such a rehearsal of God’s covenant particularly meaningful as they transition into a new year.
Scripture: Joshua 24:1
While candlelight services often take us through the Christmas story with opportunities to sing beloved carols, this service is unique in that it focuses on our wilderness. So many of us relate to that dry place, that dark place, that lonely place, a place of despair, of yearning. The world around us is such a place, and it is to such a place that Christ came to be our Light. This service provides a beautiful and meaningful way to approach Christmas.
For centuries, John 1 has offered the church perhaps its favorite Advent text outside of the birth narratives of Luke. But have we ever stopped to think about what was going through the mind of the author when he chose the word logos (word) to describe Jesus? Perhaps we are so used to the strange choice that we don’t realize how inscrutable it sounded the first time Western ears heard it. But make no mistake: it was utterly clear and eminently meaningful to John’s original audience.
Every fall as we approach the Advent and Christmas seasons, I find myself searching for an entry point to these annual celebrations. What will “ignite” the planning process? Which idea, word, image, or song will come to mind and become the foundation of the eventual Advent chapel service at school or Christmas Eve celebration at church?
Recently I served as the chairperson for a search committee that was seeking to hire a new professor of missions and missiology at Calvin Seminary. That task meant that I had the chance to bring myself up to speed a bit on the current state of conversations about missions and where some of the primary foci are in the field of missiology.
We are pleased to introduce a new series of writers for this Noteworthy column. This column and the ones appearing in the next three issues, though authored by an individual, are the result of a collaboration between four Canada-based writers who are associated with various colleges that make up the University of Toronto. In this issue we will hear from Swee Hong Lim. The other three collaborators are Christina Labriola (RW 118), Hilary Donaldson (RW 119), and Becca Whitla (RW 120).
The ghosts of a chosen legacy
curl in rattling whispers, echoes of that
tarnished triumphal exodus rendered by the cleavage
of a foreboding sea and heralded
through the inciting song of Miriam.
The Israelite root hacked down, defiled
and tormentingly grafted in the crucible promise
of a pagan adopted daughter to a widowed Mara,
the gleaner only rescued by the bestowed favor of a kinsman redeemer,
his honor bound by the threads of marital covenant.
The tangled ancestry unfurling to seize
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