Harry Boonstra

Harry Boonstra (hboonstr@calvin.edu) is former theological editor of RW and emeritus theological librarian of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Articles by this author:

  • On Hymns, Vestments, and Funerals

    Q. Opinions in our church differ strongly about the "dress code" for our minister and others leading worship (a range from polo shirt to "Catholic" vestments). We would appreciate any advice you can give us, especially about the use of robes.

    A. I will here limit my answer to the wearing of special worship "vestments" (although the polo shirt versus the business suit is also an interesting issue). As often when discussing worship questions, it's helpful to be aware of a bit of history.

  • On votums, Scripture reading, and Fred Kaan

    Q. I hardly ever find services in Reformed churches any more that use the votum to begin worship. Why have so many churches dropped this Reformed part of the liturgy?

    A. A brief question with many ripples. Let me try to sort out a few threads here:

  • On flags, All Saints Day, and Acoustics

    Q. What is the origin of the Christian flag, and where should it stand in relation to the American flag?

    A. The idea for the Christian flag was conceived by a Mr. Charles E. Overton, apparently during an impromptu talk at Brighton Chapel in Staten Island, New York. It was first designed and constructed in 1907. The flag was initially popularized in the Methodist Church, and is used in several denominations. However, it has never received the status of being the "official" Christian flag.

  • On Language and the Common Cup

    Q. In the new Psalter Hymnal the linguistic surgeons decided to cut out the phrase "Here I raise my Ebenezer" from "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," thus depriving the reader/singer of a biblical allusion (at least they kept "Thou," for a change). Have any other hymn editors seen fit to do so?
  • Worship: What Is It All About?

    It had not been the most edifying week for my involvement in worship. A local church asked me to suggest a "creative solution" for a prolonged controversy about the use of overhead transparencies for praise songs. (My suggestion about installing an impenetrable wall between the traditionalists and the experimentalists and using the wall for projection was not taken seriously). The high-church "Liturgy" Internet board I participate in had a long(winded) discussion about what kind of tablecloth to use on the communion table.

  • Book: Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland

    Edinburgh, Saint Andrew Press, 1994. 700 pp.

    Worship books, both denominational and "commercial," are becoming plentiful. This plenitude is reason for thanks; it appears that God's people are working hard on prayer, praise, and worship.

    The latest denominational book to cross my desk is the Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland. A fine book it is.

  • Come, Let Us Bow Down: Reflections on kneeling

    In most Reformed and Presbyterian churches people do not kneel during prayer. Should they?

    About one hundred years ago Abraham Kuyper, renowned Dutch theologian and prime minister of the 'Netherlands, addressed this question. His firm answer: Yes.

    In the paragraphs that follow, Kuyper explains that kneeling was still customary as late as 1618, at the Synod of Dort. Various reasons and circumstances led to a change soon after that. But not very good reasons!

  • More About Tables and Music

    Q. You recently wrote about the shape of the communion table. In our church the question is, "Where shall we put it?"

    A. A few years ago RW carried an article, "Where's the Font?" We can now ask, "Where's the table?" Let me answer the question by relating what I have seen in a number of Reformed church buildings.

  • On blessings, "canned" music, and clapping

    Q: Some ministers raise one hand in blessing, some two. Which is the correct way?

  • On homilies, hymn changes, and communion tables

    Q I attended a Lutheran church, and there they call the sermon a "homily." How does a homily differ from a sermon?