Blog

  • Revisiting Jean-Jacques von Allmen’s Liturgical Wisdom for Today’s Church

    This post is part two of a three-part article “Three Theological Themes for Worship,” a condensation of a presentation given at the 2018 Symposium on Worship. This series explores Jean-Jacques von Allmen’s most generative insights and considers how they might shape the worship we prepare and lead today.

  • Revisiting Jean-Jacques von Allmen’s Liturgical Wisdom for Today’s Church

    This post is part one of a three-part article “Three Theological Themes for Worship,” a condensation of a presentation given at the 2018 Symposium on Worship. This series explores Jean-Jacques von Allmen’s most generative insights and considers how they might shape the worship we prepare and lead today.

  • It doesn’t matter how many beautiful and well put together worship services you’ve crafted. What truly matters is how you’ve chosen to love and care for those whom God has entrusted in your worshipping congregation.

  • Healing Worship

    There’s an old image for the pastoral vocation; it can be claimed by worship leaders too. It is to be a doctor of souls . . . It means in music and spoken word and Eucharistic invitation we offer healing.

  • Without the Holy Spirit’s leadership, without Christ’s mediation, and without the Father’s glorification of himself and all three persons of the Godhead, triune God is not worshiped by his people. As God is the object of Christian worship, his subjective work is carried out in his people.

  • A healthy normal provides repetition and predictability—allowing the meaning-making character of ritual to do its work. The exceptional service, … stretching us, reminding us of God’s ability to work in surprising as well as regular ways.

  • I was struck again with the importance of the Psalms, for every stage of grief can find expressions in this book. . . . I know that at some point in the future the Psalms will also give voice to our acceptance and hope. As a community, that day seems a long way off, but the Psalms are here for us now as we journey through our grief.

    My school will never be the same.

  • The powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our places of worship is so incredibly gracious through and through and often times surprises us with unexpected glimpses of God’s grace to the people God loves so dearly.

  • Hamilton and Jesus

    I’m convinced the Church’s captivating, timeless gospel song plays most memorably in the classic liturgy, offering much-loved lyrics and phrases and its own kind of choreography.

    Nourishing a Love

    My daughter grew up delighting in music. Already as a toddler she loved to sing and dance and twirl. But a defining moment came when we booked tickets to the musical, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.

  • “Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:11)

    “…the only true and salutary joy is that which arises from resting in the fear and reverence of God.” — John Calvin, commenting on Psalm 2

  • Last month I had the opportunity to take a weeklong World Music Drumming course taught in part by Sowah Mensah.  Sowah’s native country is Ghana, but he has spent many years in the United States teaching and performing traditional West African music and dance. I was reminded of some of the wisdom he shared from his culture when I read an article this week in Christianity Today about EDM (electronic dance music) in the church.

  • Each year, on the second day of class, I give a little speech to my Intro Preaching 101 students. I tell them that I know some of them do not believe that the Holy Spirit has gifted women to preach. In their reading of scripture, women are not authorized to proclaim the Word of God. But, I continue, I am persuaded — and this class will be guided — by the conviction that they’re wrong about this. Not obtuse or ill-intentioned — just wrong.

  • It was Wednesday, 6:30 pm, and the worship team was tuning up for rehearsal. Fifteen year old electric guitarist Thomas wandered over to the piano where I was seated and casually remarked, “I’ve got the perfect idea for your retirement.  You should get a tattoo that says ‘no regerts.’” We both laughed.

    Five minutes later the eight of us were ready for Marja’s opening prayer and her walk through the coming Sunday’s morning service, four teenagers and four of us older folks with many decades of worship leading experience behind us.

  • Pausing to Ponder

    Tiffany. Sherman. Webster. Albion. Devil’s Punchbowl. Over the last 8 years, these and several of the other 100+ waterfalls in Hamilton, ON, have become my friends. Admittedly, I feel a bit weird describing these locations as friends, as if my social relationships now include inanimate objects. But quite honestly, I know these waterfalls better – and likely have more pictures from my time with them - than I do with 90% of the people I’m connected to via my social media accounts. 

  • There are some ideas I can’t get out of my head, even if they might not be very good. One idea is that it could be fun to play with pots and pans in a pool. I know this is a bad idea, ridiculous, in fact, but it still floats to the surface of my psyche at times and I push it back down, like a Dutch oven sinking to the bottom of the diving area.

    Other ideas are less ridiculous.

    Several of them are even liturgical.

  • Evaluations

    Our administrative committee recently conducted pastoral evaluations which included congregational wide surveys about the general worship life of our church. Most of you are familiar with this and have had something similar done in your own church. I admit I have a love-hate relationship with these evaluations. I love the fact that people, especially people who are usually not vocal, or the regulars standing by the piano to “chat” before I even get off the bench, have a vehicle to share their thoughts and their quiet observations about worship.

  • Rest

    Rest is fleeting. Rest is fleeting not like a vapor or a memory, rest is fleeting like the next rung on the monkey bars—you know it, you can see it, but it seems never to be in grasp.

    Rest is fleeting as we sit beside our over-weary child, up past bed time, while we respond to a facebook post, while Jimmy Fallon laughs at his own joke and we feign to find the rest that our bodies have been asking for all day. Not just asking for—banging on the door for. Rest has been begging for you to find it.

  • When we arrived in our current pastoral call, one of the pleasant surprises my wife and I discovered was a Manse where we could host large groups of people, with a living room that could accommodate our two grand pianos without breaking a sweat. We suspected this might lead to some joyful experiences, and last Thursday night we had our suspicions confirmed!

  • It’s been a good year to reflect on Reformed identity in the context of corporate worship. The 500th anniversary of the Reformation has provided ample opportunity to revisit the roots of our joint worship distinctives and practices. There is nothing more “reformed” than going back to the sources to reorient ourselves toward faithfulness in the present.  

  • Playing Possum

    One evening 15 or so years ago, as I stepped out onto our front porch, I encountered a surprise guest, or I should say, several surprise guests. An adult opossum with a few much younger ones sat quite comfortably in a row on the 3-feet high concrete ledge that wrapped around our porch. They were down on the right side, at the opposite end of where I had come out. They stared at me and I stared at them — all of us frozen in the uncertainty of what to do next.

  • A True Story

    The youth group had just returned from a week-long mission trip to a large, urban center. While there, they learned a rap-style worship song that beautifully embodied the soul of their week together. Still buzzing with the energy of their trip the Sunday morning after they returned home, they sang that rap-song for the congregation with lively, pre-recorded accompaniment, and then shared a couple epitomizing stories from their week.