On April 17, 2007, a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, which was the deadliest school shooting in United States history. This article tells how Blacksburg churches, who had been working together to make ecumenical connections with the help of a Worship Renewal Grant, were able to respond to the tragedy as a community.
I called my pastor, Gary Schroeder, early on a Saturday morning before leaving for my son’s soccer game. “Sorry to bother you at home,” I said, “but I have some good news. We got the grant!”
Imagine yourself into this scenario: the New Year’s Day prayer vigil you planned for your congregation last year was a disappointment. The only people who signed up—besides you—were three faithful ladies and the youth pastor, who owed you for chaperoning the Christmas teen event. It’s taken you three months to figure out that the idea of spending a whole hour in prayer is intimidating to your congregation. Spending that much time in prayer seems an impossible and unspeakably boring prospect.
“Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!” (1 Kings 18:38-39).
Is this unique and potent passage familiar to you? Can you imagine singing it during a weekly worship service?
Robert Nordling (see his article on p. 32) tells a story about taking his five-year-old son, Jackson, to a young friend’s birthday party: All dressed up, brimming with enthusiasm, Jackson rushes into his friend’s house to join the festivities. But when his father arrives to pick him up after the party, Jackson looks dejected. “What’s the matter, Jackson?” asks his father. “Didn’t you enjoy the party?” The answer is a terse no. “But you were looking forward to this party so much!
When our congregation changed its method of choosing elders and deacons from election to the casting of lots, we searched for a liturgy to use in the new process. Finding none, we created our own, borrowing heavily from the rich text of Worship the Lord: The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America (Order for the Ordination and Installation of Elders and Deacons). We followed this process: