Feature

The Worship Sourcebook stands in a long tradition of worship books in the Christian church. The biblical Psalms may well have functioned as a prayer book for the people of Israel. Some of the earliest Christians compiled their advice about forms and patterns of worship into church order documents, the first of which, the Didache, dates back perhaps into the first century a.d. Over time, especially in the early medieval period, these documents grew very complex, with detailed instructions about every aspect of worship.

I remember unsettling conversations in the fellowship hall after worship. A middle-aged woman once said to me, “We returned home from Bethel Christian camp last night and the worship there was so inspiring! My husband and I were deeply blessed. I must confess it was difficult to worship here again this morning.” Another time a teen had this to say: “We got back late last night from a week-long SERVE project. It was a blast! We all felt so close to each other and I grew so much in my walk with God.

The book of Psalms, embodied in the Genevan Psalter, has nourished Reformed Christians for centuries. This spiritual heritage has a special place in the hearts of Hungarian Reformed believers who have survived the harsh years of Communist repression and domination. Their stories testify to the influence of the psalms in the ordinary and extraordinary details of their lives.

From time to time all of us who plan worship need some new ideas and triggers that will spark our creativity. Using handbells in worship can be such a spark. I like to think of bells as a seasoning to the “meat and potatoes” of the liturgy. Used with discretion, bells can be an outstanding asset to engage the congregation’s senses in worship.

Not long ago, I led a study of Charles Wesley’s hymns with a group of older adults. Despite their interest and attentiveness, there was pain in the room. One of the class members spoke up. “My son said to me, ‘Dad, the music at your church is boring and awful. You should come to my church so you can really worship.’” I asked whether this had happened to anyone else in the room. Of the eighty people in the class, over half raised their hands.

I am bending my knee
in the Eye of the Father, who created me,
in the Eye of the Son, who purchased me,
in the Eye of the Spirit, who cleansed me.
By your own Anointed One, O God,
bestow upon us fullness in our need.
Love towards God, the affection of God, the smile of God,
the wisdom of God, the grace of God, the fear of God,
and the will of God to do on the world of the Three
as angels and saints do in heaven;
each shade and light, each day and night,
each time in kindness, give us your Spirit.

Choosing a balanced diet of songs for a collection of worship songs is an exercise that will change anyone! Take a seat around the table of our hymnal committee for a while, and get a taste of what it was like to choose the songs that worship planners may eventually use for their planning. Committee members will testify that they’ll never look at a hymnal the same way again. Making choices wasn’t always easy!