This article is culled from a series of workshops in several locations sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship during the fall of 2005.
How many of us remember the specific lessons we learned in Sunday school? Probably not very many. But how about the songs we sang in those same Sunday school classes? Do you remember the words to “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Away in a Manger,” or “O Be Careful, Little Eyes”?
Several African American pastors and leaders in West Michigan churches began meeting regularly a couple of years ago for study and encouragement with the help of a Lilly-funded Peer Learning Group. A recurring theme in their discussions has been how to function as African Americans in ministry in a way that integrates their Reformed theology; they have been especially eager to find creative ways to reach urban African American youth. One of the books they read together, On Being Black and Reformed, is reviewed on page 34.
In the beginning God speaks six times on six days, and then stops. God rests. But each of these days also has a night. And God rests then too! God doesn’t talk all the time. In fact, Genesis doesn’t even start with a word. Genesis starts with the formlessness of the earth and with the Spirit of God brooding over the face of the deep. Then God speaks. You might almost say that at last God speaks. “Let there be light,” says God. According to Genesis, God breaks the cosmic silence with a creative word.
Church-goers these days have rising expectations for the quality of worship. We want worship to be an authentic encounter with the living God, a quality gathering for the Christian community, and an effective means of reaching those exploring Christian faith. In fact, we have gradually placed more weight on the role of worship in accomplishing the church’s mission.