Opinion

Favorite Songs of the Season

Learning from the Reformed Worship Community

For this Advent/Christmas issue of Reformed Worship, we asked our RW staff this question: “What congregational song related to the story of Christ’s birth do you find particularly meaningful and why?”

“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth”

from Handel’s Messiah.
Words: Job 19:25–26; 1 Corinthians 15:20; adapt. by Charles Jennens

Technology and Worship

Reflections from a Worship Committee Meeting

Our worship team was brainstorming one night in response to a facilities improvement survey. We talked about the way our sanctuary and the rest of our buildings don’t flow well—they seem strung together. This is true for many churches: Education wings were a second thought after the sanctuary, and additional space—from kitchens to gyms to side chapels—are tagged on as years and needs accumulate. Things change, sometimes without much thought about the overall impact of the build-up of small changes over time.

The god of the innovative is hard to resist. While this issue of Reformed Worship encourages us all to pay attention to how multiple intelligences and multiple learning styles inform worship planning, we need to do so with thought and discernment. This article causes us to pause and to take the time to think about what we do in our worship. Nothing is value-neutral.
-JB

If you’ve been anywhere near a computer in the last decade, you’re familiar with the phenomenon called “going viral.” It’s what happens when email inboxes, websites, and social networks light up like postmodern switchboards at the discovery of something new: the video of the cat doing that thing, the unexpected hit single, or that new author nobody’s ever heard of before who’s written something incredible. Suddenly, with unprecedented speed, everybody knows about it.

Where the Generations Gather

A Case for Including Children at the Lord's Supper

The Lord’s Supper is the pivotal feast that celebrates the victory of God, which he shares with each person in his kingdom. Here we gratefully acknowledge our inclusion in the community that God has designed. Here we confess our reluctance to demonstrate the full power of the gospel on our lives together, particularly as it pertains to the lack of hospitality and grace extended to others. Here we all recommit ourselves to following the example of Jesus—the Host at the table—who calls us, in view of his sacrifice, to serve others with humility and love.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

Perfect Harmony?

Congregational Singing Comes in Different Shapes and Sizes

Forty or fifty years ago, there wasn’t much question of what you’d find when opening a hymnal: congregational songs displayed in four-part harmony. Glorious SATB! There is nothing like the sound of a congregation raising its praise in a robust balance of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Many of the best singing congregations in Reformed, Mennonite, and Lutheran traditions don’t even need the support of an organ or piano to complete their harmonies.

Many hymnals have a large section devoted to Christmas. In actual practice, this section gets used throughout Advent (thereby shortchanging the character of Advent). If you take a few moments to page through the Christmas carols and hymns in almost any hymnal, you’ll find that narrative and folksy, sentimental lyrics easily outweigh songs with a theological treatment of the meaning of Christ’s incarnation.