On the following pages Chris Stoffel Overvoorde, a professor of art at Calvin College and a member of Grace Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, explains how his congregation developed a meaningful environment for worship. The congregation, which began as a mission chapel in 1949, has grown into a multicultural congregation of roughly one hundred families. Through the use of a church symbol, banners, liturgical color, and sculpture they have created a worshipful and meditative.
Articles in this issue:
Christians who are searching for a Reformed tradition of celebrating the Holy Week may be disappointed by what they find. Although the Reformers observed parts of the Christian year, they left us no precedent for worship during the Holy Week except the celebration of the Lord's Supper on Easter Sunday. Not surprisingly, the contemporary Reformed church has experimented with many types of liturgies in an attempt to fill that void.
The children filed out of their seats and stood in two squirming rows in front of the congregation. As the pianist pounded out the introductory notes, the choir director, equipped with giant white word cards, took her place in front of the group.
During the last several decades the Christian community has witnessed a vast explosion of hymnody. Some of these new songs are produced by gifted authors, people like Timothy Dudley-Smith or Margaret Clarkson, who write hymns that build on the heritage of Christian hymnody. But a larger part of this "hymn explosion" is Scripture songs—actual scriptural texts or paraphrases of Scripture set to music, often in a popular style.
A Hymn-of-the-Month program is an effective means of introducing a congregation to new hymns and of using familiar hymns in inventive and fresh ways. Such a program can be invaluable in preparing a congregation for a new hymnal.
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1984. 192 pages, $6.40.
In 1980 the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. resolved to develop a "new book of services for corporate worship, including a Psalter, hymns, and other worship aids." It also requested that over the "next several years a variety of worship resources be made available… for trial use throughout the church before any publication is finalized."
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1985. 114 pages, $6.40.
Most worshipers probably are unaware of how much work goes into preparing a good worship service. Effective liturgy flows so smoothly that worshipers have no reason or inclination to wonder about its design or its designers. Worship itself is all that matters.
New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1985. The Hymnbook 1982, home edition, 1,070 pages, $12.95 (hymns only). The Hymnal 1982, pew edition, 960 pages, $9.95 (melody-only edition of hymns and service music). The Hymnal 1982, accompaniment edition (in two volumes), 1,769 pages, $27.50.
I pastor a congregation of people who clap their hands a lot. We clap while singing. We clap when fellow worshipers speak a word of testimony and mutual encouragement. Once in a while the congregation even claps when I make a strong point in my sermon.
We have no prescribed pattern for clapping, no rules for when it is or is not appropriate. But I can think of at least one time when it would be impossible and wrong for us not to clap…