If you've ever taken a careful look at the churches in your area, you've probably noticed that some of the newer buildings don't conform to our old stereotypes of what a church should look like. And if you've recently participated in a church building or remodeling project, you probably have a good grasp of the reasons behind these new trends in church architecture. Church building isn't as predictable as it used to be.
Articles in this issue:
In many of our churches Advent is celebrated with numerous signs and symbols. Special banners, Advent wreaths, and Chrismon trees enrich our worship and give deeper meaning to our celebration. But, aside from palm branches on Palm Sunday and perhaps a few candles on Good Friday, few churches make similar use of symbols during Lent.
Once upon a time in a land not so far away, a church named Rivervale met to conduct worship every Sunday in a very nice sanctuary. Always their service followed a pleasant style, tastefully created by a liturgically sensitive Committee on Music and Worship. Rivervale members were of one mind in claiming that at their church everything was done in the best possible order. When the event I am about to relate took place, both Rivervale pastors were absent.
On Sunday, August 17, 1642, Dominie Johannes Megapolensis Jr. preached his first sermon to about one hundred people in a grain warehouse in Rensselaerwyck, a Dutch settlement across the Hudson River from the present site of Albany, New York. That historic worship service gave birth to the First Reformed Church in Albany, the second oldest congregation in the Reformed Church in America.
Songs of Thankfulness and Praise
Christopher Wordsworth, the author of this text, may not be as well known today as his famous uncle, William. But during his lifetime (1807-85) Christopher distinguished himself as a scholar, professor, pastor, and eventually a bishop in the church of England.
Bishop Wordsworth included this hymn in his Holy Year: or Hymns for Sundays, Holidays, and Other Occasions Throughout the Year, with the following heading:
If you're like most choir directors, you occasionally have problems filling your choir's repertoire for Easter. Perhaps you've noticed the sameness and even shallowness of some Easter hymns and anthems and have longed Jsii; for music similar to Christmas carols—music which is simple and appealing and which can readily involve large numbers of people.
Easter Sunrise services have been in vogue for many years, but an Easter Vigil is largely unknown among Reformed and Presbyterian churches. A "vigil" suggests waiting—an alert, expectant watching when one is normally asleep (Matt. 24:36-25:13). During a vigil one is full of anticipation and hope.
Grace Episcopal Church is very quiet when I enter at 9:20. In fact, even though the service is to start at 9:30, I am the only person in the sanctuary. A few minutes later several more people show, but it turns out the big service will be in the evening. (After the soup supper. Ah! even Episcopalians must be urged with food. But during Lent?)
When I discover that some Catholic or Lutheran friends are fasting during Lent, I feel a stab of guilt. My conscience nudges me with the insistent question, "Why don't I, a Reformed Christian, also fast?" Further thought doesn't make the question disappear; it persists. Why don't I, as an act of repentance or humility, deny myself some ordinary good in order to better remember my Lord's suffering and death? And why doesn't my church urge me to fast as a fitting way to prepare myself for the splendid Easter festival?
We are fond of quoting Psalm 150. All those instruments —trumpet, harp and lyre, flute and strings, even tambourine and cymbals—paint a sound-picture of orchestral dimensions in Old Testament worship.