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December 1994

Improving Our Baptism: How can we better claim and celebrate our baptism?

The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Standards (1648) asks and answers a very important question in Q&A 167:

Q. How is our baptism to be improved by us?

A. The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others...



Do you have questions about worship that you've always wanted to ask? Beginning next issue, RW will devote a new column to responding to your specific questions. Send your questions to Reformed Worship Q/ A by mail (2850 Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, MI 49560) fax (616-246-0834) or e-mail (


Hymns for March, April, and May

We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder

I have a friend who says, "In Lent we ought to be singing less of 'O Sacred Head Now Wounded' and more of 'May the Mind of Christ, My Savior."' My friend's point is that often in Lent we tend to focus more on the passion of Christ and less on our spiritual journey. "Jacob's Ladder" is a hymn that does focus on our journey, calling us to be soldiers of the cross and to love Jesus.

From Victim to Victory: Healing the wounds of abuse

Entering God's Presence (1)


"Awesome God"
[PCB 196, SPW 11,]

"King of Kings"
[PCB 196, SPW 94, TWC 110]

God Greets Us (2)

We Praise God for His Presence (3)

Hymn "God Himself Is with Us," st. 1
[PsH 244, TH 382]

We Confess Who We Are

Litany of Confession and Pardon.
(See box.)

We Pass the Peace of God to Each Other (4)

Are We Faking It? What Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche can teach us about our faith

In his book Suspicion and Faith (Eerd-mans, 1993) philosopher Merold West-phal makes the provocative suggestion that preachers use Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche as the starting point for a series of Lenten reflections. Since these men were all profound atheists, Westphal's suggestion may at first seem merely absurd. But upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that the idea has merit.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come: Completing the journey of Holy Week

An Easter service often begins with great festivity, with bright organ and trumpet music, with "all the lights up." Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church chose a different mood for this Easter service. Their concern was to remember that Easter morning is the completion of the Holy Week journey. So the service began the way it concluded on Good Friday: in darkness, with no banners, no flowers, no prelude.

For a Dime I'd Quit This Committee: Another war over worship

That it happened when it did, no one could have guessed. Who'd expect a worship war midsummer—the time when things aren't really rolling along in church with much steam? That it would happen, however, could have been predicted by anyone with even a little bit of foresight. The "praise and worship" brouhaha had been fomenting for almost two years, and all that energy finally blew the cork off the unsettled peace otherwise registered on the faces of the Prince of Peace Fellowship worship committee.

A House of Prayer: Reading for a dedication service

On January 16, 1994, Church of the Servant (CRC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, held services of celebration and dedication in its new sanctuary (pictured). On these pages you will find the dedication readings from the evening service and the call to worship from the morning service of the following week. The call to worship was adapted from a sermon of St. Augusting.

Genuine Sorrow...Wholehearted Joy: The why, when, and how of confession

In an article titled 'A Wretch Like Who?" (America, 1/29/94) Brian Abel Ragen notes that some contemporary versions of 'Amazing Grace" have changed the line "that saved a wretch like me" to "that saved and strengthened me." Ragen writes:

Lift a Banner in the Land!: Banners and paraments can enhance worship

Do banners hang in your worship space?

During the last couple of decades, interest in banners has enjoyed a revival. As a result, many congregations have decided to add a banner or two to their sanctuary. But often they haven't really thought through the purpose and meaning of those banners. Do banners add to worship, inspiring worshipers to reflect on who they are as children of God and what kind of God we are called to serve? Or are they merely decorations to brighten up a dull or plain space?

Expanding Our Repertoire: How my worship credo has changed

I'm writing these thoughts at the end of August, after visiting and preaching in a number of different churches. Although these congregations were theologically rather uniform, their worship idioms differed greatly—ranging from stately Canterbury to enthusiastic Nashville. And some of the congregations showed cracks and crevices in their koinonia, because of differences in their worship preferences. All of which made me take stock again of my stance on various worship issues.

Here's my worship credo of ten years ago:

Giving a Hymn a Lift: When should the organist change keys?

"Using an interlude to raise the pitch for the last stanza is unmusical and theatrical."
[Harold Gleason, McHiod of Organ Playing, 6th ed, 1979, p. 221]

"On special occasions, vigorous congregational singing can be promoted by transposing a hymn to a higher key for the last verse."
[George Ritchie and George Stauffer, Organ Technique, Modem and Early, 1992, p. 362]

In the Pit...Waiting: A service based on Psalm 40

My Song of Deliverance

The Gathering of the People for Worship

Organ Prelude

"Invocation in A Minor" [Guilmant]

"Air" [Handel]

Introduction to the Service

Book: In and for the World: Bringing the Contemporary into Christian Worship

Paul B. Brown. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.176 pp., $12.00.

Book: A Brief History of Christian Worship

James E White. Nashville: Abingdon, 1993.192 pp., $14.95.

Feast for the Eyes: We need a visual dimension in our worship

From the time I was a teenager I enjoyed doing and viewing art—so much so that I made it my profession. But it was only recently that I began to contemplate how to relate the rich heritage of art, and especially the art that inspired generations of Christian worshipers, to public worship. Increasingly I have begun to crave the same visual feast that has fed worshipers in the past.

Readings from <em>The Dramtized Bible</em>

JOHN 21:1-14

Narrator: Jesus appeared once more to his disciples at Lake Tiberias. This is how it happened, Simon Peter, Thomas— called the Twin, Nathanael—the one from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples of Jesus were all together. Simon Peter said to the others:

Peter: I am going fishing.

Disciple: We will come with you.