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December 2002

Time-Tested Traditions: Experiencing Easter Joy in a Moravian Cemetery

Every Sunday, and especially on the great festival days of the Christian year, preachers and worship planners search for ways to tell the old, old story in fresh new ways. On the other hand, many congregations cherish longstanding traditions such as a Christmas Eve candlelight service or an Easter sunrise service. Those services may include a few of the same elements year after year.

Roots and Wings: Musical Makeovers for Classic Hymns and Hymn Texts

For dozens of generations, hymns have been the mainstay of worship music. Christians have praised with them, prayed with them . . . and played with them. Good pastoral musicians have always played around with hymn arrangements, seeking creative expression and the best liturgical effect. And of course, texts and tunes are made to mix and match.

The Solemn Reproaches of the Cross: An Ancient Ending for a Good Friday Service

The Solemn Reproaches is an ancient text of Western Christendom associated with the ending of a Good Friday service. The reproaches follow the pattern of Psalm 78, which rehearses God’s continuing acts of faithfulness and Israel’s repeated rebellion.

Flowing or Floating? Ordering Music During the Lord's Supper

3/20 Pre-planning

Another communion service is coming up—just in time! We need all the grace we can get.

U To do: Confirm with Pastor Peter and elders from our supervising church to join us for planning and prayer.

Giving Up Hurts for Lent: A Congregational Healing Tree

Winter can sap the life out of anyone. The forlorn landscape causes hearts to contract, shrinking inward until it’s safe to come out again. Broken branches, shriveled foliage, and rasping dry winds—all discourage any hope of life, either in plants or in our own dispirited hearts.

How to Develop a Requiem Choir: A Congregational Ministry for Funerals

In the midst of life, we are in death.” But fewer and fewer of us share in the sad, sometimes openly commercial rituals that surround our final passage in this culture—more and more grieving family and close friends mourn by themselves.

Table Service: Maundy Thursday Worship Including a Meal, Footwashing, and Communion

Our congregation meets for a communion service every year on Maundy Thursday. Sometimes we meet in our fellowship hall and share a simple meal of soup, salad, bread, and water. The food is on each table before the service begins; one person at each table serves the soup to the others. Sometimes we also include footwashing as part of the service. This particular service included both.

The Opening


Book: Worship: Reformed According to Scripture

Hughes Oliphant Old. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. Revised and expanded edition. 195 pp. $19.95.

Old published an earlier version of this very readable and practical book on Reformed theology of worship in the 1980s. If you missed it then, get it now.

Robes of Righteousness: An Easter Drama

[Two people dressed in black stand silently beside a table with a folded white sheet in the center. To the right of the table stands a bench. To the left of the table, and slightly behind it, stands a wooden cross. Two readers, also dressed in black, stand on one side of the stage area; a third reader stands on the opposite side of the stage area. Performance time: 30 minutes.]

Reader 1: Praise the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. (Ps. 104:1)

Visualize Peace

Banner block. I know you’ve been there. Your worship planning committee hands you yet another impossible assignment: “We’re having a series on the psalms of lament and would like something that reflects the somberness of the topic yet is bright and lively—after all, we don’t want to depress people” or “We’re having a special service on the quality and character of God.

Celebrating Easter in God's Acre: A Sunrise Service from the Moravian Church

Moravian churches have been celebrating this service for more than 250 years and singing the same hymns for at least the last hundred years (see p. 2). This entire service, including music, is found in the Moravian Book of Worship, edited by Nola Knouse, director of the Moravian Music Foundation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (


More on Cats

I continue to be challenged, informed, and inspired by your excellent publication.

The Lord, Our Shepherd: A Series for Lent and Easter Based on Psalm 23

Go with the familiar! This advice has meant a lot to me as I consider worship planning. As a pastor, too often I have looked for unique, one-of-a-kind approaches to Christmas, Lent, and the other “standard events” of the Christian year. This year I felt compelled to go with the familiar and serve up a Lent/Easter series based on Psalm 23.


New Ministry Resource Center

Have you ever wondered where to go for the most helpful materials to plan a worship service, lead a small group Bible study, or develop an outreach program? Or wished you could compare leading programs and their related materials, some of which cost hundreds of dollars and require weeks of seminar training to obtain? You will soon have a place to find all the resources you will need for congregational ministry.

The Welcoming Presence of Christ

This article is the first of a series featuring churches that highlight the intersection of worship and ministry. RW is grateful to the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for funding this column with support from Lilly Endowment Inc.


Songs for Lent and Easter

He Is Lord

Click to listen  [ separate versions | versions combined ]

One of the best-known and most versatile Easter choruses from the mid-seventies started out as a single anonymous stanza. Typical of many praise choruses, the very structure invited expansion, and the expanded version found here also came from an anonymous source.

Celtic Connections: Tapping into a Rich Heritage of Prayer

I am bending my knee
in the Eye of the Father, who created me,
in the Eye of the Son, who purchased me,
in the Eye of the Spirit, who cleansed me.
By your own Anointed One, O God,
bestow upon us fullness in our need.
Love towards God, the affection of God, the smile of God,
the wisdom of God, the grace of God, the fear of God,
and the will of God to do on the world of the Three
as angels and saints do in heaven;
each shade and light, each day and night,
each time in kindness, give us your Spirit.

Dialogue with Scripture: Contemporary Responses to the Ten Commandments and Psalm 23

Here is a fresh approach to the reading of the Ten Commandments and of Psalm 23. People tend to tune out when they hear an overly familiar passage of Scripture. Juxtaposing the way our society expresses its views on moral issues with the commandments gives the reading fresh meaning and would, I hoped, expose worldly thought.

Note that you could substitute Readers 1 and 2 in the first reading with leader and congregation.

Tension in Our Music Ministry: Can It Unite Us?

Not long ago, I led a study of Charles Wesley’s hymns with a group of older adults. Despite their interest and attentiveness, there was pain in the room. One of the class members spoke up. “My son said to me, ‘Dad, the music at your church is boring and awful. You should come to my church so you can really worship.’” I asked whether this had happened to anyone else in the room. Of the eighty people in the class, over half raised their hands.

Ring Those Bells! Ideas for Using Handbells in Worship

From time to time all of us who plan worship need some new ideas and triggers that will spark our creativity. Using handbells in worship can be such a spark. I like to think of bells as a seasoning to the “meat and potatoes” of the liturgy. Used with discretion, bells can be an outstanding asset to engage the congregation’s senses in worship.

Helping Kids Understand Worship Through Music: Ideas and Encouragement for Those Who Lead Children's Choirs

Directing a children’s choir offers several opportunities to teach children what worship is and what it means to worship. As choir directors, our primary tool for teaching children about worship is the music that we sing. This article will focus on how the music we choose can be a teaching tool for children to understand worship—and at the same time, how it can help them lead the whole congregation in worship.

An Invitation to Come Home: Affirming Youth in Worship

Most Sundays when I go to worship, I feel like 80 percent of me stays in the car in the parking lot and the other 20 percent actually makes it through the front door and into the pew.” I’ve never forgotten that comment because it points to a deep truth about the character of worship: In worship we are invited to bring our entire being, together with the community of faith, into the presence of the Lord.

On Worship Director Job Descriptions and the Term Paschal

Q   We’re hiring a new worship director.  Do you have any advice about how to set up a job description?

—New Jersey

A    Based on learning from a number of congregations that we have heard from at the Worship Institute, I would recommend thinking about three things that churches sometimes miss: