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December 2003

Teach Us to Pray

My most distant memory of prayer in worship goes back to the “long prayer” in the Reformed Church in the Netherlands. Long it was, as the dominee covered our personal and communal sins; the needs of God’s kingdom and the Dutch kingdom as well as the rest of the world; the suffering of Sister Jacoba, who had pain in her left kidney; the cause of missions in Suriname; and an outline of the sermon.

Beyond the "Children's Message": Welcoming Children in Worship

The little boy came running over at a church gathering. “Pastor Mary!” he said, with a finger in his mouth. “Look!” I saw a fresh gap where his tooth used to be. “Ryan!” I said. “You’ve lost your first tooth!” He grinned back. “And the one next to it is loose!”

Book: Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship

Thomas G. Long. Alban Institute, 2001. 132 pp. $16.00. ISBN 1566992400.

A Tale of Three Churches: Using Drama in Worship

This article is the fruit of my work with CITA (Christians in the Theatre Arts) and their grant project on Worship and Theatre funded by a Worship Renewal Grant through the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. The substance of the article is the result of workshops offered at the 2001 CITA annual meeting in Oakland, California, and the 2003 Calvin Symposium of Worship and the Arts, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thanks to all whose cumulative wisdom and insight contributed to this article. For information about CITA visit

Book: The Future of Protestant Worship: Beyond the Worship Wars

Ronald P. Byars. Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press, 2002. 144 pp. $12.95. ISBN 0664225721.

From Adam to Jonah: A Whole Year with the Old Testament

The pastor called the children to the front of church and asked them to sit on the front bench. He pulled out a long rope, then asked for two volunteers to play the parts of Adam and Eve and hold the end of the rope. Two little girls volunteered and happily shared holding the end of the rope. The pastor picked up the rope about two feet down and asked for a Noah. Immediately a three-year-old boy whose name is Noah stood up and, with a broad smile, held his part of the rope. Next the pastor called children to be Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron. Then Joshua, Mrs.

Book: A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship

Michael Horton. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2002. 256 pp. $19.99. ISBN 0801012341.

Listening to the Prophets: A Five-Week Series for Lent, page 1 of 2

As our church made its way through a yearlong focus on the Old Testament (see “From Adam to Jonah,” p. 10) we wanted to show the relationship between the Old and New Testaments during the seasons of the church year. It’s a challenge to take seasons like Advent and Lent, with their decidedly New Testament story lines, and remember them with Old Testament passages. But we felt the Old Testament could give us a fresh perspective on these New Testament stories.

Books: Recovering Mother Kirk & With Reverance and Awe

Recovering Mother Kirk: The Case for Liturgy in the Reformed Tradition. D. G. Hart. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003. 264 pp. $24.99. ISBN 0801026156.
With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship. D. G. Hart and John R. Muether. Phillipsburg, N. J.: P&R Publishing Company, 2002. 208 pp. $12.99. ISBN 0875521797.

Holding Fast to the Psalms: Stories from Hungary

The book of Psalms, embodied in the Genevan Psalter, has nourished Reformed Christians for centuries. This spiritual heritage has a special place in the hearts of Hungarian Reformed believers who have survived the harsh years of Communist repression and domination. Their stories testify to the influence of the psalms in the ordinary and extraordinary details of their lives.

Book: Reformed Worship

Howard L. Rice and James C. Huffstutler. Louisville: Geneva Press, 2001. 248 pp. $24.95. ISBN 0664501478.

Jiving for Jesus: Resources for Using jazz in Worship

Jazz has a checkered past. While its deepest roots are in the spirituals sung in the slave fields of the South, jazz really came into its own in the saloons and brothels of New Orleans. It is still culturally suspect to many.

Jazz Vespers: A Contemporary Riff on an Ancient Prayer Service

LOFT (Living Our Faith Together) is the main student-run contemporary worship service at Calvin College. But it isn’t the only one. A little over two years ago, students on campus began a midweek, late evening, jazz- and poetry-based prayer service held in an underground coffee house known as the Cave. Ron Rienstra coordinates that service as well as LOFT. This column is offered in response to many inquires about what goes on there.

A Kuyperian Experiment

Essays: Worship by the Book

D. A. Carson, ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. 256 pp. $16.99. ISBN 0310216257.

There have been several collections of essays published in the last few years. Though these collections don’t provide narrative cohesiveness, they are able delve deeper into narrowly defined subject areas.

My Grandmother Saved It, My Mother Threw It Away, and Now I'm Buying It Back

Editor’s note: In popular usage, the word hymn can refer to the text only (typical in England), to text and tune only, or to the whole combination of text and music. In this article, the desire to return to old hymns is to return to the older texts, sometimes also the tunes, but definitely not the sounds of traditional hymns. Old hymn texts are finding new life in contemporary musical settings.

Essays: The Conviction of Things Not Seen

Todd E. Johnson, ed. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2002. 240 pp. $22.99. ISBN 1587430320.

Worshipping God As We Are: Worship Forms Our Identity in Christ

Isn’t it self-evident that we worship God with who we are? Not really. In the medieval period priests and singers performed before silent spectators. And at the Reformation Ulrich Zwingli “conducted a monologue in the presence of a completely silent congregation” (Howard Hageman, Pulpit and Table, p. 120). There’s not much difference between those two practices. The people could watch or listen, but who they were was omitted.

Essays: Christian Worship in Reformed Churches Past and Present

Lukas Vischer, ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. 444 pp. $45.00. ISBN 0802805205.

On Ordained Leadership and Good Friday Moralism

Q Thanks for your comments in RW 69 about ordination. I have one more question: What about the assurance of pardon? In our church, only a minister offers the benediction and greeting or leads the sacraments, but our lay leaders do the assurance of pardon. Is that permissible or advisable?


Essays: Worship Seeking Understanding: Windows into Christian Practice

John D. Witvliet. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003. 320 pp. $26.99. ISBN 0801026237.

This final collection of essays is by a single author, John D. Witvliet. Witvliet has organized these essays, many previously published but here presented in revised form, into five broad categories: biblical, theological, historical, musical, and pastoral studies.

Alleluia! Jesus is Risen! A Service of Witness to the Resurrection

The title for this service is the same as the title of the funeral service in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Westminster/ John Knox, 1993). On Easter Sunday, we bear witness to the dying and rising of Christ as well as to our own dying and rising with him (Rom. 6:4).

Old Texts, New Sounds

Kind and Merciful God

Click to listen [ full version ]

Too many churches today omit confession of sin from the worship service. This year, especially during Lent, if your congregation has gone “light” on this part of worship, consider ways to approach God with prayers for forgiveness so that you may celebrate the forgiving and atoning love of God.

The King of Glory Comes: Resources for Palm/Passion Sunday

The events framed by Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the resurrection are some of the most dramatic and theologically important of the entire scriptural narrative. These days featured not only the drama of the triumphal entry, trial, last supper, and crucifixion, but also poignant prayers and prophetic teaching from our Lord. Indeed, John’s gospel devotes eight of its twenty-one chapters to this week alone!

Little Church on the Prairie: Rose Valley United Methodist Church, Downs, Kansas

For more than a century, people have gathered for worship each Sunday at Rose Valley, a small rural church set in the quiet beauty of the Kansas prairie. Rose Valley consists of a small white frame church built in 1901 and a parsonage that was added in 1917. Named for the wild roses that still grow in the area, the church began with settlers who were eager to teach their children the Christian faith. First came the Sunday school, then the church.


What’s New at Symposium 2004

We look forward to seeing many of you at the 2004 Symposium on Worship and the Arts on January 29-31 at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Come by yourself or bring several from your church for a few days of refreshment and renewal. If you have not registered, please do so very soon; remember that last year, registrations were closed a few weeks in advance. This year’s change in date will permit us to accommodate more people. Here are some new features this year:

The Atonement in Scripture and Song: A Lenten Service with Teaching Notes

What’s the best way to present the doctrine of the atonement at a conference for worship planners and leaders? One way would be to suggest Scripture texts and songs that focus on this teaching of Scripture. But Donald Hustad, Carl Stam, and Paul Detterman—all from Louisville, Kentucky—collaborated in a more challenging approach: preparing and walking participants through a worship service celebrating Christ’s atoning work for the sins of the world.

Listening to the Prophets: A Five-Week Series for Lent, page 2 of 2


We have come to the season of the year that illustrates the glory of the fullness of the Christian life. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s going all out. Why would we want to do any less?

Song: “Day of Judgment, Day of Wonders!” PsH 614

God’s Parting Blessing

Song: “What Wondrous Love” (st. 3)

Gathering Song: “Holy, Holy, Holy, My Heart”

A Time to Mourn: Shepherding God's People Through Grief

Christian worship is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul says that Christ’s death and rising again must find its parallel in the life of believers: we must die to our old selves and rise to our new life in Christ (2 Tim. 2:11; Col. 3:1-5). He takes this one step further in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, explaining that our very bodies are like seeds that must die and return to the earth before we can experience the resurrection of our new spiritual body. Spiritual truths suddenly become living (and dying) realities.

Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen! Sermon by Timothy Brown

"If Christ has not been raised from the dead your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (and) those also who have died in Christ have perished."

Say that again please. . . .

"If Christ has not been raised from the dead your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (and) those also who have died in Christ have perished."

The Face of Christ

Picture Jesus Christ in your mind. What does he look like? A face gazing straight at you like the one in Warner Sallman's too-famous portrait? A cartoon character wearing a white robe and red sash (an image formed from years of exposure to church school papers)? A suffering body hanging on a rough wooden cross?