James Abbington, known affectionately as “Jimmie” to his many friends, is a an amazingly versatile musician/scholar who is committed to the study and practice of worship music from the African American heritage. He is equally at home playing the piano, Hammond organ, or pipe organ; directing a choir; directing a conference; or composing, writing, and editing books and music on aspects of African American church music (see box).
Articles in this issue:
In the spring of 1970, Pastor Ray Rewerts of Fifth Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, challenged his congregation to initiate a ministry in the Grand Rapids area to a group of people who were not being reached through traditional outreach programs. Inspired in part by Robert Schuller’s ministry at a drive-in theater in California (the beginning of what became the Crystal Cathedral), Fifth’s congregation decided to open a drive-in ministry where people could worship in their cars.
The idea for this service came from a similar one planned by InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship at Harvard University. Each year the group organizes a service for graduating students called “Ordination to Daily Work,” to affirm to these students that their training for their profession and vocation, even if not explicitly Christian, is still holy work dedicated to God.
I’m trying to schedule meetings for September, and keep running into conflicts with “We Haul”—the whole “help the frosh unpack” enterprise. I’m imagining all those first-year students in their rooms at home the last weekend in August, their lives about to get turned upside down, sorting through all their clothes, books, CDs, high-school memorabilia. Wondering what to bring to college, what to leave, what’s important.
I was struck by a question asked by a California reader in the previous issue of Reformed Worship: “I’m too concerned for the details of the service to really enter into worship. Any advice?” (RW 71, p. 44). That’s one problem.
A deeper problem arises when a worship leader is too burdened—for whatever reason—to be able to worship, and yet is called to lead others. That’s another kind of problem.
RW 71 introduced a new column on Technology in Worship, asking basic worship questions that should precede technical questions about using presentation technology. If your church has decided to use computer projection, its time to ask the next question: How do we start?
One church is dealing with a major conflict between the pastor and the elders. Another is struggling to keep together factions that have polarized over changes in worship. A third is reeling from the sudden suspension of its pastor. A fourth is grieving over the tragic death of a child. A fifth is facing the loss of a large portion of its membership; yet another is adjusting to the consolidation of a smaller congregation into its midst.
Five years ago, our church decided to use a projection machine and screen in worship. We discovered that the appearance of projection-screen technology was forcing us to provide some answers to questions we had not even begun to ask. For example,
Soon after September 11, 2001, I received requests from various congregations throughout the United States for permission to sing from “A Congregational Lament” in worship services. They needed a song to fit the evil besetting them. They wanted to mourn the terrible loss of life and to cry out to God for the Lord to lessen their pain somehow in what seemed so brutally destructive. As believers they wanted to sing a sad song of faith that did not pretend in Stoic fashion to take on the chin whatever happens.
In the summer of 2003, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship studied the use of video technology in worship in West Michigan. Over 900 churches in Kent and Ottawa counties were surveyed, with a 36% response rate. The following summary includes the key survey questions, a summary of the response, and some additional questions for considering your own media program.