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June 2004

Worship Planning as Worship

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.

Is Computer Projection for You? Helps for getting started

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?


Worship in Difficult Times: Thoughtful leadership during crisis, conflict, or transition

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.

Using Screens in Worship: One church's criteria

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,

Pain Is a Four-Letter Word: A congregational lament

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.

Projectors in Worship: Summary of a Survey

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.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus: A service of prayer for healing

This service was prepared as a pastoral response to a series of deaths, illnesses, and other traumatic events suffered by our congregation over a short period of time. The lights of the sanctuary were dimmed. A table was set up in front of the pulpit and draped with purple and black cloth. The pulpit Bible served as centerpiece, surrounded by approximately fifty (unlit) votive candles in clear glass containers. A cross was set up in a front corner of the sanctuary with a small table draped in purple in front of it. A Christ candle was lit on this table.

Books: Prayers in Times of Crisis & Prayers During the Night

Liturgy Training Publications, Archdiocese of Chicago, Ill., 2003. 57 pp. $4.00.

Words-Only Worship: A case for fasting from music

t is difficult to imagine worship without music. Indeed, for too many worshipers the music is the worship. As congregations are working to make their worship more accessible to a wider range of people and more expressive of the voices of young and old, traditional and contemporary, modern and post-modern worshipers, the greatest struggles and most obvious changes often have to do with music.

Resource: Playing Together as a Worship Band

Maranatha! Praise Band with Angela Dean and Bobby Brock. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. $27.99.

Like many resources for churches doing “contemporary worship,” this collection (a book plus a VHS video or a DVD) focuses primarily on the technical aspects of leading a congregation with guitars, drums, mics, monitor speakers, and so on.

Prayers of Hope and Healing: Resources for troubled times and special circumstances

When words fail us, whether in times of joy or sorrow, it is often the words penned by another that help us give voice to our soul’s prayer. Maybe the written prayer expresses our thoughts so profoundly we use the same text, or maybe it helps free our own tongue to form a new prayer. But where do we find those prayers? There are many great prayer books, but another readily accessible source is the Internet. Many good sites provide prayers and other worship resources free for use in congregational worship.

CDs: Hearts on Pilgrimage: A Daily Devotional Experience Filled with Music, Prayer, and Scripture

Sara Singleton. Carol Stream, Ill.: Oasis Audio, 2002. 14-page booklet and 4 CDs. $29.99.

Producer Sara Singleton has assembled an “audio sanctuary” that clearly reverences the Scriptures, warmly embraces the prayers and spiritual disciplines of past generations of believers, and, through vocal and instrumental selections, encourages the listener to savor the truth of the gospel and sweetness of close communion with the Savior.

A Church That Burned Becomes a Church on Fire: Opportunities out of ashes

On February 18, 2003, a Tuesday morning, Immanuel Christian Reformed Church of Brampton burned down almost completely. Many of us stood that morning watching the firefighters struggle to control the flames as we struggled to comprehend what was happening. The congregation experienced mixed emotions. Erick and I had been in Brampton for less than a year, so we hadn’t yet become attached to the building; others struggled, knowing that the building had been in need of expansion or revamping to become a more functional space.

Book: O Come, Let Us Bow Down and Worship: A Spiritual Guide for Leadership

Deborah Moore Clark. Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 2003. 252 pp. $18.00. ISBN 1-57312-364-1.

Author Deborah Moore Clark has written a focused and thorough book on the theology and practice of Christian worship. The book lends itself to group study by a worship committee or church staff in that each chapter ends with probing questions that get to the heart of worship priorities.

To Your Very Good Health: Diagnosing and treating common liturgical maladies

In a culture obsessed with health, it is perhaps too tempting to describe everything in terms of health. But health-related metaphors are easily understood and often are illuminating—the kind of metaphors that communicate well in church newsletters and choir bulletins.

Book: Wonderful Worship in Smaller Churches

David R. Ray. Pilgrim Press, 2000. 192 pp. $20.00. ISBN 0829814000.

From Fast to Feast: Insights into the process of reconciliation from South Africa

Reconciliation is a process. It is a long and often difficult road through truth and justice aimed at the restoration of broken relationships, in order to establish a new reconciled reality. There are no quick-fix solutions, no shortcuts or easy roads. The process of reconciliation that is taking place in the church in South Africa illustrates the challenges and offers guidelines for rituals of reconciliation that can help the church worldwide address its ongoing need for reconciliation.

Songs for the Season: Singing Through the Hard Times

When hard times come, lines of familiar hymns often leap out at us, catch us unaware, and stick in our throats. At times we cannot sing, we cannot pray. It is then that we need the fellowship of believers more than ever. We need the comfort of knowing that others are singing and praying on our behalf, bringing before God the prayers and songs we cannot sing.


Worship and Disabilities

As I picked up my copy of RW my eye caught the paragraph where you mention that worshipers cannot meditate on the fast-moving images of PowerPoint (“Come and See,” RW 70). This struck me as a wonderful addition to my workshop on worship and disabilities. If regular worshipers can’t meditate on PowerPoint, how in the world do you think people with retardation, autism,or those who are sight impaired (as opposed to blind) will be able to think about the pictures?

The Sweet and the Bitter: A wedding ritual

Wedding rituals I have witnessed firsthand include the lighting of a unity candle, the rose ceremony, communion, and foot washing. But ever since I saw the movie Fiddler on the Roof years ago, I have been particularly fascinated by the Jewish wedding practice of drinking wine and breaking the glass under the couple’s feet. Seven wedding blessings (Sheva Brachot; spoken over the cup of wine celebrate the themes of creation and joy.


RW Online Index to Replace Print Version

Ever since RW began, we’ve published a cumulative index updated each year. For the past two years, we’ve kept the print index going alongside the online index. But sales of the print index have declined, and we’ve decided to discontinue the print version. Explore the online index and find lots of help!

On Worship in Difficult Times

Worship planning during a crisis, transition, or conflict may be more stressful than usual, but thoughtfully planned services can relieve stress and help keep the church focused on its mission. In fact, worship during a difficult circumstance may itself provide an important opportunity for learning and healing in the congregation. Those who are involved in planning worship should ask some of the following questions as they plan during a difficult time.

The Heritage of African American Songs: An interview with James Abbington

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).

Reaching Out to Those Who Don't Come In: Woodland Drive-In Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan

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 People Had a Mind to Work: A service for the Sunday before Labor Day

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.

Did You Pack Your Baggage? A silent drama within a sermon


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.