I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as editor since RW began twenty years ago. This journal has shaped my identity as much as or more than my work editing three hymnals. I was hired by CRC Publications to prepare the 1987 Psalter Hymnal, a brand-new position I thought would last just a few years. Preparing the hymnal for the churches was one thing, but preparing the churches for the hymnal came with many other questions attached, questions being asked by newly formed worship committees.
New times call for new tools. I learned that lesson these past months as I struggled to find adequate “together” time with the worship interns at Fuller. We have a set time to meet, of course, but there is so much to do just to get ready for worship that we don’t have the leisure for genuine schooling. It’s important for us both to plan and to do regular reflection on our weekly worship planning; we need concentrated as well as casual interaction in order to bring our lives and work into conversation.
Dateline Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1936. An upscale Presbyterian congregation in the Shadyside neighborhood, seeking a new way to promote world mission, births the notion of a Worldwide Communion Sunday, to be celebrated on the first Sunday of October. A plaque in the chancel floor of Shadyside Presbyterian marks the spot to this day. Within four years of its inception, the Department of Evangelism of the old Federal Council of Churches had heard about the idea. Sixty years later, a casual Google search of “World Communion Sunday” threatens “about 23,700” hits.
In the previous article (Campus Notes) I outlined some of the features of online web logs (blogs) that make them an intriguing new communication tool:
A celebration of World Communion Sunday need not be odd or uncomfortable for people with a limited experience of languages and cultures other than their own (see p. 3). Any time we plan worship, we need to ask, What is the authentic “language” (ethos, perspective, culture) of the congregation? In what forms can the gospel be heard most clearly, and in what language(s) can the congregation glorify God most freely?
An Editor’s Review
Instead of printing book reviews this time, we’ve asked Emily to offer a brief review of the last twenty years of Reformed Worship from her perspective as outgoing editor. —RW Staff
How shall I honor my colleague Emily Brink upon her retirement from editing Reformed Worship these past twenty years? What is the literary equivalent of a bouquet of flowers and a gold watch? I’m not sure! However, when I contemplate Emily’s contribution to RW, I think of three descriptive nouns:
I don’t know about you, but when I think of visuals for worship, I’m inclined to think vertically. So it’s no surprise that much of what I have designed for worship includes wide arching lines running vertically. We could take many pages to explain why this might be, but for now I am happy knowing that my God is much bigger than I am. It feels most right to me to be “looking up.”
This morning I was having coffee with a friend at a bookstore. We meet there monthly to discuss agenda items for a church committee. After our business discussion was complete, we spoke, as friends do, of other things close to our hearts. At one point a sheepish look came over his face and he said, “I want to ask you an off-the-wall question, and I hope you won’t take it the wrong way. Would it be inappropriate for me to ask you to dance at my funeral?”
All Saints’ Day (also called All Souls’ Day) is a part of the church calendar that dates back to the early church. Originally a day was set to commemorate the life and death of each martyr. As the number of martyrs increased, a special day was set aside to remember these many saints and their commitment to Christ and his church—a commitment that led to their suffering and death. More recently this service has also come to include a time of reflection and thanksgiving for friends and loved ones who have died in the past year.
A colleague was asked point-blank at a workshop recently, “Have changes in worship in the last generation been good or bad?”
The short answer may be yes.
A longer answer was given at a day-long seminar at the Calvin Symposium on Worship 2006. The seminar featured a panel of prominent worship leaders who had probably never been together in the same room before. They reflected in very different ways on one of the central topics in twentieth-century North American religion: changes in worship practices.
Litany for a Service of Installation
This litany was prepared by Jerry Kramer for the installation service of copastors at the beginning of their ministry. The litany could easily be adapted for the installation of one pastor. Congregations could also consider different symbols appropriate to their situation.
Canticle of the Turning, a Setting of the Song of Mary
Perhaps the sundry lyrical settings of the angel Gabriel’s Ave Maria have conditioned us to expect Mary’s response to be parallel in its tenderness. Indeed, many hymnic settings of the Magnificat pick up on the reflective character of the text, and rightly so. There is introspection here. But there are also other possibilities.
Planning worship for a special church celebration calls for a tricky blend of the ordinary and the extraordinary. On the one hand, you want the occasion to feel special and festive, to involve former members and special presenters. On the other hand, you want worship to represent your church’s regular worship life—which is what you’re celebrating in the first place.
As people entered the church, they were given a leaf-shaped piece of paper and a pen. During the service they were asked to write a thanksgiving item on the leaf; during the offering they were invited to place their leaves on an artificial “tree” spiked with lots of nails for hanging the leaves.
I prepared this resource to provide some material that might make Reformation Sunday more relevant, particularly for youth. It was first prepared for Canadian Presbyterian congregations using The Whole People of God Resource 2000 to 2001 (Wood Lake Books) and is slightly adapted here. The dialogue can be used as a group activity for older children and youth or as a presentation in worship. Encourage participants to expand and/or modify the social activist’s part, using their own words or quotes from recent newspapers and newsmagazines.
It started quietly enough. In 1903, acting on two overtures calling for the preparation of worship forms for congregational use, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA voted to form a committee to prepare a “Book of Simple Forms and Services.” The book was to be firmly rooted in Scripture and Reformed usage, avoid ritualism, embody sound doctrine, and enable a fuller participation of the people in the worship of God.
For my final issue as editor, I took the liberty of choosing the questions for Q&A. The first question was wide open, and John’s response sends us to the ongoing work of Christ. The second arises out of my opportunities to worship these past twenty years with many congregations—some across town, others across the world. The more I have tasted the love and diversity in the body of Christ, the more hungry I become for worship that bridges human barriers.