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.
Articles in this issue:
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.
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.
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?
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.”