Congregations have always been charged with forming the faith of their members. Regardless of how well your church currently handles this important task, it is helpful to learn from the best practices of others. Of course, it would be difficult and probably unwise for any single church to try to do all of the ideas presented here. We hope you’ll use them to spark discussion and creativity in your own congregation.
Articles in this issue:
OK, I’ll admit it. I’m not especially fond of those plaques with large decorative words, usually in capital letters made out of wood, that command us to PRAY or BELIEVE or IMAGINE. I’m not sure why. Probably because they are so popular. Or maybe I just wish they said EAT or SKIP or SLEEP instead. Who knows!
Having said that, I’ll also admit that the design of these baptism and profession of faith mementos comes dangerously close to those wooden words. I justify their use because these are events that should be shouted out.
In early September, many churches begin a new season of church education classes and a host of other programs with a special “kick-off” worship service. Most often these services focus on a theme of dedication, and there never seems to be enough songs with words like “Take My Life and Let It Be.” While this is a strong theme, it can also focus a lot of attention on the enormous outpouring of busyness the new year promises.
This service is full of worshiper participation, including lay readers, instrumentalists, lots of congregational singing, and the opportunity for congregants to write their own prayers of thanksgiving. Each bulletin includes one or two slips of paper printed with the words “I am thankful for . . .” Worshipers are invited to complete the sentence. These slips are gathered as a second offering, organized to avoid too much duplication, and then brought to the pastor, who incorporates them into the congregational prayer.
The sermon ends and the organist launches into the “sermon hymn.” In many congregations this is where the service begins winding down. But at Eliot Presbyterian Church in Lowell, Massachusetts, the sermon hymn signals a worship practice that people look forward to all week.
As the congregation sings, several people move forward to sit in the front pew. Others join them. Two by two, they talk quietly and then pray together—with eyes open or closed, heads bowed or not, hands folded or clasped.
In early 2007, Gabriel Surjana, 16, began reaching for the communion cup and the tray of bread as it was passed in worship. Before that he had shown interest, but now he was indicating in his own way that he wanted to eat and drink the Lord’s Supper like his parents, Pearl Shangkuan and Okke Surjana. So they explored with his Sunday school teachers the possibility of Gabriel professing his faith in Christ at their church, Neland Avenue Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Psalm 78: People of the Lord; Psalm 113: Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Praise the Name of the Lord; Psalm 148: Hallelujah! Sing Praise to Your Creator
This column is the oldest continuing column in Reformed Worship. From the first issue (RW 1, Advent 1986, then named “Hymn of the Month”), the column guidelines set a goal that “one (or more) should be a psalm or a setting of Scripture.” That guideline has been followed more or less over the years, but in this issue, we’re happy to offer all psalm-based songs as a way of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin (1509-1564).