Share |

March 2003

Intersecting Themes in This Issue

If you were to read this issue cover to cover (which most of you probably seldom do!), you would find at least three sets of intersecting themes, along with our regular columns.

Ascension and Pentecost

This issue includes Ascension and Pentecost resources, but also some reflections on the implications of Pentecost for the mission of the church to the world. The first two articles (pp. 3 and 7) offer both perspective and resources on these two Christian festival days.

How to...Plan Worship for a Family Reunion

Are you planning a family reunion this summer? Don't forget about worship! If your reunion includes a Sunday, and especially if your group is very large, you may want to consider planning a worship service for your family.

Doctrinal Tonic for Spring Celebrations

Resources for Ascension and Pentecost

Our Ascension and Pentecost worship can sometimes use a healthy dose of spring tonic. A robust swig of solid Reformed doctrine will help to kick us out of our lazy, monochromatic approaches to these traditional festivals. Granted, a spoonful or two of Heidelberg or Westminster may be hard to swallow. But they will revitalize our worship planning by steering us to some rich biblical perspectives that we so easily ignore.

Book: Passing the Colors: Engaging Visual Culture in the 21st Century

Chris Stoffel Overvoorde. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002. 800-253-7521. 210 pp. ISBN 0-8028-3953-3. $20.00.

The Power and the Presence

A Dramatic Reading for Pentecost Sunday

We used this reading in place of the sermon for Pentecost Sunday at Beech-wood Presbyterian Church. It is written for three readers, but you could easily use more. We did feel that it was important for the same person (Reader 3) to read all the Scripture passages from the pulpit, thus setting God's Word apart from the rest of the narrative. We used the New Revised Standard Version of Scripture for the reading.

Book: Symbols of the Christian Faith

Alva William Steffler. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002. 800-253-7521. 176 pp. ISBN 0-8028-4676-9. $12.00.

Spiritual Thirst in a Barren Landscape: Offering Living Water to the College Crowd

When I was the minister at a chapel situated on the edge of the University of Michigan campus, I would prop open the door to the outside so that I could watch the students walk by. As I sat in my office preparing the Sunday service or working on some of our weekday activities, 1 would frequently glance out the door, wondering who these students were and what it would take to engage them with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Book: The "Worship Words for Children" Banner

Phyllis Vos Wezeman and Anna Liechty. Colorado Springs: Meriwether Publishing, Ltd., 2002. 800-937-5297. 28 pp. $2.50.

A book of liturgical materials for twelve weeks. Each week introduces a different part of the worship service, from Call to Worship (illustration: a bell) to Benediction (an outstretched hand). Each week is scripted for an adult leader, four child readers, and a child to add the symbol for that week. The actual banner kit must be purchased separately.

Receiving Guests as Christ: Inspiration from Two Monasteries

"Their life's not natural!" a relative exclaimed when the subject of monks came up. Those few words made it clear that the monks' lifestyle had nothing to teach us.

Yet along the way, natural or not, I began visiting monasteries. After twenty years, I have seen many. They are wonderful places to experience hospitality, to go on retreat, and to find inspiration to pray. Gradually, 1 also grew to appreciate monastic worship.

Book: Raise the Banners High: Making and Using Processional Banners

Pamela T. Hardiman and Josephine Niemann. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2002. 888-933-1800. 196 pp. $20.00. ISBN 1-56854-368-9.

After introductory information on the liturgical year and celebrating rites and sacraments (from a Roman Catholic perspective), the authors provide helpful chapters on the basics of design and hardware, techniques for quilted fabric panels, block designs, and working from free-form drawings. Appendices include several detailed patterns and colored photographs.

Worship for Doubters and Other Good Christians: Learning from the Thomas Mass

Every two months, at 6:00 on a Sunday evening, three to four hundred people gather at St. Mary's Church (Lutheran) in Reutlingen, and in over fifty towns throughout Germany, to participate in an ecumenical worship service called the Thomas Mass. The service is advertised with the slogan "A worship for doubters and other good Christians." The term Mass comes partly from its Lutheran roots in Finland, but it also hints at the strong liturgical aspect of the worship. Both old and modern liturgical elements have their plate in the Thomas Mass.

Newsletter: E&A: Environment and Art Letter: A Forum on Architecture and the Arts for the Parish

David Philippart, editor. Published bimonthly by Liturgy Training Publications. 16 pp. per issue. $20.00 for one year. 800-933-1800;

Includes sixteen pages of full-color photos of beautiful worship spaces—interior and exterior, windows, liturgical furniture, and more (also includes ads). Roman Catholics take the relationship between worship and architecture very seriously, and each issue provides teaching to ponder as well as examples of beauty for visually starved Protestants to feast their eyes on.

Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls: A Service of Installation

Though this worship service was prepared for a specific event, it was intentionally constructed with an eye for broader use. The theme is foundational to the Christian life; dying and rising. Therefore feel free to borrow from it, in both structure and detail, for a wide range of worship services—including baptism celebrations and commissioning services.

Color Change

It was a typical, early winter day in Michigan. Cold and wet and gray all over. My schedule for the day was fairly light—only an RW staff meeting to attend. For some time, I'd been wanting to write something about the use of liturgical color in worship, and I was hoping to get some help by asking a few questions. Is using liturgical color in worship an idea that sounds right and logical and helpful? Or is it, in the end, just another worship gimmick? My friends didn't have the nice short answer I was looking for.

God Called Some to Be...Pastors: A Service of Ordination/Installation

This service was built on earlier examples, especially the ordination service of Cindy Holtrop, who serves on the staff of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

As with the preceding service of installation, this service of ordination draws significantly on baptism imagery.




God's Greeting and Call to Worship


Kudos for Online Index

Wade in the Water: A Baptism Service on the Shore of Lake Michigan

On hot summer days, Pere Marquette Park is a beachgoer's paradise. Draped along Muskegon's west side, the park features acres of fine sand, swings and slides for the kids, and a view of Lake Michigan that rivals any tourist brochure.


Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Symposium on Worship and the Arts at Calvin College

For the first time, registration for the January 2003 Symposium was handled completely online. More than 1,400 people had registered by December 6, making it necessary to close registrations more than a month before the conference. The staff regretted having to turn many more people away who didn't realize it would fill up so fast. Mark your calendars now for next year (January 9-10, 2004) and register early!

Wash First, Ask Questions Later: Where do Parental Vows Fit in Baptism

Some readers may wonder whether the practice of baptism as described in this article opens a can of worms. Given the movement of understanding and appreciation of my own faith community, though, it's a can well worth opening. For the first time, many in our congregation are starting to "get" baptism. What is going on? Who is most important?

Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls: Sermon

A sermon preached by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., on the occasion of his installation as President and Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, September 27, 2002.
The service is printed in Reformed Worship 66 (March, 2003).

One Faith, Many Cultures: Orange Korean Christian Reformed Church, Fulerton, California

Imagine listening to a conversation in which people identify themselves by numbers. One person says, "I'm a 1." "I'm a 2," says another. Someone else chimes in, "I'm a 1.5"; still another claims to be a 1.2, Everyone laughs.

Just for Fun? Satire Sites for Amusement and Insight

Ron looked and looked but could find no distinctively Reformed humor sites on the Web; he wonders what this says about us, You can reach him at

God of All ages: Four Service Plans Using Resources from Different Centuries

Like many historical congregations, we faced a daunting challenge: encourage our congregation to consider new expressions and more variety in worship, Finding liturgical resources was not a prohlem. Our music coordinators were aware of the myriad of sources for contemporary expressions of faith: praise music, newly published hymnbooks, psalters, choir anthems, and so on.

On Confession and Assurance

Q. I have trouble with planning our prayers of confession. People are saying the words, but I wonder how many are actually personally confessing their sin. If we aren't actually confessing, why perform this rather onerous part of the service?

Sing a New Psalm: A Story of Cross-Country Composition

3/14/99 After LOFT

As usual, after worship was finished and most folks had cleared out of the chapel, the band kept on play-ing. We spent nearly ninety minutes "jamming for Jesus." Matt and the Aarons really got us going on that Herbie Hancock number "Chameleon." It's amazing how much music you can make with just two simple chords. And how much variety!