My church has the smallest sanctuary I’ve ever seen. The front wall of the sanctuary used to be painted with a kind of 3-D archway or portal that was black inside. The painting was old, chipped, and mildewed along the bottom. I always wondered what it meant and who had put it there. When I started asking around, many parishioners admitted to being “creeped out” by the painting. Finally someone told me that the painting symbolized the tomb. Eventually we painted it over in order to brighten up the worship space.
Articles in this issue:
Everybody loves stories. And, like children at bedtime, we never want our stories to end—we want them to go on and on. You could say we want an eternal story.
Disturbing.” “Odd.” “What does it have to do with worship?” These are just a few responses I’ve heard to the cover image of this issue. What does The Eyes of Gutete Emerita by Alfredo Jaar have to do with worship?
When we look into Gutete’s eyes, what do we see? Anguish? Despair? Christ? Do we see a child of God? Our sister? She has a name; she has no voice. Will we speak and pray on her behalf? Will we sing the songs she needs to hear?
Today we have immense control over our music. With the advent of MP3 players we can skip, shuffle, delete, and mix genres. We can listen alone or with others, listen on or off the phone, listen in the car or on a walk outside. While we listen we can view photographs, videos, play computer games, or check the location of the nearest Starbucks. Music is available to us where we want it, when we want it, and how we want it.
Planning a service that incorporates staff, volunteers, and a congregation can feel like a particularly daunting task. But there’s no need to reinvent the wheel—while each church is unique, there are general planning techniques that can be helpful to almost any worship planner. Our church finds the following outline helpful. It is not a detailed map, but it does provide the fundamentals. The trick is for each church to find what works best for its own staff, volunteers, and congregation.
Rochester Christian Reformed Church, New York, crafts its own Lord’s Supper litanies to help connect the theme of the service or the season of the Christian year with the sacrament. This is the first of several litanies they will be sharing with RW readers. It is based on the sacramental sections of the Belgic Confession, one of the confessions held by many Reformed denominations.
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
It’s not often that the closing session of an adult Sunday school class is the beginning of something new, but that’s what happened at our church.
The atmosphere was electric. Worshipers came in, greeted each other with friendly chatter, and found seats as close to the front as they could. It was obvious even before the service began that this worship time would be much more energetic and celebratory than what our English-speaking Christian Reformed congregation was used to!
Christ’s ascension is a pretty big deal. Saint Luke includes detailed accounts of Jesus’ instruction, blessing, and supernatural departure in both the ending of his “first book” (Luke 24:44-53) and the beginning of his “second book” (Acts 1:1-11). And those in the Reformed tradition stress the importance of Christ’s ascension as a witness and guarantee of our own resurrection as well as a call to evangelism, justice, and compassion (see, for example, Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 46-52).