The practice of preaching according to a lectionary is an old one, although Reformed and Presbyterian churches have not always used this method. The lectionary encourages both pastor and congregation to focus on the great salvation events recorded in Scripture. (See the article on page 14 for further background.)
Articles in this issue:
The Advent wreath, at first glance, is just a pleasing seasonal decoration, much like strings of lights or mistletoe. A ring of evergreens, five bright candles—what could be more appropriate for the Christmas season? Not until worshipers understand how the wreath symbolizes the meaning of the Advent season do they begin seeing in the evergreen and candles a visual reminder of the coming of Christ.
Every year more North American congregations are discovering the beauty of a traditional English service called, very simply, "Nine Lessons and Carols." The structure of the service is as simple as the title: nine passages of Scripture are followed by nine carols. But the content of those readings and the traditional way of conducting the service have become very meaningful to many congregations.
"It's Tuesday and I still don't know what hymns we're going to sing on Sunday! I don't even have the text or sermon topic. How am I supposed to choose organ music that will integrate with the service"?"
Just then the phone rings. It's the pastor, and he's chosen his text. He's selected some hymns too, although he's still not sure which stanzas to sing.
"Oh well, at least I can choose the prelude, postlude, and offertory. I'll work on the hymns later—after he decides about the stanzas."
Symbols are an important part of Reformed worship. We use light and darkness, crosses, doves, shepherds and sheep to help us see God, who in Christ and through the Spirit is redeeming us. We do this because as Reformed Christians we believe that life and worship are one. A variety of media is appropriate in the Reformed worship service. Increasingly, wood and glass, architecture, inspiring banners, paintings, musical compositions, and liturgical dance are being used to touch our hearts and to help us sing God's praise.
If the most important role of a choir is to lead congregational singing, then the hymn concertatos must rank very high on the list of choral music for worship. Folkert describes how concertatos have added to his own congregation's celebration in worship and recommends several within the range of the average church choir.
Reformation and Thanksgiving
A Mighty Fortress (ein feste burg— Martin Luther) arr. Hal H. Hopson; cong., satb, organ, optional brass and timpani, choir sings one st. in original rhythm (Augsburg 11–2219 $.80); sep. brass parts 11–2220)
Hope of the World (donne se–cours—Genevan Psalter) arr. Carl Schalk; cong., satb, organ, brass quartet, timpani, choir sings a setting by Goudimel (1564) (Agape HSA 101 $.80)
The Hymn of the Month features old as well as new hymns for worship. Some hymns are presented simply, others in festive arrangements for choirs, congregations, and instruments.
If a hymn is new to your congregation, you may want to sing it once every Sunday during the month so that the people become familiar with it. On the other hand, hymns that are already familiar to the congregation may be sung only once during the month or saved for another occasion.
Presenting a new magazine—"Here I am, read me!"–seems presumptuous. We, who have produced the magazine, presume that you, who now hold it in your hand, are interested enough to read it. We presume you won’t flip it into the wastebasket as junk mail. And we hope you will subscribe and read future issues.
Much of what we’ve presumed is expressed in our statement of purpose:
By Hughes Oliphant Old. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984, 202 pp., $9.60.
If I could, I would assign the reading and careful discussion of Old's book to every Presbyterian and Reformed pastor, seminary student, and person who in any way plans or shapes worship services. It is that good, that thorough, that basic, that important!