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September 1996

Book: Songs of Deliverance

Organ Arrangements and Congregational Acts of Worship for the Church Year Based on African American Spirituals. By William Farley Smith. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996. Spiral, 112 pp. $17.95

On votums, Scripture reading, and Fred Kaan

Q. I hardly ever find services in Reformed churches any more that use the votum to begin worship. Why have so many churches dropped this Reformed part of the liturgy?

A. A brief question with many ripples. Let me try to sort out a few threads here:

Sources for Drama Sketches: Where to find them

  • We want to start a drama group in our church, and I'm in charge. Where can I find help?
  • Our pastor will be preaching on forgiveness. Where can I find a sketch that will be appropriate for the service?
  • We want to do an outreach evening for our community. What drama could we perform that would be fun and yet meaningful?

Resources: An Advent Sourcebook; A Christmas Sourcebook; To Crown the Year

An Advent Sourcebook, edited by Thomas J. O. O'Gorman, with art by Tom Goddard. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988.170 pp.
A Christmas Sourcebook, edited by Mary Ann Simcoe. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1984. 157 pp.
To Crown the Year: Decorating the Church Year Through the Seasons, by Peter Mazar, withart by Evelyn Grala. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publicaions, 1995.297 pp. $19.00.

Loosen Up: Organists need to recapture the old art of improvising

There is no better preparation for learning to improvise than to recapture a child's natural pleasure, curiosity, and interest in spontaneous music-making.

Notes

NEW ADDRESS FOR NEEDLEWORK CHRISMONS

What Is Epiphany Anyway? Shedding light on the least understood part of the Church Year

I was reading the paper the other day and ran across the line, "That was a real epiphany for me!" No, it wasn't in a church publication; it was the daily paper. And the context made it clear that the author meant something like, "It was a real eye-opener!" But it got me thinking: What is an epiphany anyway? How did a word with such a focused doctrinal Christian meaning come to be used this way in everyday speech?

Letters

ARE WE "DUMBING DOWN"?

I read Reformed Worship from cover to cover, make use of its material frequently, and truly appreciate the quality and breadth of topics. I sincerely hope we can use your "Isaiah" service soon [RW 39]. It is excellent. But I was sorry to see that the "Hymn of the Month" has been replaced by "Songs for the Season," which downplays the use of the hymnal.

First Profession: How a disappointing pageant and a killer mink helped Angela understand Christmas

That I wholeheartedly agree with Missy Simpson's lecture about over-sentimentalizing Christmas, that I laud her annual efforts on our church's nativity pageant, and that I know no one more determined to put Spring Arbor Church on the map—none of that alters the fact that Missy Simpson is not my favorite human being.

So I understand why my daughter was owly when I picked her up from church a few nights ago. She had to listen to the lecture. I heard it too, rehearsal having gone about ten minutes late.

Pay attention to the dreams: resources for an Advent and Christmas service, page 2 of 2

Excerpt
ADVENT BANNER: "FOR TO US A CHILD IS GIVEN"

The banner's purpose is to enhance and complement the bulletin covers for this series and to create a festive atmosphere in the worship space. The covers and the banner visually hint at the content of the sermons: dreams that week after week unveil more of the baby, making the advent of Christ's birth clearer and clearer.

Pay attention to the dreams: resources for an Advent and Christmas service, page 1 of 2

After last year's highly appreciated Advent series about angels (RW 37), we have become much more aware of God's messengers and our guardians both in Scripture and in our lives. But that series also started us wondering about what other means God uses to communicate his message to people.

Tell Me the Old, Old Story: A reader's theater service adapted from Walter Wangerin's The Manger Is Empty, page 2 of 2

And God turned to his angel. And God said, "Gabriel."

And the angel answered, "Yes, Lord?"

And the Lord God said, "Go down. All of the people must know what I am doing. Tired and lonely and scattered and scared, all of the people must hear it. Go, good Gabriel. Go down again. Go tell a few to tell the others, till every child has heard it. Go!"

How Green Is Your Hymnal? Becoming intentional about learning new songs

A few weeks ago, Bruce Klanderman, organist at the Rochester (N.Y.) Christian Reformed Church, sent me a chart of the number of Psalter Hymnal songs that have moved in his congregation from "red" to "green."

Now for the translation: Two other organists in western Michigan prepared a color-coded chart of the entire 1987 Psalter Hymnal when it first came out.

They marked every song either

Hymnal: The New Century Hymnal

The Pilgrim Press, 1995. Editions for pew ($16.95), pulpit ($34.95), accompanist ($39.95), and large print ($24.95).

Books: An Introduction to the Liturgical Year; In God's House

An Introduction to the Liturgical Year. Text by Inos Biffi, Illustrations by Franco Vignazia. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. 98 pp. $ 17.00
In God's House, compiled and with an introduction by Robert Coles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996. 30 pp. $15.00

Here are two small books that will delight children as well as adults. In both, the full-colorillustrations are not incidental but at least equal to the written text in concept as well as space.

In the Depth of Winter's Darkness; Lord of the Universe; And Jesus Said; To Christ Whose Hands Will Bless

Joy Patterson is one of several contemporary women hymn writers whose hymns are included in recent hymnals. In fact, no fewer than six women writers have had their works collected and published in the past few years (see box on p. 29). On the pages that follow Joy Patterson introduces her own work and that of three other living female hymn writers.

Tell Me the Old, Old Story: A reader's theater service adapted from Walter Wangerin's The Manger Is Empty, page 1 of 2

Brass Prelude

Opening Hymn: "O Come, All Ye Faithful" PsH 340, PH 41, 42, RL 195, TH 208

Opening Prayer

Hymn: "O Come, Let Us Adore Him"

God's Greeting

Hymn: "I Love to Tell the Story" stanza 1 PsH 530, TH 478

From Everlasting to Everlasting: An Old/New Year's Day service based on Psalm 103

Prelude

Praise the Lord, O My Soul

Call to Worship: Psalm 103:1

Hymn: "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" PSH 475, PH 478, RL 144,TH 76,77

God's Greeting

Forget Not All His Benefits

Responsive Reading: Psalm 103:2-5

Reflection: The Blessings of the Past Year

Roll Call of the Newborn, New Confessors, and New Members

Your Light Is Come: A hymn festival for Epiphany

In the past, all our Christmas banners and decorations just disappeared after Christmas. But this year we extended the season by planning a joint Epiphany hymn festival with the Ann Arbor Campus Chapel. It was a first for us but one I'm sure will become a tradition since it provided such an appropriate closure to the Christmas cycle.

A Heart for the Nations: Prayers for world evangelism

This litany attempts to encourage and challenge us in the work of evangelism by voicing Scripture's call to witness, along with the words of those who have obeyed Christ's command. It also incorporates section 44 of the contemporary testimony Our World Belongs to God. It was usedfirstin a Refoimation Day service togivewitness to the Reformed heritage and legacy of reaching out for Christ. The litany would also be fitting to use during Epiphany, or in any service of worship that seeks to highlight or encourage evangelism.

Home for Christmas: How could they celebrate so soon after Sandy died?

Characters
Christina: a guest and friend of the other girls
Rachel: Christina's best friend
Amy: Rachel's younger sister

Props
Christmas music
Table with chairs
Box of Christmas decorations

Setting
A homey living room

[Lights up music on Amy is happily investigating the contents of the Christmas decoration box. Music is blaring and she is singing along Enter Rachel and Christina]

Christmas Mourning: A service for those who experience loss

Who would have believed that the untimely and unexpected death of a popular member of a church youth group would provide the genesis for an idea that has come to bless so many people who are suffering with grief? And who would have suggested that people should "come to church with their unresolved griefs" on the Sunday afternoon before Christmas—one of the most joyful days on the Christian calendar?